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- Shimrit Janes, DWG’s Director of Knowledge
Creating digital accessibility is a responsibility and an opportunity all at once.
In this episode of Digital Workplace Impact, host Nancy Goebel is once again joined by the insightful and astute Shimrit Janes, DWG’s Director of Knowledge. Together, they examine the importance of prioritizing digital accessibility, the subject of Shimrit’s final chapter in the new DWG three-part research series, The inclusive digital workplace .
The discussion journeys through understanding disabilities and the role of accessibility in removing environmental, systemic and attitudinal barriers to participation.
The pair stop to explore the backdrop of four disability models and the fit these have with the digital workplace. Also under scrutiny is a case study from MassMutual and a range of insights, including the crucial part that digital accessibility can play in helping to create a healthy living system within an organization.
Shimrit’s advice throughout? Adopt a learning mindset to uncover what you don’t know, how you can start to learn more, and just why it’s so important to do so.
For a thought-provoking discussion that can help propel your thinking on digital accessibility, listen now.
Show notes, links and transcript for this episode:
[00:00:00.410] – Shimrit Janes
Accessibility is essentially about equity. That’s why it needs to be an important part of DEI work. It ensures that everyone can access the resources they need, not just to survive, but to thrive. When people think about accessibility, digital accessibility, they’re focused on compliance and regulations and kind of meeting the standards that have been set, but that doesn’t mean the experience is usable. So they’re is an example that’s spoken about. If you think about a hotel, for example, and you might have a ramp going into it so that people who use wheelchairs and people who have buggies and all sorts as well are able to access the hotel, but the ramp is put at the back, so you’re entering through the goods entrance even though you’re a customer. So it’s not an equitable experience to somebody if they’re going down the back entrance versus the front like everybody else. So technically it’s accessible, but it’s not a usable experience. So I think this is where design really needs to come into it, and you need people to understand that they’re not just checking boxes. This is the same for all DEI work. You’re not just checking a box that you’ve done it, but you’re really thinking through the experience.
[00:01:09.770] – Shimrit Janes
And so if you’re passionate about user experience, you need to be thinking through not just are we checking our boxes for compliance, for accessibility, but are we actually working with people to understand if what we’re designing is useful as well.
[00:01:26.280] – Nancy Goebel
I was delighted to connect once again with my colleague Shimrit Jane’s, Director of Knowledge at DWG, for both an important and insightful conversation about prioritizing digital accessibility. This topic is the third and final chapter in Shimrit’s new research series that explores the inclusive digital workplace. Shimrit’s research, and by extension this podcast, are designed to help digital workplace teams prioritize digital accessibility within their work. An essential first step towards that, we started understanding disabilities, the role of accessibility in removing environmental, systemic and attitudinal barriers to participation. And we really use this conversation as something deliberate to centre disabled experiences in this way. While accessibility does need to benefit everyone, it’s important not to zoom out so far as to lose sight of how accessibility benefits this group. Importantly, we use not only the backdrop of different disability models a live case study from MassMutual, who were the focus of our member meeting last week, but also insights that Shimrit has gathered along the way, through rich data, through investigation and some thoughtful consideration. So join me now in conversation with Shimrit and as always, Digital Workplace Impact podcast is brought to you by the Digital Workplace Group.And this is your host, Nancy Goebel. Happy listening,
[00:03:21.710] – Nancy Goebel
Shimrit. It is absolutely amazing to have you back in the studio once again. Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule with Ask DWG, writing research, among other things, in and around DWG and Shim, I had to make a priority around following up our last podcast conversation with another chapter that’s part of the DWG Inclusive Digital Workplace program. You’ve been taking a special look at nurturing digital inclusion ethics, but also prioritizing digital accessibility. And I know this chapter within prioritizing digital accessibility is among those that will be released to our members in the not so distant future before we share it with our wider industry circles. And I was really hoping that we could hone in on that theme in particular as part of this conversation today. So hopefully that works with you.
[00:04:34.740] – Shimrit Janes
Yes, completely. I’m excited to get into this.
