Caroline Casey's advice on integrating accessibility in the workplace

Date of webinar: 
16 Mar 2021 - 13:00

"For us, it's about getting the leadership attention so that we can really support the business in intergrating accessibility and inclusion right across the supply chain," said Caroline Casey, founder of The Valuable 500 campaign speaking on our Accessibility Insights webinar series, hosted by AbilityNet's Head of Digital Inclusion, Robin Christopherson MBE. 


During this session Caroline commented on The Valuable 500, a global movement to put disability on the business leadership agenda of 500 national and multinational, private sector organisations, and the ways in which it's supporting and driving businesses to implement an accessibility agenda. 


Watch the captioned webinar recording below (download the transcript):

Highlights from the webinar

Caroline delved deeper into why businesses need to have CEO's and leaders behind accessibility agendas, not just leaving it to other colleagues to be the driving force. Businesses need to "make this strategic right across the supply chain, not something that's niche...and the only way we can have that happen is if the highest level in the business believes that and is willing to be accountable for it, otherwise it will be discretionary to other people who are passionate about it and it will just get left aside when they leave the business."

In this webinar, Caroline also discussed recent highlights with The Valuable 500 and how the disability landscape has significantly changed throughout the years. Plus, what the future looks like for people with disabilities, and what needs to change to create more inclusive organisations.

Questions and answers from the webinar

Caroline has been able to provide answers to some of the questions posed by attendees during the webinar:

Question: Have the main challenges to commercial business buy in been cultural/attitudinal or commercial - the affordability/ease of making all content accessible (for external and internal use) and including their documentation as well as websites and apps?

Caroline Casey (CC): The real barrier to any of this, is attitudes and intention and a complete misconception on the return on investment. One of the most significant barriers has been lack of leadership and people at the top thinking that accessibility is a choice, not a human right and a business imperative.

Q: My company has joined the Valuable 500 fairly recently, and as a software engineer I’ve been working in a small team to encourage our development community to foster an accessibility-led development mindset. How can we utilise our membership of the Valuable 500 to ensure our leaders prioritise this work? 

CC: I hope that we will be having much deeper connections with your company in phase 2, all Valuable 500 companies will be taking part in a webinar on 11th May to be fully informed about phase 2, from this juncture we will be working with your organisations in a more meaningful way. Thanks very much for pushing.

Q: Do you have a sense of how many of the companies that have signed on have a roadmap for achieving inclusion and accessibility within their organizations? More specifically, what systems and processes they need to have in place to prepare for the eventuality of their existing employees becoming disabled or new employees being hired who have disabilities?

CC: Thanks a million for your question, we will be launching phase 2 with all of our Valuable 500 companies on the 18th May and this will allow us to have a deeper relationship with them and understand the gaps that exist. We, like everyone, are very aware of the lack of data to help us fulfil the needs and requirements of business. In phase 1 we began the process of rectifying this by our trend reports which you can see on our website, however this is only the beginning as there will be considerable emphasis on gathering the information that you are speaking to in phase 2.

Q: To what extent is accessibility within travel and tourism understood to cover the entire on-premise customer journey rather than the just width of a doorway, gradient of an entry slope or fitout of a room bathroom?

CC: A brilliant person to speak to about this would be the founder of Planet Abled.

Q: Phase 2 sounds great! Will organisations within the community be "assessed" in some form to ensure they are acting on their commitment? Even with CEO signature, large companies can either lose focus or take a short cut to feel they have "ticked the box".

CC: We have accountability built in through several channels, peer accountability of the CEOs, The Valuable 500 team assessing and validating that the commitment is kept, the media and employees of the company holding the company to account. If companies have not delivered on their commitment, they will be asked to leave the community.

Q: What is wrong with hearing impaired (as opposed to deaf/Deaf)?  I didn't know that was wrong!  

CC: I believe hard of hearing is the correct term and the name of the organisation that was helpful to me regarding this was Audio Accessibility.

Q: Unilever announced this month that it will eliminate the word ‘normal’ from all its beauty and personal care brands’ packaging and advertising, as part of the launch of its new Positive Beauty vision and strategy. This is obiviously a massive step to create a new era of beauty which is equitable and inclusive. Can beauty and personal care brands do more?  

CC: Firstly, all brands can do more, so much more. What a brand does affects how we see and what we hear. What we see and what we hear affects the way we behave. Particularly in the area of beauty brands, they have enormous responsibility and influence and need to challenge themselves on what they are communicating but I am hopeful that this is changing as is fashion.

Is your organisation signed up to The Valuable 500? Find out how you can get involved.

Further resources