ASA 014: Online Accessibility – Equity in Digitalisation

Online accessibility. Do you have it in place?

Monika Chutnik
Online Accessibility – Equity in Digitalisation

We talk a lot about managing diversity, about diversity of people, and about the beautiful performance, which is possible thanks to diversity in organizations. But have we made sure before that this diversity actually can work in practice? Can all the kinds of people access the resources of our company? That’s the question.

Today, I’m talking to Mike Koeppe about online accessibility for people with visual impairments, and I think this is going to be a very interesting topic. On this occasion you can also see how people just before total sight loss see – just take a look at the guest photo on the cover of this podcast episode.


In this episode you will learn:

  • Figures for visual impairments
  • Why accessibility is a business issue
  • Inclusive company’s best practice
  • “You don’t see what they don’t see”
  • Personal stories
  • Statistics from workplaces
  • WCAG – Web Content Accessibility Guidelines


When we talk about inclusive workplaces, we focus a lot on the mindset. We focus a lot on inclusive leadership. We also talk about inclusive policies. But today, we talked about some really technical levels of being accessible, of being inclusive.


When you listen to this conversation, please think about who else might be happy to know what we are talking about and share with this person later on. I really care to be reaching the right people with my content, so thank you very much for this in advance.

I wish you fun and discovery!


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If you need to educate leaders in how to create psychological safety in your remote teams, or if you would like to increase  inclusive leadership practices, or resilience of your employees – please contact us at ETTA


Additional materials:

  • Eye Able website
  • EU guidelines: link 1 & link 2
  • Podcast ASA 005: Part Time Manager. The Future of Work.
  • Podcast ASA 006: How to craft a DEI strategy that makes sense
  • Podcast ASA 013: Tech Smame Gen Z



Inclusion Makes the World More Vibrant


A personal story

My personal story is that my sister has a learning disability. And during the time when I had to do military service, I chose the civil service in Germany. There I had the opportunity to work in a workshop environment with people with different sorts of disabilities. And this workshop environment really was an eye opener for myself. If you enable people to perform better and enhance whatever skills they have, if you give them right means and tools, they will be much better in terms of their personal value perception, but also

they will be a very productive part of our society as well.


Eye Able company’s story

Eye Able is a company based on a situation that happened to the founders when they were students. One of their fellow student, Marvin, had to quit university because he couldn’t access the e-learning system that was provided by the university.

On our path to digitalizing our world, communicating more, exchanging more information, speeding up processes, we did notice that there are people who cannot interact with digital displays, as a majority of our society can. And this was the case with Marvin. He couldn’t see all the things, that have been displayed to him, because of his visual impairment.

He had to quit university, which was a pity. Because he was a guy who had all the abilities, but he couldn’t access the materials, that he needed to study.

There must be some way to deal with that. So Marvin’s friends digged deeper into the matter. They did their research. And they found out that there are some standards, which are called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, in short WCAG. They also noticed that there is no tool available to implement those rules. Out of that situation, they decided to do something. And so they created Eye Able as a start up in order to overcome the situation and make it easier for people with visual impairments to access our digital world.


Figures for visual impairment

A lot of people might think “that’s only about 1 person”. But it’s about 10 to 15% of each population.

In our society, there are milions of poeple who have visual impairments.

If you look at Poland, we’re talking about 3,700,000 to 5,500,000 people which have that issue.

This is a situation that needs to be put more into the spotlight. And it will be. Because in 2025, all big companies and institutions need to have these WCAG standards applied on their web pages. They have not only the obligation, but also business benefits coming out of that.


Not only visual impairments

We have many people, which have visual impairments. They built up a coping mechanisms to navigate in this world. But this is just basically a helping tool. In our case, it would be glasses. It would be contact lenses. But there are also, for example, dyslexic people. They’re hypersensible when it comes to light, when it comes to information. Old people also benefit from these new standards. Epileptic people have an issue with this as well, because they need to be razor sharply focused on content and not on all the advertising and the additional information all around.

Quantitatively stressed people are also falling into this category. It doesn’t sound so intuitive, but if I’m stressed and I don’t find the information that I want to find, I will usually get a little bit more stressed. There are also people with cognitive issues, that kind of benefit from it as well.

Because what the WCAG guideline basically is doing, is simplifying the navigation around any web page.

Makes it all more visible, what is maybe hidden, due to some nice and fancy design. Which is no problem for the majority of us. But for some it is.


Business issue

10% of men are color blind. This is because of some genetic issues. Imagine a person who is color blind for red. Usually, it turns into some gray tone. You might see a little bit of contrast, and that’s where you got the gray tones. Depending on the intensity of the red – a very light red will be very light gray, if it’s a darker red, it will be a darker gray.

It can be very tricky for someone to actually find the checkout button in an e-shop!

Think about that as a company who wants to sell more, digitally via the e-shops. You simply don’t make it possible for that person to make that purchase if that person even gets there. So, that’s business that will never happen to you. It’s quite important that you actually integrate your design in a way that it makes more visible for a majority of people.


Accessibility in training practice 

I can see a lot of ways to apply this not only in online shops, which obviously depends the most from clear and very usable web pages. But even in our training practice. Just last week, I was running a training on managing diversity. Coincidentally, it turned out that it was a group of elderly people. I think they were 60 plus. And, among others, I was showing them some web resources. Suddenly I realized that some of them were really having difficulties in seeing what was there. Because maybe some of the fonts was too small, maybe it was not clear enough. So just precisely what we were talking about, it was not clear enough. It was not readable enough. It was not easy enough to obtain the information.

