Messaging is everything. Today, 1 in 5 Australians live with a disability. But despite making up 20% of the population, only about 6% of businesses are paying attention to this audience. This is a massive, valuable market that isn’t being acknowledged by businesses. So how can brands be more inclusive?
In celebration of EPIC Assist’s 30-year anniversary of assisting people with disability into meaningful employment, here are 30 best practices to creating inclusive messaging.
Know your customer
- Don’t make assumptions; do your research.
Understand what issues your audience faces, how they live, the platforms they use, and their other activities and interests.
- Get advice from the experts.
Use expert opinions to find out what excites your audience. Specialist disability employment services, like EPIC Assist, can work with you to help you to break down the barriers around creating inclusive workplaces and hiring people with disability.
- Remember that everyone is different.
Hire the right people
- Have representation internally, so you can reflect authentically externally.
Building a disability-friendly business starts with a disability-inclusive workforce. Who better to provide guidance on how to make improvements from a disability perspective, than a person with disability?
- Be an equal opportunities employer.
All job advertisements should include a statement that explains that your business is an equal opportunities employer who will provide reasonable adjustments to people with disability.
- Be prepared to offer job application support and interview adjustments.
Invite potential applicants with disability to contact the employer to identify any additional support they might need to complete the job application and interview process. This might include changing interview locations to enable wheelchair access, providing an interpreter, or scheduling the interview for a particular time of day.
- Foster a positive workplace culture.
Employees should feel comfortable asking for reasonable adjustments and safe disclosing a disability or mental health condition. Lead by example and create practices and standards that support your employees’ wellbeing.
- Invest in training for your staff.
Your staff represents your brand. Train your staff on how to provide exceptional and inclusive customer service that is accessible and supportive of all.
Be real and consistent
- Focus on the person, not the disability.
- Be authentic to your core messaging and voice.
- Go beyond symbolic gestures.
A rainbow flag or image of a person using a wheelchair is only symbolic without real action. Focus on authentic, relevant messaging.
- Don’t be diminutive or patronising.
- Don’t dilute the message.
Don’t segregate people with disability from the rest of consumers with “disability messaging” – include them. Speak to people with disability as you do to others.
- Reflect your customer’s reality.
Real and authentic messaging isn’t only about “reflecting me,” but about reflecting your customer’s wider cultural group. Inclusivity stretches beyond individual identity.
Create an inclusive online space
- Caption your videos.
Include voice-overs and text-captions (subtitles) on videos as an alternative means of communicating.
- Describe your images.
Use alt-text and captions where possible for all images on both your website and social media accounts.
- Use clear language and simple sentences.
Avoid complex words or jargon and use your natural tone of voice. Aim for a Grade 8 reading level on the Flesch-Kincaid model.
- Use inclusive language.
Someone does not ‘suffer from blindness’, they are ‘a person who is blind’. A person is not ‘confined to a wheelchair’, they are ‘a person who uses a wheelchair’.
- Write clear link text.
- Provide an accessibility statement or policy.
This can briefly describe what physical and online accessibility facilities you offer, such as bathrooms, wheelchair access, and text-to-voice page readers.
- Provide wayfinding maps to your location.
Consider providing information on the various accessible travel options to reach your location.
- Use a strong colour contrast.
Go beyond communication
- Back your messaging by brand actions.
Consumers will sniff out empty promises. Make sure your messaging isn’t just ‘fluff’. Share the stories of the changes and policies that you have implemented at your organisation to be more inclusive.
- Make all touchpoints and interactions welcoming.
- Create accessible facilities.
Think about accessible bathrooms, accessible parking, ramps and lifts instead of stairs, wide corridors and doorways to allow for wheelchairs, guide dog facilities, suitable counter heights, non-slip floors, and more.
- Adapt your product/service design.
Your products and services are the biggest representation of who you are as a brand. Are aspects of your products and/or services difficult for people with disability to use? Can you make them more inclusive?
- Be prepared to make changes to support customers with disability.
- Provide alternative formats of consumption.
Are there alternative non-physical related ways and modes to interact with your products and services? Do you provide different modes of contact (phone, email, virtual assistant) and alternatives to text, documents, and print information?
- Invite feedback on your accessibility.
People with disability are the experts in their own needs. Invite customers to provide feedback or to leave a suggestion. Companies that handle feedback/complaints well tell people with disability what organisations are open to supporting their needs.
- Be part of the solution.
After researching the issues that your audience faces, engage in initiatives that support the wellbeing of your staff, customers, and stakeholders.
EPIC Assist has been helping businesses connect with job-ready applicants for 30 years. If you’re not already connected with EPIC Assist, get in touch with us today to find out how we can support your business to build a more diverse and inclusive workplace.