This is an opinion piece by Julia Anas, the Chief People Officer at Qualtrics, who wanted to take a moment to recognize Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) and emphasize the utmost importance of accessibility and inclusion in the workplace. In the article, Julia discusses how Qualtrics, as a company, embraces accessibility as a core value and strives to empower individuals with diverse abilities. She highlights the need for organizations to prioritize accessibility initiatives, such as designing accessible products, implementing inclusive workplace practices, and fostering a culture of inclusivity. By doing so, Julia emphasizes that we can create a more inclusive world that values and celebrates the contributions of every individual.
Leaving nobody behind
The widespread use of technology has united humanity in ways we’re only beginning to understand. It’s leveling access to shared knowledge and opportunities at an unbelievable pace. Simultaneously, that same technology has created experience gaps through a lack of assistive technology. Technology should be removing barriers, allowing anyone — no matter the differences they experience in life — to attain their maximum potential. My team and I care deeply about this and are dedicated to ensuring our technology allows anyone with the desire to improve human experiences to do just that. We know that through accessible technology, we create inclusive experiences, and inclusive experiences result in people being able to achieve the things they want. Like becoming a CHRO.
I have struggled with a learning/processing difference since I was 10 years old. It was really hard for me when I was young as kids would poke fun at me and call me names for having to attend two different schools three days a week. My parents would tell me “you are capable of learning and understanding, you just do it differently”. Thinking about it this way was empowering for me. It gave me the courage, the belief in myself that I was able and I could do it — I just had to remember I do it differently, which wasn’t a bad thing. Once I knew and understood the resources I needed to help me, it was game-changing, and accomplishing a positive result became so much easier. I have not always felt comfortable or safe sharing this part of myself, but now when I am transparent and own it — I feel free, it is part of who I am, I’m proud of my journey and I’ve learned to be stronger as a result and to never give up. I know what it’s like to have to find support for my needs, how to navigate them, which helps me to be my best self, and what it’s like not to.
In many ways, the digital world we live in has removed barriers to communication and collaboration that would exclude people in different locations or with different abilities. However, when technology is not designed with inclusivity in mind, technology becomes a barrier of its own. I am now in a position where I can openly share my journey, advocate for what I need, and also influence how that shows up for our employees and for our customers.
Small things make a meaningful difference. Having text for images supports people who have visual impairments, having a transcript for audio supports people with hearing impairments, and content that can be presented in different ways supports those who process differently. We need to move beyond acceptance to actual empowerment. “Disability” is not a bad word; it's a blanket term that often distracts us from how universal the range of ability is, and from how much community forms around individuals who share an understanding of what their experience in life is. This community deserves to have technology that allows us to thrive and removes barriers to goals. Instead of leaving someone behind because a technology lacked assistive functionality, with inclusive technology, we’re able to achieve greater things together. When technology works as it should, nobody is left behind.
Technology as a force for good
As a CHRO, I believe inclusivity for all is critical and it’s important that our community of employees with disabilities know we prioritize them. As a leader of a software company that strives to be a force for good, we must and will follow principles of inclusive design because our customers are diverse, with different needs and abilities, and it is important to deliver a positive experience that is inclusive for all.
Technology has the opportunity to be the foundation for greater inclusivity than the world has ever seen, but only if we commit to ensuring that our technologies are built by and for individuals with many abilities and differences. That’s a commitment that I’m proud to stand behind, and one that Qualtrics takes seriously.
Accessibility is the right thing to do and is good for business
At Qualtrics, we strive to ensure inclusivity for all — this means taking into account everyone's unique needs. We believe that this is not only the right thing to do, but that it’s good for business. Diverse and inclusive environments result in high performance, creating better companies and better business results. Disabilities are an important dimension of diversity, which makes accessibility a requirement for every business. With up to 20% of the population in the US alone having a disability (1 out of 5 employees, customers, suppliers, board members etc), it is safe to say that disabilities are common, exceptional talent is not - and it takes exceptional talent to drive good business outcomes, making accessibility one of the most important investments a company can make. As we continue to improve our work experiences with accessibility leading the way, we know it will create better outcomes for every person who works here, our customers, and their customers. Accessible design is how we will achieve inclusive experiences that exceed the ones in the world around us.
Product Inclusion and Equity
This blog from our product team shares our latest releases and approach to accessible products that truly meet the needs of all. It’s inspiring to know that all new product features will be accessible by default as we continue to work towards making our entire platform accessible. As we take our accessibility efforts forward, we continue to learn in various ways including partnering with all our employee resource groups to understand the opportunities we have to better engage with the world, from the experiences we provide to our team to the products we build for our customers. Every voice holds value, and we’re committed to creating more inclusive products and services with the help of every voice at Qualtrics and beyond.
At the end of the day, creating an inclusive workplace requires ongoing effort and commitment. As we celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day, let's all commit to continuing the prioritization of accessibility and inclusion in all aspects of our work and life. We can affect positive change.