With the outbreak of the pandemic, the question of access to resources became a crucial one as many of us began to navigate working remotely. Flexible schedules, deadlines, access to technology, and more are all part of the conversation we’ve had to collectively engage in this past year. Tellingly, the conversation around access in the workplace is not new and existed well before the pandemic, lead by people with disabilities.
In a Forbes article titled, “On The Pandemic And Accessibility,” Steven Aquino powerfully notes that, “To have one’s lives so utterly disrupted and summarily scrabble to adapt is not dissimilar to the challenges people with disabilities face every single day — even before ‘Covid-19’ became an indelible part of the American vernacular.”
So, when we’re thinking about accessibility, we have to center those who have long been advocating for access to basic healthcare and workplace resources for decades and who have heretofore been denied such assistance. Aquino went on to say, “Jaipreet Virdi, Historian of Medicine, Technology, and Disability at the University of Deleware put it well in a recent tweet. She quoted disability activist and writer Riva Lehrer, who said: ‘Disabled people are experts in finding new ways to do things when the old ways don’t work. We are a vast think tank right in plain sight. A bottomless well of ingenuity and creativity.’” Especially for those of us operating within the wellness community, we have to consider all our diverse and complex audiences.
As many of us transitioned to working from home, access to Zoom, Slack, and other forms of communication became daily aspects of the workplace environment. Even schools began utilizing things like Google Meets and a whole host of online learning platforms. So, what does accessibility look like in the virtual world? Let’s consider this set of user characteristics that UW-Madison Information Technology put out in order to shed light on web accessibility:
So, if you’re truly wanting to make your workplace accessible for all current and potential employees, consider the above user characteristics. Are your virtual meetings captioned? Is your ice-breaker matching game inclusive? Where can you adapt company policy so that your employees don’t have to constantly advocate for the tools they need to do their job? How can you be proactive?
This is also true for those of us in the mindfulness app world. Is your content accessible? Does it consider users who may not feel comfortable dwelling on particular body parts or sounds? What about users who speak multiple languages? How much choice or agency does your content allow its users? Like the mindfulness journey itself, accessibility is an ever-evolving topic that will need to be revisited again and again in order to make sure we’re being as inclusive as possible.