[00:04:38.490] – Nancy Goebel
And so for those who may be new to this series that you’ve been working on, can you share a bit about the three chapters and what informed each one?
[00:04:53.220] – Shimrit Janes
Yes, absolutely. So this was I joke. This was originally one research report about digital inclusion for the digital workplace. And we knew we wanted to cover digital inclusivity. We knew we wanted to cover ethics, we knew we wanted to cover accessibility. And as soon as I got into the writing, it just grew and grew. So it was split into three to make a mini series eventually in a box set. So the intention was we know that with DEI efforts becoming amplified for organizations, we know that with the rise of hybrid working and lots of other trends that we’re seeing as well within the digital workplace and the wider workplace, actually, that focusing on digital inclusion. It’s always been a priority, but it was becoming even more of a priority for people. How can you ensure inclusive design, inclusive ways of working, that you’re embedding ethics in your approaches when you’re thinking about AI and others, all these things? So that was the why of why we did the research report and why it was a focus for us. And then if you break it down into those three that you mentioned, the first report, which is out now, and you can download for free from our website, and there’s also the podcast we recorded on it, if you want to listen to that and read the transcript, was focused on nurturing digital inclusivity.
[00:06:20.420] – Shimrit Janes
So that’s what is digital inclusion? Why do we need it? What does inclusive design look like for digital workplace teams? What does inclusive digital content and communication look like? And then also, what do inclusive digital ways of working look like? So when you’re actually using the tools, how can you do that in an inclusive way? And it kind of sets the foundation for the whole boxset to understand what inclusivity means. The second focuses on forging digital ethics. And that’s very much looking at how do you embed ethical questioning and conversation within kind of the first stack of your digital workplace so that you’re thinking about questions around how the technology is going to be used, what are potential unintended consequences, all those things that it’s particularly related to AI and chatbots. But I think at any point in the digital workplace, there are ethical questions that you can be asking and discussing as a team to make sure you’re making intentional and conscious decisions around the technology and how it’s being used. And then this final, but not by far the least report is looking at digital accessibility. And that was it kind of builds on the idea of inclusivity and ethics to really hone in on a particular area of digital inclusion that often gets deprioritized.
[00:07:47.410] – Shimrit Janes
And so we wanted to make sure we were specifically focusing on accessibility within that bigger conversation as well.
[00:07:56.170] – Nancy Goebel
And there’s clearly a very strong note of passion, even in the early minutes of describing this series. Tell me a little bit more about the focus on prioritizing digital accessibility and what was your inspiration or your purpose specifically for that chapter?
[00:08:20.260] – Shimrit Janes
I learned so much doing this. I learned so much, and it’s changed the way I view the world, actually. And so I am passionate about it. I’m really excited for people to get their hands on it if it’s not something they’ve considered before. And I think the reason is we’ve spoken, you and I, about DEI work, about diversity, equity, and inclusion work before, and how it often talks about racial, ethnic, gender, sexuality, faith, age, inclusion, and equity for those people in particular, but also for everybody. One of the things I found through the research is that disability is the world’s largest minority. There are an estimated 1 billion people globally that have a disability. And the second statistic that I found during the research was that around 83% of those 1 billion people acquire it over the course of their life. They’re not born with it. And so with that statistic, the idea that it’s the world’s biggest minority, why isn’t it more often included in DEI work conversations? So in 2020, DWG said accessibility becomes an organizational priority. As one of our predictions for the digital workplace, we didn’t see it happen because of the pandemic and lots of other reasons.
[00:09:44.770] – Shimrit Janes
So for me personally, if you’re passionate about DEI as a cause that has to be inclusive of disabilities and accessibility, and if you’re passionate about digital workplaces, that has to be inclusive of digital accessibility as well. So I think that’s why there’s kind of passion and purpose behind the paper.
[00:10:06.310] – Nancy Goebel
And so let’s translate this passion and purpose into whatever thesis you’ve set forth in this third chapter of research.
