'Walking the talk': The simple steps towards digital inclusion

Are organisations really facing 'barriers' when it comes to digital inclusion?

'Walking the talk': The simple steps towards digital inclusion

The steps to becoming a digitally inclusive workplace are simple, but fear and ignorance might be holding employers back from carrying them out.

This is according to Kerry Kingham, CEO of The Chooze Shop, when she spoke to HRD about digital inclusion in the workplace.

Kingham described a digitally inclusive workplace as an environment where employees or jobseekers can come into a business and be able to use anything that's in the digital space, regardless of extra accommodations they might need.

"So, imagine a website where you have an intranet in a workplace. It's making sure that if that's where employees have to go and gain their HR information, where they have to apply for leave, where they get their payroll, where they do training or learn about policies and procedures, that the digital information is presented in a way that's accessible to anybody, regardless of whether they have vision impairment, hearing impairment, whether they might need to use a keyboard to navigate a site instead of a mouse," Kingham told HRD.

Across Australia, the number of highly excluded individuals remain "substantial" despite the country's digital inclusion score's steady improvement over the recent years.

Barriers to digital inclusion

But in workplaces, Kingham said she believes that barriers to digital inclusion "aren't really barriers."

"I think a lot of it is ignorance or perhaps fear, and sometimes I think employers might go: 'Oh, this is gonna be a really big project. It's gonna require so much work, we just won't do it. We're managing fine as we are,'" she said.

The scary thing, however, is that most of the things required to make a workplace more digitally inclusive "aren't really expensive or really complex to implement."

So, I think those sorts of barriers really, as from my perspective, aren't really barriers. They're a bit of ignorance, and perhaps unwillingness to just take it on board and do it," she said.

Benefits to digital inclusion

By being digitally inclusive, Kingham said employers could see benefits in terms of engagement and recruitment.

"It's good for business. There's millions of Australians who have disabilities, some of them are hidden disabilities, some are more obvious disabilities, and if you're not making your website or your employment area digitally accessible, you're actually reducing their ability to engage with you," she said.

"If you have an environment that's not digitally accessible, you're potentially cutting yourself off from a huge pool of people that you could bring on as part of your team, such as highly skilled workers that couldn't work there because of the way you've chosen to set up your platforms."

Kingham added that it's also good for an organisation's reputation.

"I think it's a great way to become an employer of choice if you start looking at all these sorts of things," she said.

"If you're also looking at it from a corporate social responsibility perspective, these are really great things to promote from a corporate perspective - the fact that you are inclusive, that you are accessible and all your resources."

'Simple' steps to be digitally inclusive

But how can employers strive to be digitally inclusive? Kingham said there are various measures that employers can implement.

"It's really simple things like making sure that any videos you have on there have captions, making sure that any images have alt text, which actually means a screen reader can read the description of the image," she said.

Outside the internet, there are also various ways to make the workplace inclusive and accessible for all employees.

"Simple things like on your lifts having the up and down or floor numbers in Braille, as well as standard lift signs. Having the floors read out, such as 'you're now reaching level six,' so people know if they're heading to level six to get out."

Another simple measure is ensuring that the workplace has enough space for wheelchairs or for people that might have mobility issues.

"Just simple things like that technology and all different forms of assistive technology that employers can roll out and implement very, very effectively," she said.

'Walking the talk' for HR leaders

For HR leaders, fostering a digital inclusive workplace means ensuring that plans for it are being implemented, according to Kingham.

"Because I think for a lot of businesses, this is something that they say, but they don't actually do. So, it's walking the talk," she said.

HR leaders need to make sure that policies don't just sit in a folder or somewhere in the intranet, she stressed.

"It's about making sure that if you put a job ad up, that you're actually stating there that you will provide accommodations for people in the interview, and that you actually do that," she said. "That you make sure that if you have a website that people need to come to both externally or internally, that it actually delivers on those diversity and inclusion approaches."

The important step for organisations is to "actively pursue" digital inclusion in the workplace, according to Kingham.

"Actively doing it, talking about it, promoting it, even things like when you advertise, when you do promotions, make sure all of that is accessible, make sure you're showing a diverse range of people in your corporate ads in your social media. Not just as a token but actually walk the talk," she said.

"It can become a real point of difference for you. It can help you become an employer of choice and it can actually build real respect for you out there in the business community."

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