It’s past time to make your internal systems accessible for all employees

Published: 09/05/23

Have you considered that inaccessible internal systems are a part of what’s hindering your employee comms efforts? After all, technology is a central driver of productivity, employee engagement and success in today’s workforce. So, if the systems your employees are expected to use are inaccessible (or just plain difficult to navigate), you can’t possibly expect seamless internal communications.

illustration of a web page with images representing brain, vision, touch, hearing and search

You want to foster a work environment where internal communication is rock-solid. One where employees collaborate seamlessly, technology adoption rates — like intranet use — are high and people want to work for your company.

That means it’s time to ensure your employee-facing technology is accessible. It’s the right step to take morally. Showing a commitment to accessibility illustrates to current and prospective employees (and the consumer marketplace) that their disabilities — visible or invisible — are accepted, welcomed and valued at your company.

You’ll also be pleasantly surprised by the benefits that cascade down for everyone when you make your systems accessible to everyone.

The far-reaching implications of internal tech and accessibility

If you think digital accessibility is irrelevant to your organization because none of your employees have disabilities, think again.

Many disabilities aren’t apparent. You can’t detect color blindness, and yet there are an estimated 300 million people in the world with color vision deficiency. There are also nearly 20 million people in the United States living with vision impairments, and about 30 million who have hearing loss. Not to mention the countless other disabilities that can affect a person’s ability to easily engage with technology.

Employers have a responsibility to acknowledge, understand and accommodate every employee’s needs. Known or unknown. Visible or invisible.

Sidenote: We’re talking exclusively about the accessibility of internal systems here. While 60% of companies have been working on accessibility over the last six years, it’s often on their external-facing systems. Internal-facing tools end up as an afterthought. And we’re already illustrating why making the technology your employees use accessible is imperative and beneficial.

When your systems exclude, your business is limited

As an employee communications or talent acquisition lead, it's your responsibility to implement accessible technology for your current and prospective employees. But beyond compliance or regulatory concerns, it’s also in your best interest for many other reasons. Not the least of which is that you’re limiting your company without accessible internal tech.

How? By restricting your talent pool for potential employees without accessible systems in place. Qualified folks with disabilities might not even be able to access your careers site, for one.

But take that a step further. If someone with a disability successfully applies for and lands a job on your team but your tech isn't accessible, how can they be successful in the job you hired them to do?

Inaccessible systems may be inhibiting your existing employees from reaching their full potential, too. If they can’t efficiently make use of the tools at their disposal, they can’t be as productive in their roles. That lack of optimal productivity has a ripple effect throughout your entire company.

Unemployment rates are unfairly — and needlessly — high among people with disabilities, in some part due to accessibility issues like the ones we’ve described. If your systems aren’t inclusive, you’re missing out on people who could fill in talent and bandwidth gaps on your team.

The business case for implementing accessible internal platforms

Having accessible systems is a win-win; it’s good for your people and your bottom line. And the benefits of making your systems accessible extend beyond setting your employees up for success and attracting new, diverse talent.

Specifically, when you have accessible internal systems, you can expect:

  • Improved employee retention. When employees feel supported and successful, they stay.
  • Enhanced productivity and innovation. Accessible technology means team members can do their jobs more easily, leaving “bonus” time to innovate.
  • Operational cost reductions. More efficient use of your tech platforms thanks to accessibility and user friendliness = cost savings. Enough said.
  • Improved corporate image. If your company isn’t an inclusive place to work for people with disabilities, your employees — and maybe even their friends and families — are apt to speak out. People could boycott or speak poorly of your company as a result. Being known for accessibility, on the other hand, strengthens your employer brand and your consumer brand.
  • Reduced legal costs. People can, should and do bring suit against companies that discriminate because of a lack of accessibility. Avoid that kind of legal hot water and reputation damage by proactively making your company an accessible place to work.

Taking steps to ensure all employees and applicants can access the technology they need in order to apply to and then perform their jobs is a wise business practice that influences your company’s bottom line.

Where to start with accessible employee-facing technologies

There’s a misconception that making your technology accessible is a major investment. But that doesn’t have to be your reality. You can take small, iterative steps toward accessibility that have a huge impact on your employees’ ability to get their work done well.

In general, there are certain internal systems you should consider enhancing from an accessibility perspective, including:

  • Web-based intranet and internet information and applications
  • Email and other electronic correspondence
  • Software applications and operating systems
  • Telecommunications products
  • Video and multimedia products
  • Desktop and portable computers
  • Online job application

That is a big list, and you'll likely need some help to tackle each of these tools. But there are small things you can do to get started. For example, ensuring there’s sufficient contrast on the colors on your intranet is a good place to begin. Adding alternative text (alt text) to your images is also low hanging fruit when it comes to making your tools accessible right now. Alt text allows people who use screen readers to understand the images on your pages.

Everyone benefits from accessible systems

Accessibility considerations don’t only serve people with disabilities. Creating accessible systems supports a cleaner, better user experience for everyone. For example:

  • If someone’s internet connection is slow and a page’s images won’t load, alt text allows them to “see” the images on the page anyway.
  • Captions and transcripts make it so someone in a noisy environment can still consume audio content.
  • Many people have dexterity issues that aren’t permanent. They can benefit from using a keyboard for navigation.
  • Appropriate font sizes and color contrast make readability easier for everyone.

Every single person on your team — whether they have a disability or not — relies on technology to do their jobs. So, there are no downsides to making these tools accessible and user-friendly. More accessible systems can expand your talent pool, help your employees be more productive and bolster your employer and consumer brands. And of course, elevating accessibility is simply the right thing to do.