[00:10:17.510] – Shimrit Janes
Yeah, so the paper is split into three main sections. So the first doesn’t even really talk about technology, actually. The first section is about understanding disability and accessibility, and it gets into some of the learning that I think is essential if you’re really going to prioritize digital accessibility. It looks at people say accessibility benefits everyone, and that is absolutely true. It does. And at the same time, we shouldn’t erase the fact that accessibility is also very specifically for people with disabilities so that they can access and use tools and participate in a way that’s equitable to everybody else. So that’s why that first section very specifically looks at some of the research and insights around disabled experiences, what accessibility means, and kind of why it’s important to prioritize it away from the digital workplace, just generally. The second section then looks at digital accessibility. So what does that mean? What does it look like? What does it feel like? Where does responsibility lie as well? I think there’s often this dance, this push and pull between vendors and organizations around who’s responsible. So we look a little bit of that too. And then finally, the last section is looking at how do you prioritize an accessible digital workplace?
[00:11:44.520] – Shimrit Janes
And we’ve deliberately chosen the word prioritize rather than create, because there are so many resources and experts available online, paid in books, in organizations that you can work with, but we didn’t want to duplicate what’s already available elsewhere. So this is about how do you prioritize it and then signposting to those resources.
[00:12:11.290] – Nancy Goebel
So you’ve packed quite a lot into this single chapter, and I think it’s important for us to start from the beginning and put some context around exactly what digital accessibility is. Because I know there have been conversations wherein leaders have said within their organizations, I don’t see anyone around me who has disability. So why does this need to be a priority? And I think the importance of this agenda, this priority, has to start with a clear view of what it is and isn’t.
[00:12:55.670] – Shimrit Janes
And so if I take a little step back and say, what’s accessibility? Even before you get to digital, it’s this intentional focus to design out the barriers that exist for disabled people and that can be across physical environments, digital, within our systems, within our processes, within our attitudes as well, really, that mean that they experience prejudice and discrimination. Accessibility is essentially about equity. That’s why it needs to be an important part of DEI work. It ensures that everyone can access the resources they need, not just to survive, but to thrive. Equity tells us, instead of treating everyone equally, it’s kind of the difference between equity and equality. We have to understand the specific context and barriers that exist for particular people and work to remove them. So that’s accessibility. So if you then apply that to a digital workplace and to digital accessibility, it’s at its simplest, is really removing barriers created by bad design that exclude people from disabilities from being able to use them. That’s kind of at its simplest. And so when people say, we don’t need to focus on this because we don’t have disabled people within our organization, there’s so many stats and studies that show, even if you don’t think you do, the likelihood is that you do.
[00:14:21.330] – Shimrit Janes
Even not just the fact that it’s the world’s largest minority, but there are studies that show that people are less likely to disclose that they have a disability at work because they’re scared that they’re going to be discriminated as a result of that. So people don’t tell their HR department or others that they have a disability. Not all disabilities are apparent. Just because someone might not look like they have one, it doesn’t mean that they do. So they may be struggling by and developing their own workarounds in your digital workplace without you knowing. And there’s a whole host of other reasons. That idea of, well, why should we prioritize it? Doesn’t hold water really as well. There needs to be a matchup between what you’re saying you’re doing as an organization and how you’re using your digital workplace as well. If your organization says they care about DEI in all its forms, but you’re not applying that to your digital workplace, there’s a disconnect. And there’s information that’s been shown statistically about the employment gap for disabled people. So for anyone who wants to be able to work, what are the barriers to helping them come into the workforce?
[00:15:30.930] – Shimrit Janes
For people with disabilities, there’s a huge barrier around how to do that, and the digital workplace is one of them. So there’s a whole host of reasons why digital accessibility is important and why you need to be thinking about how do we start to remove those barriers of bad design so that anyone can use them, and specifically people with disabilities as well.
[00:15:57.250] – Nancy Goebel
Well, you talk about four different models of disability, and maybe that’s a good place for us to start to branch out and deepen this conversation a little bit. So help us understand what they are and how they fit into the overarching digital workplace landscape.
