People with disabilities intersect in every single ERG. However, when planning events, accommodating accessibility can sometimes fall under the radar. Regardless of ability, it is important to ensure that everybody in your ERG has access to your event.
In celebration of Disability Pride Month, Chezie recently teamed up with RespectAbility to share insight on how you can make sure that everybody can access their events, both virtually and in-person. This virtual event was hosted by Nick Sophinos, Head of Data & Analytics at Strategus and Event Speaker at RespectAbility, and Ila Eckhoff, Managing Director at BlackRock.
Here are a few key takeaways from the conversation.
Communicating your ERG’s commitment to disability inclusion during onboarding will make your Group and its events feel more accessible. Employees with disabilities will feel more included if they know what your commitment is to disability inclusion. At the same time, current employees with disabilities that haven’t had an interaction with your group, will be made aware of your commitment.
“Sometimes making that statement, especially in the workplace can really help a lot of people, especially those that are newer to the company who have not seen the work you’ve done,” said Sophinos.
It is also important to ensure that all your Leads and sponsors understand what the needs are of people with disabilities within your Group. Making sure that everybody is aware of what the needs are will help put accessibility at the forefront of the planning process. A great way to do this is by investing in learning and development around disability for your ERG leads. This investment can help you and your Leads be mindful about accessibility when it comes to your events and ways you can make your ERG more welcoming to members with disabilities.
Finally, utilize intersectionality in ERGs regarding disability. Your members will share more than one identity, such as their race, gender, sexual orientation. Disability is also an important part of the identity of some of your members, especially if they have an invisible disability. Embrace intersectionality!
It can be easy to miss the fact intersectionality exists, especially when it comes to disability. Seeing people within your ERG with a disability can help new and current members of the company feel more comfortable and welcomed. As Eckhoff states, “nothing about us without us.”
Even as more people are returning to work at their offices, continue hosting virtual/hybrid events. Not everybody is able to return to the workplace. As such, it’s important to ensure that everybody can participate, even if some of your members aren’t able to physically attend.
When planning virtual events, make sure that not only will people be able to attend the event but will also understand and be able to follow along as well. Having ASL interpreters and accurate, real-time captions will help your members participate better. Subtitles will only reflect what is being spoken. As such, captions go a step further by including non-spoken information such as [applause] or [laughter]. While automated captions have come a long way, they may not be very effective and reliable if your members are trying to follow along at the same time.
Keep in mind that some members will need screen readers when accessing virtual events. Ensure that your text is accessible to members. This also goes for website accessibility, as some websites prevent copying and pasting their content to reduce plagiarism. If you have pictures, whether for a virtual or in-person event presentation, explain the picture out loud.
When planning in-person events, ensure that your event is in an accessible location. Think of the access to the event space, the parking spots, and the access to transportation when picking a location.
As Sophanos points out, “there’s nothing worse than showing up to an event and having them say ‘well, we do have an elevator but it’s a service elevator in this back alley that you have to access and it’s pretty sketchy.”
Requesting accommodations can be uncomfortable. It could mean revealing personal information just to ensure that you’re able to access this event. As an ERG lead, you need to make it easy and comfortable for employees, members of the management team, volunteers, and participants to request accommodations beforehand.
When creating registration forms, include the following phrase to the form: “do you need any accommodations to fully participate in this event?”
Afterwards, provide the contact information of the employee that is assigned to handle accommodations. By having one employee in charge of accommodations, it will feel more personable. As said earlier, revealing personal information can feel uncomfortable, especially if members with disabilities feel that they will have to disclose this information to many people.
Disability and accessibility doesn’t get the level of attention that it needs. This oftentimes causes many leaders to overlook the needs of their own members.
By constantly reminding your members and your leads of your Group’s commitment to accessibility, it will be easier to ensure that everybody has access to your events. By keeping in mind where your event is located or the medium of communication for your event, you’ll be opening access to your events for more people. Finally, by making it as easy and as comfortable as possible to request accommodations, your ERG will be able to connect with more people and keep every member engaged, regardless of disability.
Chezie hosts a wide variety of virtual events to equip you with the knowledge you need to lead your ERG. Never miss an event and view past events by visiting our