Oct 27, 2022 - Economy & Business

Greater demand for accessible communications

Illustration of individuals using various forms of communication within speech bubbles

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It's Disability Employment Awareness month, and as the workforce evolves, so must our communications.

Why it matters: Remote work has increased opportunities for people with disabilities, and the participation rate is at its highest since 2008.

Zoom in: Digital accessibility is key to creating a fully inclusive workplace, and it must be incorporated into all aspects of business — especially communications, says Microsoft chief accessibility officer Jenny Lay-Flurrie.

  • “On the simplest level, we must make sure our communications are accessible. It’s such a basic concept, but it's amazing how that gets missed,” she told Axios.
  • Effective communication is a two-way street. Lay-Flurrie created a 24/7 disability answer desk, a free customer service that fields more than 10,000 calls a month. "The engineering teams are hungry for that feedback," she says. "They want to know what customers need."
  • Though many within the disability community know how to access these tools, “accessible and inclusive communications actually benefit everyone,” Lay-Flurrie says.

State of play: From coast to coast, leaders are on a quest for more accessible communications.

  • This year, the White House hired its first full-time American Sign Language interpreter for all press briefings.
  • Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Meta united to improve technology — like Siri, dictation and translation — to recognize the unique speech patterns, often associated with Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy or Down syndrome.
  • Innovative tools like Waymap — a navigation app that makes travel easier for blind and visually impaired people — are launching in local markets.
    • 💡 And the rollout included a braille press release.
  • Accessibility is on LinkedIn users' minds, too. The platform saw a 33% increase in posts about accessibility, and job descriptions featuring “accessibility” in the title increased by 171%.

Plus, more inclusion is good for business.

  • "Companies that prioritize inclusion see 28% higher revenue and yield 30% higher economic profit margins than their peers," says Paul Gennaro, chief brand and communications officer of Voya Financial.

Be smart: "Use 'people-first language' that removes the linguistic emphasis on the disability and is less reductive to the person you're talking about," says Jennifer Dorman, head of user insights at Babbel.

  • And follow the motto, “Not about us without us,” Disability:IN CEO Jill Houghton told Axios in July. “You want to create communications where people feel that they belong. The best way to do that is to engage directly with people and ask.”

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