Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Simon Holt, Erin Osborne-Martin, Miguel Ramos, Matthew Salter, and Karen Stoll Farrell. Simon is Head of Central Strategies, Content Acquisition at Elsevier. Erin is Associate Director, Strategic Analytics at Wiley. Miguel is a project manager for SPIE’s Digital Library, leading efforts in accessibility improvements to its platform. Matthew is the Founder and CEO of Akabana Consulting LLC, a boutique publishing consultancy. Karen is Head of Scholarly Communication at Indiana University Libraries, Bloomington.
The authors would like to thank those who contributed ideas to this piece, including: Lisa Braverman, Sylvia Hunter, Dan Shanahan and Jennifer Erica Sweda
December 3 marks the UN’s annual International Day of People with Disabilities. Over 1 billion people worldwide, or 15% of the world’s working-age population, have a disability. Around 80% of disabilities are ‘hidden’, meaning that it’s highly likely that you live and work with many people with disabilities, without being aware of it. More broadly, it means that as organizations and as an industry, if we are serious about diversity and equity, we need to proactively take steps to become more disability inclusive.
There is, of course, a big difference between recognizing that something needs to be done, and knowing how to go about doing it. To this end, a group of volunteers (volunteer with us) is currently partnering with C4DISC to build aToolkit for Disability Equity in the Scholarly Communications Industry, following on from the excellent antiracism and inclusive language toolkits already published. We hope to launch the first version of this toolkit in 2023.
One of the main things we have learned during the development of the toolkit is that many of the activities that make the most impactful difference are small-scale and low-cost, involve behaviors rather than huge infrastructure shifts, and are changes that organizations of any size can implement. We also recognize that inclusion is a journey, and everybody needs to start somewhere. In this article, we present 10 quick wins to help make your organization more disability inclusive.
- Establish a clear point of contact for basic workplace adjustments. Make sure that all employees are aware of this person’s role. This removes one of the major barriers to people accessing the support they need to succeed at work and helps individuals with disabilities feel less isolated, as they know where to go to get the help they need.
- Ask those who report to you what they need to be motivated and successful. Ask this on a regular basis, as abilities and best practices change over time. This helps to create a diverse and inclusive culture and normalizes the idea that not everyone needs exactly the same working environment to fulfill their potential. It also gives individuals who require workplace accommodations a platform to ask for them without having to bring it up themselves, which can feel awkward and intimidating.
- Offer and expect flexibility throughout the work environment. This may include remote work and flexible work hours where possible, but also varying office setups (including support for non-standard home office equipment) and communication preferences. Have a camera-optional policy for video conferencing wherever possible. Having this flexibility in place for everyone allows individuals to feel more comfortable, increasing their sense of belonging and psychological safety.
- Invite a speaker who identifies as having a disability to speak to your organization, or offer staff a disability awareness training course, and hold a discussion session afterward. Then gather interested staff for a discussion about disability and your workplace to prioritize efforts. This helps to normalize conversations about disability and gives people an opportunity to ask questions and raise topics they may otherwise feel afraid to mention due to social stigmas around disability.
- Use built-in accessibility tools on major software, such as Zoom’s captioning tool, and use accessibility checkers for office software, such as Microsoft’s Accessibility Checker. This means you can feel confident that individuals who use assistive technology can access your materials and meetings. Given that approximately 80% of disabilities are ‘hidden’ (i.e. non-visible), you may not know who these individuals are!
- Share information on your website and in your recruiting and onboarding materials about what you are already doing to be inclusive of people with disabilities. This will encourage more people with disabilities to apply to your organization, allowing you to hire more diverse talent. It could also raise awareness about ongoing efforts amongst your existing staff!
- Conduct an internal and anonymous survey as a starting point to understand how many people in your organization have disabilities and what their needs may be. Look at Scope’s guide to reporting for guidance. This will give you a sense of which initiatives you’d like to prioritize in this space depending on what kinds of disabilities are represented.
- Remove unnecessary requirements from job descriptions and postings (such as being able to lift at least 60 pounds for a strictly computer-based role). Including these requirements excludes people who are capable of performing the core duties of the position.
- When recruiting, ask candidates prior to the interview if they have accessibility needs that are not met by your standard interviewing process. This means everyone will have an equitable opportunity to perform at their best during the hiring process, giving you a greater chance of hiring the best candidate.
- When planning staff events, ask attendees about their needs before selecting a location and menu. This allows everyone to participate, helping people to feel included and part of the team.
An important aspect of disability inclusion is effective communication, and in the workplace of scholarly publishing, that communication needs to be fostered and focused on the needs of disabled employees. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, the quick wins outlined above are relatively easy and inexpensive for most organizations to adopt and will result in proactive steps towards improving the day-to-day working experience for everyone, leading to greater satisfaction, retention, and productivity.
The C4DISC Toolkit for Disability Equity, currently under development, is a forthcoming resource to help reduce the barriers to participation in scholarly communications for individuals with disabilities. The toolkit will include resources to provide actionable support for individuals with disabilities, employers, allies, managers, and colleagues within scholarly publishing to engage in conversations surrounding the various types of disability and accessibility needs within an organization.
We hope you find these quick wins helpful on the journey to disability inclusion in the workplace.