[00:16:17.020] – Shimrit Janes
Yeah, absolutely. And it’s fascinating getting into this, because you start to see it play out in the world around you and in our culture and the films that we watch and how disabled people are portrayed in all those areas. And so there are four main models of understanding disability, and this impacts accessibility and digital accessibility at its heart. The first is the medical model. So it views an individual through the lens of a medical diagnosis or a health condition and says it needs to be solved or fixed through a medical intervention. That model kind of sits at the root of a lot of our society. And the way that we think about accessibility as well kind of represents disabled people as abnormal. We see it in the way villains are often depicted in films. You see a villain because they have a disability, for example, and people are trying to change that trope. You’ve then got the charity model that views an individual or someone who has a disability as someone who just needs care and services and support from charities who know best, what’s best for them. And this is where you start to hear language like that, sees disabled people as being victims or helpless.
[00:17:32.920] – Shimrit Janes
You see the words kind of brave or inspirational come through, which often infantilize people with disabilities. So that’s another. And both those models are quite harmful for disabled people. And so if you’re going into your digital accessibility work with that mindset of the people you’re working with, you need to take a step back and just review, how am I perceiving the people that I’m working with and serving in this digital accessibility work. And so to counter those, there are two other models. You’ve got the social model of disability, and that’s actually grown out of the lived experiences of disabled people themselves. And that says that people with disabilities are disabled by their external environment within society. So that might be your digital workplace and the barriers there. It might be attitudes within the organization around them and not having to prioritize their needs. There might be institutional policies and practices. And it kind of says if we were to design society and our environments in a way that was better designed to be accessible, they wouldn’t experience exclusion. So that’s a really empowering model to take in with you when you’re thinking about digital accessibility within your organization. It”s one of the barriers that we have within our digital workplace, within our organization, within our policies, within our attitudes that are putting up those exclusions.
[00:18:58.980] – Shimrit Janes
And then there’s another one, which is the social model of disability, which is a human rights model, and that’s very similar to the social one, but it basically says you shouldn’t use that somebody has a disability as an excuse to deny or restrict their human rights. So it just says they are as entitled to access as anybody else. So you can see how joining those two together, compared to the first two could transform the way that you think about digital accessibility as a digital workplace team.
[00:19:28.490] – Nancy Goebel
So, Shimrit, we’ve talked through the four models of disability. I think it bears repeating how they fit into the digital workplace landscape. So we can hear that again, because that’s really important.
[00:19:42.860] – Shimrit Janes
Yeah, absolutely. And I think it all comes down to the kind of mindset of the digital workplace team and how their thinking and approaching digital accessibility. If you’re going in with a mindset that’s aligned to beliefs, kind of connected with the medical model or the charity model, which is people need to be fixed, or they’re kind of victims who are helpless and kind of need charity, and we know what’s best for them, you’re not centering their needs and their experiences. And if you instead go in with the mindset of the social model of disability and the human rights model, instead, you’re seeing it that their experience is being impacted because of barriers within the digital workplace that are there that need to be removed. And so it’s a complete switch in how you think about an approach digital accessibility, so that if you have those last two models in your head, particularly when you’re working with, for example, any disability employee resource groups that you have or any experts that you’re bringing in or anything like that, what’s the language you’re using? How are you working with them, and how it completely shifts the focus on to removing barriers and having removing bad design and trying to embed instead good design approaches, good kind of co-creation approaches as well into how you’re developing the digital workplace.
[00:21:13.520] – Shimrit Janes
So I think it’s an essential thing to understand and to just be aware of as you’re going through this work as well.
[00:21:21.610] – Nancy Goebel
And so that just sparks a whole new discussion area for me Shimrit. Many digital workplace teams have now aligned themselves to an employee centric or employee centered digital workplace approach. And so if usability is at the core of this approach, then by definition, if you’ve built something usable, does that then mean that you’re guaranteed to address accessibility considerations within that?
