HOW TO MAKE YOUR WEBSITE ACCESSIBLE: TIPS AND TRICKS FROM CROSBY CROMWELL, FLEXABILITY CGO
ARE YOUR WORKPLACE AND YOUR WEBSITE ACCESSIBLE?
At Colibri Digital Marketing, diversity and inclusion are core components of our triple bottom line (Read more about B Corp, triple bottom line business). One of our clients, Flexability, a pending B Corp and leader in both categories, taught us a thing or two about creating accessibility and how to make your website accessible.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR WEBSITE ACCESSIBLE?
I spoke with Crosby Cromwell, founder and chief growth officer at Flexability, to understand how to make an accessible website, why accessible websites are important, and to learn about Flexability’s mission. Flexability is social impact firm that helps a wide range of people with disabilities find jobs.
The Flexability team believes in creating equity at work to change the world. In describing the diverse range of people they work with, Crosby said, “Flexability is broad because disability is broad. People with disabilities make up a quarter of the population. It affects everyone.” That statistic made me think about how many disabilities are invisible and because of that, often ignored. In thinking about making the world more accessible, you have to think beyond the physical.
ACCOMMODATING DISABILITIES IN THE WORKPLACE
As Crosby told me, most workplaces are already physically accessible because of ADA requirements. Now the task is to have the conversation between employees, employers, and human resources to make sure that any and all needs are met. Triple bottom line companies understand why it’s important to commit to uplifting people with disabilities through hiring, representing their needs, and making the workplace accessible.
Crosby led me through some situations in which a company wouldn’t be committed to disability. She told me to imagine I am hard of hearing and that “captions aren’t available in a conference meeting or during training. Imagine you are the only one with a disability or don’t see yourself in marketing materials or represented in the staff. How can you say that your company does have a commitment to disability? It’s about seeing yourself included.” And about practical solutions, like captions, that make things easier for everyone in a crowded conference room.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR WORKPLACE ACCESSIBLE?
The first step to making your workplace accessible is making sure your diversity statement includes disability, because without that, the disabled community won’t feel welcomed or comfortable working with you. Other steps you can take to make your workplace more accessible include:
- Make sure you are ADA compliant
- Offer screen reader technology, enlarged keyboards, and other adaptive technologies
- Accommodate service animals
- Educate employees about disability
- Talk to employees about their needs and support them
There are tons of ways to make your office more accessible. It’s always something that needs updating and improving. Make sure you have the technology to support your employees’ different needs. Include all your employees in making the office accessible so they can do their part in captioning presentations, pushing in chairs, and other accommodations and courtesies that benefit disabled employees and the team as a whole.
WHY YOU NEED TO HAVE AN ACCESSIBLE WEBSITE?
Lots of companies leave out the disabled community as customers, not just employees. Crosby brought up some instances where companies have made a negative statement saying that “they don’t want to invest in the disabled community.” Domino’s Pizza is one of those. They have been battling a lawsuit for the last few years because their website was not compliant with screen reader technologies for people who are blind or have limited vision. Domino’s argued that ADA Title III does not apply to websites. The ruling was that ADA Title III applies to apps and websites if they are connected to a physical space, which Domino’s is, and Domino’s appeal was denied. In 2018, both Nike and Amazon were also involved in digital accessibility litigation cases. These types of lawsuits are bringing change by allowing the disabled community to take part in all areas of the economy and have more accessibility.
HOW FLEXABILITY MADE THEIR WEBSITE ACCESSIBLE?
When I asked Crosby how Flexability makes sure they are as accessible as they can be, she said, “Having an accessible website, and making a statement that we care about you interacting with our company.” Flexability works with a diverse group of people, which can be a challenging message to market. Crosby said that they do this “through partnerships on the ground, physical relationships in the Bay Area and DC, and being part of national thought leader conversations.”
Some of their digital marketing strategies include job postings on universal sites, publishing blogs on their website, and staying active on social media. Another component, a difficult one, is balancing user intent with brand intent. “We are conscious about this,” Crosby said, “because we really care about the look and feel of Flexability. We want to be modern, clean, approachable, and a little rebellious.” Thats a challenging image to portray but they have accomplished it.
Some takeaways from Flexability’s website-making process included “understanding the standards and keeping in mind the high contrast in background vs. font for visual readers and people with low eyesight. We don’t believe you ever have to compromise quality to comply with the standards.”
To improve your digital marketing, you have to know what people are looking for to find you. Crosby said that Flexability has two main markets, people looking for staffing firms and the disabled community. So they make sure their website has disability content as well as staffing consulting content. She also said that they work with AudioEye, a company that gives you personalized feedback and advice on how to make your website more accessible. Lastly, Crosby spoke about WCAG, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, and that making sure you comply is the first step to creating an accessible website.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR WEBSITE ACCESSIBLE?
Step 1. Research WCAG and make sure you comply. WCAG will help you think of new ways to be more accessible as well. This step will make a huge difference.
Step 2. Make sure your website has the software to comply with screen readers.
Step 3. When choosing style elements such as colors and fonts, look at it from the point of view of someone with limited visibility and make sure you have a high contrast between fonts and background.
Step 4. Check out services like AudioEye to get personalized help creating accessibility and taking your website to the next level.
Step 5. Working with digital marketing agencies who support the disabled community is another way to better your digital marketing and your accessibility.
Check out the services we offer at Colibri Digital Marketing to see if we are the right fit for you.
COLLABORATOR AND DISRUPTER
Flexability is a young company, but they have big goals and they are on their way to achieving them. For the future, Crosby said, “We want to be a globally recognized thought leader in the disability community and a leading employer of people with disabilities.” She said they are always focused on being a partner of equity and intersectionality. Hearing Crosby speak about Flexability and their vision was really inspiring. They are committed to investing in people and Crosby couldn’t have explained their mission better.
“We are trying to bring a different lense to this where our primary core value is people first,” she said, “We’re about seeing the whole person and attaching them to their skill set.”
What really stuck with me from what Crosby said about Flexability is that they are a “collaborator and disrupter.” Flexability is a collaborator because they work with a diverse range of people and are really involved in helping them find work that is right for them They also collaborate with employers, of course, finding top-notch talent. Flexability is a disruptor as well, because they are ending the cycle of shutting out the disabled community and instead, showing the world how much they are capable of.
THE BENEFITS OF HIRING DIVERSE TALENT
Hiring diverse talent, such as people from the disabled community, opens your search for the perfect hire to many new opportunities and people who will bring in a new opinion and outlook. During this interview, I learned new things about accommodations that are necessary for workplaces to thrive and so much more. Working with someone who is disabled and getting to learn about the world through their lense can lead to new solutions, just like this interview did. Hiring diverse talent opens doors to innovation.