• Lisa Heneghan, Leadership |

As Global Chief Digital Officer at KPMG International, it may seem strange that I’m asking you to look beyond the technology to create a more accessible workplace. But I am.

The world is transforming, and technology enables everything we do. It is at the heart of the client and employee experience. And it is key to breaking down barriers and creating opportunities for those with disabilities. New digital communication and collaboration platforms have brought people together in the work environment – KPMG professionals now make around 40 million audio and video calls per month, encouraging people to ‘dial in’ from wherever is most accessible for them.

The digital workplace is here to stay, and its tools are continuously improving, particularly in the accessibility space. Just consider the now-ubiquitous blurred background many of us use when on video calls. You may think this feature was created to help you hide that laundry behind you. But it was actually developed to help people with visual impairments focus on the subject better, with fewer visual distractions.

In fact, you may not realize it, but software like Microsoft Teams is packed with features aimed at helping make the workplace more accessible and creating an inclusive experience for everybody. Users can enable real-time captions if they prefer to collaborate visually. A speaker coach app helps to understand if we are using inclusive language or talking too fast. And Microsoft Outlook has an accessibility checker to see how you can make your emails more accessible – for example, by adding alternative text-to-image so those with screen readers can engage more effectively with the content.  

You’ve made the investment – now get the full value

According to the KPMG 2022 CEO Outlook, businesses have shifted their attention from technology implementation to adoption, engagement and change management in order to maximize the value of their investments.

As Global Chief Digital Officer at KPMG International, I also know that you can’t just implement new technologies and assume the benefits will simply flow. You need to go beyond the technology. And here are three of the things I consider when I’m thinking about accessibility.

  1. Plan purposefully for it. As you focus on accelerating speed of delivery and activating new features in a safe and trusted way, make accessibility one of the value drivers of your technology roadmap. Think not just about how you can make the workplace more efficient for everyone – also consider how it can be used to tailor the work experience to individual needs, thereby helping to elevate the employee experience and drive engagement and retention.

  2. Drive adoption and engagement. IT and digital leaders recognize that the technology we deploy only delivers value if it is adopted. KPMG in the UK rolled out a ‘digital ninja’ program where a new generation of digitally-savvy employees help their colleagues across the business understand new tools and functionalities – thereby improving overall technology literacy and making the workplace more accessible.

  3. Make it accountable. As Global Chief Digital Officer at KPMG International, I’m striving to ensure that the technologies deployed are accessible to everyone. And I actively encourage my colleagues to drive the same accountability through their technology decision-making. Consider, for example, creating digital accessibility teams with individuals fully dedicated and passionate about improving accessibility through technology enablement.

I am passionate about this topic because I value diversity in the workforce. I am passionate because I believe in breaking down barriers and championing inclusion. And I am particularly passionate because I know members of my own family may face accessibility barriers in the future. We have the power to remove those barriers. But that means looking beyond the technology today. 

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