[00:22:00.790] – Shimrit Janes
That’s such a good question. One of the big things that came out of the research and listening to the experiences that people have had is that accessible doesn’t equal usable. And the reason for that is, often when people think about accessibility, digital accessibility, they’re focused on compliance and regulations and kind of meeting the standards that have been set, but that doesn’t mean the experience is usable. So there’s an example that’s spoken about. If you think about a hotel, for example, and you might have a ramp going into it so that people who use wheelchairs and people who have buggies and all sorts as well are able to access the hotel. But the ramp is put at the back so you’re entering through the goods entrance even though you’re a customer. So it’s not an equitable experience to somebody if they’re going down the back entrance versus the front like everybody else. So technically it’s accessible, but it’s not a usable experience. And there was another great example of this recently. I don’t watch the Super Bowl, I’m not a fan of that sport. But recently we had the Super Bowl in America, and there was lots of celebration about these three signing performers, Justina Miles, Troy Kotsur and Colin Denny as well, who were interpreting and performing through sign language the different performances going on.
[00:23:26.820] – Shimrit Janes
And Justina went viral with how she was performing Rihanna’s and it’s a beautiful performance. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend going and looking it up. And it went viral because it was wonderful. It was a sign of inclusion and accessibility. And at the same time, afterwards, Meryl Evans, who is a deaf disability advocate and accessibility consultant and trainer, was saying, yes, let’s celebrate it. But the experience wasn’t usable for many people live who actually needed it. There was no easy way of understanding how to access the performance. It wasn’t on the TV screen. So if you were watching TV, you couldn’t see those performances as easily. You had to go to a YouTube channel, but they didn’t tell you that you had to do that. There was a lag between the YouTube channel and there’s all sorts that just meant it wasn’t a usable experience. And so it’s another really good illustration of just because something has been made accessible, it doesn’t mean it’s usable. So I think this is where design really needs to come into it and you need people who understand that they’re not just checking boxes. This is the same for all DEI work.
[00:24:34.630] – Shimrit Janes
You’re not just checking a box that you’ve done it, but you’re really thinking through the experience. And so if you’re passionate about user experience, you need to be thinking through not just are we checking our boxes for compliance, for accessibility, but are we actually working with people to understand if what we’re designing is usable as well?
[00:24:55.470] – Nancy Goebel
And I have to say, as you’ve talked through these examples, it became really clear to me that it’s thinking about both the what and the how because of the emotional experience that goes along with being able to complete a task or be part of an experience. We are emotional and social creatures. And therefore if, as you talked about the ramp in the back of the hotel, you’re feeling as though you’re coming in through the goods doorway as opposed to where others are coming through, that sets a tone and can carry through the rest of your day and your perception of that organization for a lifetime.
[00:25:42.980] – Shimrit Janes
It chips away at that sense of belonging. Am I really welcome here? Can I trust? There was an organization we were speaking with last week in our member meeting who said the trust with their disabled colleagues is completely broken for various reasons, including the technology just doesn’t do what the vendor says that it should be able to. But it goes to the heart of what it means to belong in an organization.
[00:26:06.390] – Nancy Goebel
And you mentioned our member meeting last week, so if we take a step back for a moment. We were hosted by MassMutual, who are a named case study within this research around prioritizing digital accessibility. And so I think it’s worth us pivoting and now talking a little bit about a living example of a team that has actively prioritized this area. And what can you tell us about this case study in particular and the MassMutual team story?
[00:26:44.770] – Shimrit Janes
Yes, so the MassMutual story, they were presented with a wonderful opportunity where they were designing a new intranet. Not everybody always has that opportunity, but for them, and we see it amongst all our members as well, actually, and our clients, that the opportunity of a new intranet or a new platform presents this kind of wealth of richness around what do we want to do differently? And so for them, one of the things they wanted to do differently was they wanted to make sure accessibility and inclusivity was specifically and intentionally planned for in their development stage. And they’ve done that on purpose because even though it took a little bit more effort than their normal approach that they’ve done in the past, they’ve learnt that if you then go back and try and retrofit something that hasn’t been designed for accessibility and inclusivity, it’s harder and you end up spending more time and money. So they were really deliberate. We need to have that conversation. How can we make this work for everybody? From the start, one of the reasons they were able to do that is their organization is really passionate about DEI work at an organizational level.
