How to approach disability inclusion with triple A technique
In a recent webinar, Texthelp’s CEO, Martin McKay, and Inclusion Specialist, Rebecca, were joined by guests from Ernst & Young (EY). Together, they explored the power of disability inclusion. Both Texthelp and EY were founded out of a true passion to make the world a more equitable place. During the session all speakers shared advice to help other organisations make an impact too.
Below, we highlight key insights shared by:
- Kevin Grogg, Product Owner for Assistive Technologies, EY US
- Martin McKay, Founder & CEO, Texthelp
- Frank O'Keeffe, Managing Partner for EY Ireland, and EMEIA (Europe, the Middle East, India, and Africa) disability sponsor
Every single one of us has a unique life story that’s personal to us. Despite what our backgrounds, needs and experiences look like, we all deserve to be fully understood and supported.
As organisations, Frank reminded us that we have an opportunity to make the working world more equitable and inclusive. This means removing obstacles to accessing resources and opportunities, so that everyone can thrive. As well as making sure that all voices have a seat at the table.
Disability inclusion has an important role;
Frank highlighted that, “In the case of disability, without purposeful inclusion, there actually is functional exclusion. So when accessibility is lacking, people with disabilities lose out on the opportunities to participate fully, productively and effectively in the working world.”
When we look at the statistics, we can see that this is true;
“If we look at dyslexia alone, dyslexic people are five times more likely to be unemployed. Dyslexic thinkers make up 40% of the unemployment population. These are intelligent people who just feel misunderstood. Businesses aren't attracting and retaining these really bright, really ambitious success-driven people…And the greatest barrier, I think, is these people not being included in DEI strategies.”, said Martin.
As organisations, we must be inclusive of the talents and perspectives of all people across all dimensions of diversity, including disabilities and cognitive differences.
Martin explained, “If you look at DEI strategies, the top two things are always gender and [race]. And they are big problems to solve. It can take multiple years to change the makeup of the population of an employment base. But including [disabled and] neurodivergent employees is something that can be addressed much more quickly.”
Despite common myths that disability inclusion is complicated or expensive, we know that actually, small changes can lead to a big impact for disability and neurodiversity inclusion.
During the webinar, which is available to watch on demand, our panel also shared statistics that can help you to build the business case for disability inclusion in your organisation.
3 pillars to disability inclusion
EY and Texthelp strive to foster a company culture where everyone feels that they truly can belong, where their uniqueness is celebrated and where they can do their best work.
Reiterating the importance of disability inclusion, Frank said;
- People perform much better if they can be their authentic selves at work
- People with disabilities can sometimes feel unable to share their disability at work and get the support that they require, mainly due to stereotyping or our lack of understanding
To ensure that everybody can fully participate at work and beyond, we must commit to make our spaces, our processes and our technologies more accessible by people of all sensory, motor, cognitive and neurological abilities.
Echoing this, Martin explained;
“Most people in the workplace think that disclosing their neurodiversity is a career limiting move. They've probably got bad memories for how they were treated when they were disruptive in the classroom when they were 10 years old. And even if they're brave enough to bring it up, they often don't know how. So we need to make it easier in the workplace, or even unnecessary, to disclose these conditions and just make support available to everyone.”
When it comes to looking at a disability inclusion strategy, EY have identified 3 key pillars:
Awareness is key in ensuring people are supported.
When we increase awareness of disability inclusive practices among our leaders and teams, we strengthen our ability to truly support our people. Part of this is actively listening to employees with disabilities and cognitive differences. And being open to taking their ideas on board, and adapting traditional processes.
By raising awareness, we’re also better able to create a culture where people feel comfortable to be who they are. Through open conversations, we’re able to improve understanding around disability and neurodiversity. We can highlight the strengths and value that our disabled and neurodivergent employees bring to the business.
“Let your staff know that it's perfectly fine if you have dyslexia, for example. It's okay to disclose if you want. Let them know they're valued, and their thinking is valued.”, explained Martin.
During the discussion, which is available to watch on demand, Martin shares some advice on how to raise awareness.
Accessibility issues can create massive barriers to the workplace. Whether physical or digital, it’s important to think about accessibility in everything that you do.
From your recruitment processes, to how your teams will work day-to-day, both inside and outside the office.
When it comes to digital considerations, this can include using captions and alt text during virtual meetings. As well as using and promoting assistive technology (AT).
Explaining the role of AT, Kevin said;
“Assistive Technology is anything that can help make one's day a little bit easier…It's hardware, or software…It doesn't have to be high-tech, it can be low-tech. But what does it do to help you get through your day a little bit easier…We know when you come to us in AT, it's not at a high time of your life…Customers I've worked with have said, "Kevin, the pain is too much. I've been coping as best I can and it's gotten to the point where I'm worried about my job." And this is not just EY, this is across the world.”
Speaking on the value, Kevin said;
“I love this field because you know you're making a difference…And usually right then and there in a meeting, you know if the AT you’re suggesting is helping somebody. You can tell by their body language that you're making a positive difference. That's what we want to do every day, make your day a little bit easier.”
Emphasising the simple yet impactful role of AT Martin shared;
“If you knew that 10% of your employees had poor vision and you could get them glasses to help them with reading and writing, it would just make good sense. It's as simple as that. And tools to help neurodivergent people with spelling and focus and cognitive load really helps unlock that capability and productivity. It really is that simple.”
During the webinar, Kevin shares advice on how to approach conversations around assistive technology in a way that establishes trust and confidence. You’ll also hear from Rebecca Smyth, Accessibility and Inclusion Specialist at Texthelp on how organisations such as PwC are also using technology to make a big impact for disability and neurodiversity inclusion.
Community initiatives support a disability inclusion strategy, and can accelerate progress.
This could consist of Employee Resource Groups, made up of people who are disabled and neurodivergent, as well as those with an interest in the disability agenda. With groups such as this, organisations are able to engage with their disabled and neurodivergent community much more effectively and proactively. It enables employees the chance to share their experiences with one another, and creates a source for best practices to be shared.
EY was co-founded by Arthur Young over 100 years ago. Arthur had trained as a lawyer, but after losing much of his eyesight and becoming deaf, he could no longer practise courtroom law. He turned to the emerging profession of Accounting, which offered him the opportunities to use his skills in new ways. His disability sparked his innovative mind and began a life of entrepreneurial endeavour. Today, EYs purpose is to ‘Build a better working world’. Inclusion is at the heart of their DNA.