Another example from our daily practice is that we try to avoid printing materials for the trainings, by inviting people to work, basing on online materials. So for example, I show a QR code. People scan this QR code with their mobile. And then on their mobile, they can open an article, a task, or whatever. And now, if this website, which I’m linking to, is not clear enough, then these people will never be able to work on this exercise.

Because the effort of going through all this unclear, somehow stuffy content is too much in comparison to the value that the activity itself can bring.


Access to information

It is also about governmental structures and information systems. You know these good examples of The Baltic countries, where you can basically register a company within one day, because it all works online.

But it needs to be accessible – for everyone, not only exclusive for those who have no visual impairments.

And visual impairments, maybe that’s also a misconception in our world. This is not only about the extreme case that people can hardly see anything. Or people who are certified as a disabled person, which usually is about 50% disability level. In terms of visual impairment, that would have left 50% of their visual strengths. But there are also people who have 49, 48, 47, and they have basically the same issue. Maybe not that extreme, but this is the growing group of people with visual impairments.


Inclusive company

Eye Able itself is a very inclusive company. 73% of all the employees have a disability, mostly in the area of visual impairment. And they are not just there to make a social statement in a credible way. But they’re testing the app, all the functions and all the changes that are coming in.

So it is not just a technical tool that was developed by some technical guys, who read the guidelines, and then developed the app. Now it’s really at the heart of the actual reason why the company was founded, but also at the heart of their employees. Because they want to work for all the other people who have issues with that. And they do all the best they can do in order to develop and test it right on spot and not depending on any kind of feedback from the real world.


Happy to work again

There’s one of the colleagues who has only 5% visual strengths left. If you think about it, 95% she cannot see anymore. So she received a workspace that was equipped with all the tools, as much as possible. And the most striking sentence she said once in an interview was:

I’m happy that I can work again.

She loves to go to the office because she knows that she can deliver value. Value that is also helping us, who are suffering from the same issue like her. Maybe not in this extreme, but still she can help these people. And that makes it more valuable for her. She’s really happy that she can be integrated. And then we look at the group of people who could benefit from such an integration tool.


You don’t see what they don’t see

You see when someone’s sitting in a wheelchair. Or when someone needs croaches. It’s very apparent. But, with people who have visual impairments, you don’t see that, because they found a coping mechanism to go around. When they see traffic lights, they know that when the light on the button is showing up, they can go. They can still have a driving license because of that coping mechanism.

But, in most cases, in the digital world you don’t see that anymore. And that’s what I said at the beginning. You don’t see what they don’t see. And that’s where we need to put a lot of attention and awareness. But on the other hand, 10 to 15% of our population is affected by it. Doesn’t matter which social group you’re in.

I’m sure everyone has someone in their circle of friends or family who has an issue with that.


Career change

I’m precisely thinking about a friend of mine. I think it was maybe 10 or 15 years ago when he started having some issues with his eyesight. I don’t need to explain, but the fact is that he started his career as a very successful engineer. But because of his eyesight issues, he had to change the job. And, it seemed that finding a relevant job in a corporate environment, in a manufacturing environment was simply out of scope for him at that time.

Well, what he is doing now, he is a successful photographer. So that’s the surprise! He still works with visual art. He’s still grasping the moment and taking great photos. He has been having photo exhibitions in a bunch of countries. So this is a confirmation that if only his eyesight issue had been addressed properly, he could have stayed a valuable employee inside the companies.


Statistics from workplace


Job performance

When you look at the inclusion of employees, then the statistics show that 56% of people who have visual impairment increase their job performance. They’re really becoming more integrated and more valuable for an organization.

Fluctuation rate

There’s also 50% reduction in fluctuation rate. So people becoming more loyal to the organization. Of course, they are grateful that you create them a space where they can excel.

Sick days

There is also 75% reduction in sick days. This is an enormous number, and it costs a lot of money through an organization. 75% reduction in sick days is based on the fact that people have less problems and they don’t have to focus so extremely on what they see and what they don’t see. We know that this kind of stress that evolves in such situations can have an impact on your physical health, not just on your mental health. So a lot of these people benefit from this, by being also less sick, so you help them even become a healthier person.

Talent pool

On the other hand, if you look at the talent gap, we already touched it. You can respond to talent pool because you’re more inclusive. All of a sudden, you have 10 to 15% more of the worker population, age wise that you can talk to, which is an enormous number. Especially in days when unemployment rates are low.


Through diversity also comes innovation. Because you’re also inviting a lot of people who have a different view on the world. I mean, in this case, very literally, different view on this world. And they will help you to become more visible as a company.


And, of course, it’s also a PR topic. Your image as a company, as a caring employer is definitely something that helps your print image. And if I may respond to it, 50% of employees would consider resigning if the company values don’t align with their values. So company values are important for employees, at least for 50% of them. And there’s action behind words. Especially among the younger generation: Gen Z. They’re actually asking for these kind of work support from the employers.


Next steps

Don’t wait until 2025 arrives. It seems like a long time, but you have to do a lot of changes in the back-end. Your IT department is probably very busy already with other things, because there are more and more requirements coming towards IT departments from various sources of your organization, because you’re digitalizing your business.

So your team is already very busy. And waiting until the last moment, the end of 2024, would be not very helpful, and they would hate you for that. So at least what you can do now is to flag the issue so it gets on their list.


Thank you!


Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

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