[00:27:52.980] – Shimrit Janes
So they wanted to make sure they were amplifying and mirroring and aligning with that commitment. So it’s not just DEI kind of within relationships and processes and how we work together, but like fully embedded in kind of our digital environment as well. There are a few things that they did as well as that alignment. They worked really hard. You spoke about the idea, the need for learning, so learning was a huge thing for them. They partnered with outside vendors to help them learn more about what digital accessibility is around disabled experiences, around inclusivity. They did their own research, they went to accessibility conferences. They also partnered really closely with their Adapt Business Resource Group, which is their accessibility business resource group, and worked also with the team that had created their massmutual.com website because they had been able to prioritize accessibility. So they kind of looked at themselves and said, these are the skills and the knowledge that we’re missing. How can we fill that gap? And found people to work with and learn from. And I think this goes to the heart as well of the idea of nothing that Kim Clarke mentioned in the first research report, which is nothing about us without us.
[00:29:10.020] – Shimrit Janes
So they deliberately found people to work with to kind of co-create the experience with them. Beyond that as well, they’ve done things like one of the questions I ask them is how do you make sure this stays a priority day to day now that you’re in business as usual and you’re out of that development phase? How do you make sure you’re constantly thinking about it? And so they use checklists, they document good practice, they document patterns that they’re finding that work well and make sure they constantly come back to them when they’re doing any work. They always make sure as a team and as individuals, somebody is asking the question and what does this mean for accessibility? And they also have a standing item on their weekly meeting, again, just to document patterns and to talk about what are we doing to make sure we’re being inclusive and accessible? And then they also constantly seek feedback from that business resource group that I mentioned and their kind of key stakeholders around this experience. And they also do show and tells. So they show other team members what they’re doing so that they share the learning.
[00:30:21.140] – Shimrit Janes
So they would be the first to admit they’re not perfect and they’re constantly learning. But there’s this idea of progress over perfection. They’ve embedded it as a priority and they know they’re not going to get everything right, but they’ve opened those kind of floodgates to make sure it’s being spoken about. So it’s a really good example of how to prioritize it.
[00:30:43.390] – Nancy Goebel
So I took away so many hopeful thinking points from starting with sensitivity training, to building competency through partnerships, to integrating accessibility into ongoing ways of working, not just kickoff initiatives, creating robust feedback loops. And this idea of show and tell. Are there any other sort of core practices that I missed in what you’ve described?
[00:31:21.130] – Shimrit Janes
I think something we’ve not really spoken about is vendors and the technology itself. I think one of the big pain points that came through in the member meeting last week was that even with the best will in the world, the technology always doesn’t always necessarily do what you need it to, to create an accessible, an accessible experience. Even when the vendors say that it does, that it should. And so it goes to the heart of who’s responsible for this? And I think as buyers and procurers of technology, we have immense power. So make sure you’re questioning your vendors when you’re going through an RFP process. Are you asking about accessibility? And not just are they ticking the boxes, how have they created an accessible experience for people? Have they done all the things that we’ve just said? Is the vendor doing as well? So I think that’s something to really think about is how can you challenge the vendor and maybe work with them as well so that they’re embedding it within the technology that you’re buying. So you’re not then in a position where you’re having to say to your employees, I’m sorry, we can’t do that because the technology doesn’t let us.
[00:32:34.070] – Shimrit Janes
I think the more that we can do that and the power that we have with the vendors is something that needs to be harnessed as well. I think another area is I mentioned trust. There are things that when you’re talking about distract disability that are kind of embedded in the way that you think about it. Microsoft have a beautiful diagram which is in the research as well, which they call the persona spectrum. And it’s a really kind of beautiful way of showing that there are different ways of thinking about the functional needs around accessibility. So you might have somebody with a permanent disability across kind of auditory, cognitive, physical, speech, visual, which we’re saying you need to center this disabled needs. They’re the people who need this day to day, otherwise they’re not going to be able to be a part of your organization. But what the spectrum also says is you might have somebody with a temporary need. So for example, you might have somebody with. A broken arm or conjunctivitis, that means temporarily they need those same tools as well. And then you have situational needs as well. So you might have somebody who’s a new parent, who’s holding a child with a baby in one arm and kind of using the accessing the digital workplace with one hand, or they might be in a noisy environment so they can’t hear just in that situation.
