Changing Systems One Business at a Time

A pencil erasing the first two letters of the word inaccessible

One of the Council’s ongoing advocacy priorities is the quest to persuade businesses and public agencies to make their documents and forms accessible to people with vision loss. Sometimes accessibility issues come into play in the Council’s own efforts to function well as an organization—one that happens to be led by a person who is legally blind.

Think about the forms necessary to run a business—payroll, health insurance, banking, contract work, employee records. The list goes on. Inaccessible documents in these areas have a negative impact on any company. And they affect who can be a leader within any given organization.

“These are barriers that keep people with vision loss from becoming CEOs because they can’t administrate,” says Council Executive Director Denise Jess. These obstacles force leaders to spend valuable time doing work-arounds. Often these work-arounds are not good enough. “Some of these documents are confidential,” Denise says. “If your executive director can’t access them, an accountant might have to, and then the privacy is compromised.” This scenario also unduly burdens employees with visual impairments when they attempt to access benefits offered by their employer.

Denise recently had the opportunity to discuss these issues with one of the Council’s vendors, a company that provides administrative support software for employee benefits. It was a terrific example of advocacy and education going hand in hand.

Employee Benefits Corporation (EBC) administers flex spending accounts for clients, including the Council. But signing up for an account was problematic for staff living with vision loss. “They had beautifully laid out plans for employee options. But it’s not so helpful if you can’t read about it, and you can’t fill out the form,” Denise says.

After learning about these barriers, EBC saw the light, Denise says.

EBC President and CEO Shelly Alexander says of the ongoing changes at the company, “We’re committed to continually improving the accessibility of our benefit plan information for everyone. This includes making valuable benefit plan information and forms compliant with screen readers to give those who are visually impaired the opportunity to independently interact with our materials. It’s an invaluable step we can take to create more equal access to necessary information consumers can use to maximize the value of their employee benefit plans.”

The Council is delighted with the progress this collaboration has yielded, one where advocacy and education led to a partnership for change. And we encourage everyone to speak up when they find that a company, agency or institution they interact with needs to up their accessibility game.

Share this post