Employee experience and accessibility, same same or something completely different?
The term employee experience is trending strongly, as is accessibility (although for different reasons - unfortunately, accessibility is currently on the rise mainly due to legislative reasons). The obligation of legislation (in Finland, the Act on the Provision of Digital Services, the link opens to the Finlex page in a new tab) is limited to content and software offered to the public. Most organizations are explicitly excluded from the scope of the law in relation to their own employees.
What is accessibility?
Accessibility means that as many people as possible can use software, service, or content for the purpose it is designed for.
When something is designed and implemented to be accessible, it is not necessary to know the user's characteristics in advance - most users do not have any challenges using it.
Fortunately, the attitude of "accessibility does not concern us" is becoming a thing of the past. Accessibility concerns us all, and it benefits us all - but for some of us, accessibility of software, services, and content is a prerequisite for being able to use them.
When we follow accessibility principles (WCAG 2.1, the link opens to a new tab) in all digital aspects, we ensure that we do not accidentally exclude anyone from the user group based on their individual characteristics.
At present, accessibility legislation mainly obliges public operators or those who perform tasks related to public services. In addition, accessibility legislation may be applicable based on public funding for service development.
Accessibility legislation does not cover software or digital content provided by companies to their personnel.
Should accessibility legislation be extended to cover internal use of digital technology?
My answer is simply YES.
And surely this will be the case in the future.
Think for yourself:
How many software applications do you use during your workday? How many hours, days, weeks, or months have you spent learning to use certain software applications?
Do you still have to learn to use them if you don't use them regularly?
Do all applications work on all devices, browsers, and aids?
Do you understand everything you do with each software application?
In other words, how much time do you waste in a day, week, month, or year using dysfunctional, difficult to use, buggy, or otherwise cumbersome software?
Another thought exercise:
Do you understand your organization's internal policies?
Is all content on your intranet easily understandable to you?
Can you navigate your intranet?
Do you know where to find your web-based learning environment?"
Can you use online learning environments?
Is it technically easy to study online courses and can you study courses with any device and browser?
Do you understand the content of your online courses?
Are the videos available for internal use captioned?
So, how much time do you spend per day, week, month, or year looking for a link or software in the intranet or trying to understand an internal document or online course content?
If you have any experiences with dysfunctional software or incomprehensible content, you can next consider how these experiences affect your own employee experience.
Even outside of legislation, there is a lot that can be done
So, what can you do when you have certain established software and practices already in place? Collect user feedback: You can collect user feedback on any software used in the organization. For example, using WCAG 2.1, you can list things that should be implemented and check if they are implemented. You can then forward the user feedback to the software service provider. By collecting user feedback, you also communicate to employees that they matter.
Even outside of legislation, there is a lot that can be done
Although legislation does not require companies to consider the accessibility of software and content aimed at employees, it is still possible to consider accessibility in internal practices. And it should definitely be considered. Really small things can affect the genuine implementation of DEI principles in everyday organizational life. DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) means that there are all kinds of individuals in the organization who are equal and can all participate in the organization's activities equally. We can ask whether DEI is implemented if no attention is paid to accessibility.
So, what can you do when you have certain established software and practices already in place?
Collect user feedback: You can collect user feedback on any software used in the organization. For example, using WCAG 2.1, you can list things that should be implemented and check if they are implemented. You can then forward the user feedback to the software service provider. By collecting user feedback, you also communicate to employees that they matter.
Make small changes gradually: Change what you can. If you can edit the intranet structure, add alt-texts, rewrite unclear text passages in policies and intranet pages, and provide clearer instructions, that is already a lot. However, the world will not become accessible quickly, the most important thing is that the direction is right and that we do what we can at any given time.
Consider accessibility when acquiring new software: Now that you know how important accessibility is, you can add accessibility as one of the criteria when acquiring new software. You can and should ask software vendors how well accessibility is taken into account when designing the software. You should also inquire if the software has been audited for accessibility. Do not acquire software that is not accessible (unless there really are no alternatives).
Caption: Yes, caption those videos. Yes, all of them. Or at least provide a text version of the video content - write down in text what is covered in the video, as accurately as possible. This way, one doesn't have to watch the entire video to get the information presented in the video.
Train: Increasing awareness leads to better implementation. The more people in your organization are familiar with accessibility, the easier it is to achieve it. Accessibility knowledge is especially important for content producers, subject matter experts who produce content, and those who manage internal communication. People in charge of software procurement should also be knowledgeable in accessibility.
Assess and modify: Think about what you're currently doing to make things accessible and what you can improve. What changes are needed? What is good enough and what should be changed first?
The world is becoming more accessible, little by little. The most important thing is to start.
Tips, help, consultation?
Do you need help with accessibility? YH Training creates and modifies accessible online learning content, assists with software procurement, and trains in accessible content production. You can book a free consultation here (link opens in a new tab).