[00:33:55.960] – Shimrit Janes
But those things which are such a core part of accessible design, if you use that language with people who are in that permanent disability, horizontal, vertical, just be mindful, are you saying to them, yes, but everybody matters? And are you breaking trust in saying yes, but it’s for everybody? So just be mindful of the language you’re using with who and what you’re saying to them, and that you’re centering always the needs of the person in front of you, regardless of what you’re doing to make the business case and to make sure that it is usable for everybody. So I think that’s another learning that has come through.
[00:34:37.290] – Nancy Goebel
Shimrit you’ve covered so many powerful points in this conversation, and one of the things I’m trying to think about is the big picture around all of this. And a couple of years ago, you sat down with DWG’s then CEO Paul Miller to collaborate on a book called Nature of Work. And that book features twelve elements, including biodiversity. So help me think about how, whether it’s the MassMutual story, organizations like MassMutual who are aspiring to progress over perfection, where does this area of prioritizing digital accessibility fit into what is quickly becoming DWG’s way of framing the future of work? And then within that biodiversity.
[00:35:46.990] – Shimrit Janes
I can’t believe it’s been a couple of years. That sounds crazy to me. It still feels so present. Yeah, it’s a great question. I think if I take a step back and kind of put on my nature hat, which is where that kind of grew from, when we think about biodiversity, nature thrives on biodiversity. Like we see this, it’s more resilient, it’s kind of more innovative, it’s healthier, it’s better able to respond to crises. And so a healthy ecosystem becomes more biodiverse over time, an unhealthy one becomes more homogeneous. And we can see that right now in the climate crisis, there are habitats at risk that are all kinds of things leading to a decrease in biodiversity and that’s impacting the stability of our ecosystems. And the reason I say that is organizations are exactly the same. Our kind of living systems that we have within our human society operates in exactly the same way. So if you think of about an organization, we see a healthy organization as one that is diverse and inclusive. It’s more innovative, it’s more productive. There are studies that show they create more money and more profit, or however you want to kind of phrase that as well.
[00:37:05.580] – Shimrit Janes
So we know that diversity is important for an organization. And so if we think about that big umbrella and then ask, okay, what role does digital accessibility play within that? It’s a crucial part of creating that healthy living system, that kind of healthy habitat, so that disabled people and then if we then go further again, people who have temporary needs and then situational needs, but specifically disabled people are able to thrive as part of that organization. And that has a knock on effect. It helps their health and well being, it helps their families, it helps the health and well being of the organization. And then you have those trickle effects. It helps, helps the health and well being of society as well. If you think about a living system as something that’s nested, so you’ve got the individual, the team, the organization, society. So it kind of goes to the heart of the why about why this is important. It’s not just a nice to have, it’s not just a frustrating compliance checkbox that you need to tick. It goes to the heart of how do we conceive of our organization as a healthy ecosystem.
[00:38:16.550] – Shimrit Janes
So that’s how it fits in.
[00:38:19.890] – Nancy Goebel
And living systems are ever-changing. So the need of the moment evolves over time as well. And so when you bring it back to a digital workplace program, whether it’s today or it’s tomorrow, having digital accessibility be part of the ongoing agenda is crucial.
[00:38:43.110] – Shimrit Janes
[00:38:45.660] – Nancy Goebel
And so we’re coming close to the end of our time, and we’ll be releasing the three parts of the series in due course, of course. And so in the meantime, if you had to put a specific call to action out to our listeners, what would that be and why?
