Involving employees with disabilities in all aspects of the procurement process can help ensure accessibility. Organizations, however, must avoid expecting or requiring employees with disabilities to do unpaid work to support aspects of an accessible procurement program. Some disabled employees may want to participate in ways suggested in this section, others may not. Hiring a diverse workforce that includes people with disabilities at all levels in a variety of roles will improve the likelihood that technology products and services will work for everyone.
Involve Disability Employee Resource Groups in Technology Procurement Efforts
Many organizations have employee resource groups (ERGs), also known as affinity groups or business resource groups. These are comprised of employees who selfidentify as disabled and others who have come forward to be in community with their co-workers with disabilities at every level.
As much as possible, all accessibility initiatives should include people with disabilities. ERGs and their members can potentially contribute to many aspects of the accessible procurement process. Here are some best practices for involving Disability ERGs in ensuring the accessibility of applicant and employee third-party digital tools:
- Make sure the group knows that your organization is working to ensure that applicant / employee tools are accessible. Ask for ideas about how best to involve the group and its members.
- Ask employees with disabilities to share their experiences with workplace and applicant software and other technology. Answers can help inform the categorization and prioritization aspect of the third-party digital tool inventory.
- Work with your ERG to create a survey to gather user experiences and stories. Stories can focus on the role of disabled employees in your organization and the ways that technology helps disability talent thrive or creates roadblocks.
- Involve ERG members in testing and giving feedback on technology under consideration.
- Involve ERG members in defining functional accessibility needs for particular disabilities.
- Involve ERG members in product evaluations during the procurement process and meetings with vendors.
ERG members can support an organization’s accessible procurement efforts in these ways and others. And an organizational focus on accessible procurement can both help grow and strengthen internal communities of employees with disabilities and attract new disability talent.
Don’t have a Disability ERG?
Check out Disability:IN’s Employee Resource Group/Business Resource Group Leadership Committee(External link) and its Resource Page(External link) for more resources, support and ideas about developing and enhancing organizational ERGs.
Understand Accessibility Needs from the User Perspective
An important component of communicating employee accessibility needs to vendors is sharing stories of employees and applicants needing accessibility. These stories are also crucial to building a culture of accessibility.
Having employees with disabilities participate in meetings with the vendor to point out biggest pain points with access barriers can be an effective way to drive home the accessibility message. This type of meeting also helps build and reinforce relationships that can strengthen the entire accessible procurement process.
Short vignettes about how applicants and employees with disabilities use tools– or cannot use tools without accessibility – can help both suppliers and your own teams better understand why accessibility matters.
Creating these vignettes internally has the added benefit of involving employees with disabilities and providing internal learning opportunities. Employee / Business Resource Groups can assist in this effort.
These resources can also help:
- The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) offers a series of short videos that communicate the importance of accessibility from the user’s perspective. With the tagline “Essential for Some, Useful for All,” the videos can be found here: W3C Web Accessibility Perspective Videos(External link). Many focus specifically on employees (see, e.g. the video on the need for keyboard compatibility here: W3C Web Accessibility Perspective Video on Keyboard Compatibility(External link).
- How People with Disabilities Use the Web(External link), another resource from WAI includes a list of “Stories of Web Users” that can be used as is, or as a model for building your own stories.
- People with Disabilities on the Web(External link), a resource from WebAIM, a non-profit organization based at the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University, includes detailed articles about how people with visual, motor, hearing, and cognitive disabilities use the web.
Later in the procurement process, this understanding will help shape both conversations with suppliers during marketing research and accessibility requirements in procurement documents.