Enable more Goodness through accessible employee engagement software
By: Jim Olson, Director, Product Design, Benevity
When my dad’s hearing began to fade after a lifetime spent around noisy machinery, I noticed that he would sometimes position himself at the edge of a room, knowing that he was unable to participate the way he once did. The family worried about him. Not only because we missed having him in the conversation, but because we all understood that when these things happen, they can speed up a general decline and increase isolation.
Eventually, my mom persuaded him to invest in hearing aids and he was once again back in the middle of everything. Thanks to technology, he is once again connected—tapping along with his favorite songs and catching up on the latest news with friends.
You might be asking yourself what my dad has to do with corporate giving. It seems that while diversity and inclusion are effective in drawing corporate attention these days, the human impact often takes a back seat to data and metrics. Far too often, those with accessibility needs are left out of the conversation.
Diversity & inclusion doesn’t happen by accident
The data is undeniable: diverse and inclusive workforces make better decisions, are more productive and make for more successful companies. Deloitte research shows that inclusive teams outperform their peers by 80%. And, while there’s been progress, the full opportunity is far from being fully realized.
Inclusion doesn’t happen by accident. It needs to be mindfully built into a company’s culture and infused into the employee experience so that everyone has equal opportunity to participate successfully in all of the company’s programs. This becomes even more important when it comes to employee engagement initiatives, especially if you want them to be engaging for everyone.
In an age where digital transformation is the norm for almost every corporation, the discussion around peoples’ ability to engage with technology, software and tools needs to be considered.
Too often people with disabilities are not able to easily partake in day-to-day business operations and employee activities because the enterprise tools aren’t practically accessible.
This is something that Benevity is changing!
Accessibility isn’t a binary thing
There are degrees of disability—from color blindness all the way to people being unable to navigate with a keyboard or mouse. For example, roughly 7.42 million Americans are estimated to be living with significant vision loss and in need of some form of visual assistance (even when wearing corrective eyewear). Because of how software is built, a staggering number of people struggle to use digital technology in their daily lives—at home, at work and everywhere in between.
While some companies rely on legislation as the main driver for providing accessible services, it’s important to remember that accessibility is for everyone—not just for people with diagnosed disabilities. Whether through aging or injury or any other cause, any of us can lose our ability to interact with the world around us, either temporarily or permanently.
As corporate Goodness programs (workplace giving and volunteering programs) quickly become one of the most powerful ways to attract, retain and engage today’s socially conscious workforce, you might ask yourself: “How engaging and inclusive can my program be if I’m using software that isn’t accessible?” It’s difficult to build a unified culture that includes everyone when your people don’t have equal access to the same benefits, experiences, technology and programs.
Building software that includes everyone
At Benevity, we believe it’s important to build products that are simple to use, inclusive and that foster a culture of belonging. That’s why Benevity has been working to ensure our development work meets WCAG 2.0 AA standards for new and existing features in Spark, our enterprise workplace giving, matching and volunteering solution.
When the Benevity team started this journey a year and a half ago, we had a vision of developing the most accessible solution in our space—one that provides a seamless experience for all users. Today (after much work!), all of the main user workflows in Spark are web accessible. Any user, regardless of their ability, can search for a cause, donate online, request a match for a donation made directly to a charity and track their volunteer time. The outcome is that our community of Fortune 1000 companies can now engage all of their employees through the same workplace giving and volunteering software.
Our focus on improving Spark’s accessibility was about more than just meeting standards. It was about accessibility’s real human impact. We were privileged to partner with Microsoft’s Accessibility team, which includes users with visual impairments who interact with our software using tools like screen readers. By the end of the project, they went as far as to say that Spark had provided them with “efficient and delightful experiences.” While appreciative of the accolade, the true satisfaction comes from knowing that every one of the more than 3 million employees that access our software can now achieve the same successful outcomes without obstacles. This will be a relief for program administrators who will spend less time finding workarounds to support individuals with accessibility needs.
Achieving the WCAG 2.0 AA standard
Benevity’s technology teams diligently worked through multiple release cycles to make improved accessibility a reality in Spark. These included major enhancements like:
- Ensuring people can use a keyboard to navigate Spark
- Adding contextual and descriptive information so that screen reader users know where they are and how to interact with each element
- Making everything easier to see and read by improving contrast in the standard Spark theme
In some instances, these were possible through making simple adjustments to the code. Other times, a complete rethink of how a page works was needed. Making Spark’s main user flows accessible was an effort that required the commitment and dedication of several teams across our organization—UX, Development, Quality Assurance, Product Management and senior leadership.
Accessibility is the right thing to do
With the current state of technology, there is every reason to embrace the goal of including everyone. There is growing momentum behind this idea, not only because it’s good for businesses, but because it genuinely feels good and is the right thing to do for everyone’s sense of belonging. I can honestly say that our entire team rallied around the challenge, in part because of the positive impact we knew it would have on people’s lives.
Everyone at Benevity is incredibly proud to offer the most inclusive solution in our industry. Now more companies can build a culture of belonging through software that lets everyone connect with the causes they care about. This means everyone can bond with their colleagues and feel a stronger connection to and affinity for their company for making it easy—even delightful—to support their personal passions at work.
Request a demo to learn more about how Benevity can help you engage all of your employees in your Goodness program.
About the Author
Jim Olson was raised on the wide open Canadian Prairies and now calls Vancouver Island home. As Director of Product Design at Benevity he leads a team of designers creating new and better ways for people to do more good. Jim is a proud supporter of Wikipedia and ProPublica along with his local Boys & Girls Clubs.More Content by Jim Olson