[00:39:11.410] – Shimrit Janes
I think it’s learn and think about your motivation, if your motivation is we just need to make our digital workplace accessible. So the how, without getting into the why, which is I want to understand disabled people’s experiences so I can remove their barriers within the digital workplace, which is the why, being able to prioritize it and make the case is going to be really challenging. And you’re more likely to create something that is accessible but not usable as well. And you’re more likely to break the trust of the people within your organization who really need this. And so I think that learning mindset of what don’t I know and how can I start to learn? Whether that’s reading books or following people on social media like LinkedIn and Twitter or Mastodon, who are sharing their experiences and learning openly and freely, going to conferences, going to webinars, speaking to your colleagues who are part of the business resource group or employee resource group, who have shown that they are happy to be worked with. I think that learning thing is your cult, is your call to action, to start to prioritize. Just learn why this is so important.
[00:40:28.380] – Shimrit Janes
You’re not going to be able to fix everything technically yourself necessarily. You’re not going to be able to code everything necessarily. You can work with partners for that. There are organizations and experts that exist that you can work with but really get to the grips with the why, and that comes through learning.
[00:40:46.350] – Nancy Goebel
That’s very well said. So what have we missed then, in all of this conversation, Shimrit?
[00:40:56.610] – Shimrit Janes
What have we missed? I think it’s really kind of feeling and embodying within yourself, this is a priority, if that makes sense. When I say I’m changed by this research, I have learned so much by doing it and following people on social media who do share their experiences and by reading their experiences and what they say and how they think about accessibility, you come out the other side changed and kind of wanting to be an ally and wanting to be an advocate. And I’m going to make mistakes. I’m definitely going to make mistakes. But I think it’s the kind of heart of the why. It’s just really learning to embody it so that you become that advocate.
[00:41:52.230] – Nancy Goebel
Any final reflections before we officially wrap up our time together?
[00:41:59.510] – Shimrit Janes
What if I flip it back to you? What are your final reflections?
[00:42:04.790] – Nancy Goebel
I guess my one thought was just looking at what you’ve described around being a student of the craft gives you a level of authenticity, empathy, purpose, and a whole host of other things. It actually made me think about a podcast that I did a couple of months ago with Alyson Hudson, who is an executive at Prudential Financial, and she embodies a lot of what you’ve described and has been truly a champion out of her role as CIO of digital workplace services. And so I remember distinctly how she shared that she wanted to learn from others prioritize this area within not only digital workplace transformation, but the broader D E and I initiative of the organization. And I think it’s important for us to use channels like Digital Workplace Impact to help explore different aspects of digital accessibility within our conversations, our ongoing conversations about the digital workplace and to help be an accelerator for the change in this area because it is so critically important. So it’s both a responsibility and an opportunity all at the same time.
[00:43:46.730] – Shimrit Janes
Absolutely, yes. So thank you. And I think that’s it. It’s an opportunity and a responsibility. And if the responsibility message appeals to some people who hold the budget strings and the kind of influence, you can talk about that. If the opportunity is something that speaks to others, you can speak to that. I think it’s finding the right message for the right person to be able to start doing this. And I think it’s just start asking questions. Do the learning and ask questions. Questions are powerful change-makers.
[00:44:21.330] – Nancy Goebel
And look for those bridging opportunities, whether it’s part of the D E and I initiative, whether it’s part of corporate social responsibility, or the extension of that around the roadmap and action planning through ESG but it’s build those bridges, because I think it takes change to bring about change.
[00:44:42.730] – Shimrit Janes
[00:44:46.250] – Nancy Goebel
Well, Shimrit, thank you so much for taking some time to have this all important conversation. And of course, we’re looking forward to seeing this new research come out in the coming weeks, first with our members and then our wider industry circles. And then, of course, we’ll have to have you back when the ethics chapter is out as well. But in the meantime, we’ll include the first chapter around Nurturing Digital, Inclusivity. We’ll include the podcast with Alyson Hudson in our show notes, along with the transcript. And of course, as we pull together this episode, if we think of any other related resources that would be helpful to you as our listeners, we’ll be sure to include them as well. But for now, Shimrit, it’s down to that moment where I say, as always, thank you so much for having such fantastic conversation with me and really sharing your knowledge and insights generously and giving us a lot to think about in this space.
[00:45:58.130] – Shimrit Janes
Thank you. And thank you for the opportunity to do the research as well and be in conversation with you. So thank you.
[00:46:05.810] – Nancy Goebel
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