We Shouldn’t Need to be Told Accessibility is Just Good Business

An image of an iPhone with Braille lettering on the screen.

Focusing on accessibility isn’t something we should need to be told to do -- after all, it’s just good business.

I guess you could look at the recent announcement that the Ontario government is going to be making moves to encourage hiring of people with disabilities in one of two ways: it’s good that they’re getting serious about focusing on accessibility as we approach AODA’s 2025 deadline; but it’s a sad statement that we need encouragement in 2017.

There are plenty of reasons why ensuring that people with disabilities are a part of your hiring pool make sense. The Ability First Coalition, of whom we’re a sponsor (and of which I’m on its board), lays out many of them, so I won’t get into too much detail. But the fact of the matter is that we live in a world where technology allows us to exist on a relatively level playing field -- so it doesn’t make sense to exclude anyone from your practices.

Especially when the benefits can be so incredible for your business.

Diversity, in any group, makes us stronger. It allows us to explore problems and develop solutions from a foundation that’s strengthened by a variety of perspectives. Having too many similar views can create tunnel vision in solution development. So there’s tremendous value in bringing other voices to the table.

And, of course, when it comes to accessibility, there’s nothing like lived experience to inform your best practices.

At Digital Echidna, we are proud of the accessibility work we do. It’s something we support on-line and off, and we've worked to be responsible advocates. But our work has been greatly complemented by having an accessibility consultant with lived experience on staff.

Simply put, lots of people can work within the guidelines of AODA. It’s relatively easy to make sure all the boxes are checked with WCAG compliance. But where it gets trickier is when you go beyond the mandate of AODA to try to match the spirit.

Accessibility isn’t just about providing access -- it’s about providing different, but equal, experiences. The information we need is the same across the board, but how we access it may be the only difference.

By being able to vet our work with someone with lived experience, we’re able to ensure that it doesn’t just comply, but provides a quality experience for the end user. Again, it’s about living up to the spirit. It’s about embracing a new perspective, applying it to our solutions, and developing something that’s better thanks to added diversity.

So while the government’s statement is well-meaning, it’s likely not going to make a difference. And quotas are not the right way to go, either. Instead, we need an attitudinal shift society-wide, where we look at candidates solely for their ability.

After all, skills, talents, experience, and perspectives are what truly matter. Everything else is just technology -- or, as I’ve said in the past, providing people the right tools to do the job and ensure they’re able to work to the best of their ability.

That, in the end, is what we should really be focused on.

Questions Answered

What does the Ontario government's move to encourage businesses to hire one person with a disability mean?