By Leandro Camilo, PwC Global Disability Inclusion Leader
It’s probable that, like me, you spend a good portion of your day online via your laptop, your phone or a tablet. In fact it has likely become such an inherent part of our day that booking tickets online, watching a video clip, reading a news article, or utilising a specific software are all things that we take for granted. But have you ever stopped to think how these everyday activities might be experienced by people with visual, hearing, motor or cognitive disabilities?
Did you know that of the eight billion people on the planet, more than one billion are living with a disability?1 Since my appointment as PwC’s Global Disability Inclusion Leader, I have been on a personal learning journey and I firmly believe that digital accessibility and inclusion are something everybody should be thinking and talking about. Which is why I’m one of many PwC leaders, leading the charge to spotlight Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) across our network.
GAAD, marked annually, aims to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital access and inclusion. Its overarching message is that someone with a disability should be able to experience web-based services, content and other digital products with the same successful outcome as those without disabilities. With this goal in mind, GAAD seeks to build awareness by shining a light on digital accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities.
Here at PwC, via our Global Disability Inclusion strategy we foster and support an environment where people with disabilities are fully included, feel empowered to be themselves, and have the support, technology and adjustments they need to thrive. We’re actively driving action every day to improve the lives of people living with disabilities and those who care for them. And, as a human-led and tech-powered organisation, a focus on digital accessibility is one of the six key areas of our Disability Inclusion strategy.
Whilst we are making progress we know there’s still a significant amount of work for us to do. And while we accept that we haven’t solved all of the problems in relation to digital accessibility, we are moving the needle in the right direction and making foundational changes across our PwC network, while always striving to listen, learn and improve in every way we can.
At the heart of where we’re heading is our people. Listening, role-modelling and advocating so that all of our people are positioned to thrive. Our people’s views are the true indicator of whether our strategy is working – and are vital in helping us fine-tune our activities and interventions to have the maximum positive impact.
Lotte Storken, a manager at PwC Netherlands who has a hearing impairment, shares that her digital access benefits enormously from having automated captions during video calls. “It’s hard for me to follow a conversation with more than one person, and using captions helps me participate in calls without using up too much energy,” she explains.
Lotte adds that she’ll soon have access to software that converts speech into written text during physical events as well. And she thinks such tools will be crucial to improving accessibility still further in the future.
For Samrawit Biyazin, a Senior Associate at PwC US who has a visual impairment, digital accessibility is the gateway to autonomy – and means she doesn’t have to rely on others to live the life she wants.
Samrawit’s experiences at PwC US have highlighted the huge potential for meaningful, positive change in all workplaces, and have inspired her to help bring it about. “Digital accessibility has given me an opportunity to challenge digital inaccessibility,” she explains. “Having lived experience with technology limitations has helped me understand the issues – and has better prepared me to change the status quo for myself and other fellow people with disabilities, at PwC and beyond.”
Changing the status quo and conquering unprecedented challenges is what energises Mohammed Asif Iqbal, Associate Director at PwC India. Within PwC, he works with clients via our consulting business, while in his personal life, he holds the Asian record for an unsighted person running the TSK25, an annual 25km road race organised by the Tata Group.2
So, how can this message be spread more widely to all people and businesses? Asif believes it’s about showing that digital accessibility is not just an essential and a fair ask but also brings real commercial benefits to our network and our clients.
The common themes in our people’s comments? I would highlight two. First, the importance of investing in the right tools and design to make technology accessible to all. And second, the need to grow awareness of why digital accessibility matters. Responding to the latter, at PwC, we’ll be hosting two global internal events to celebrate GAAD, titled “Digital accessibility for the present and future” bringing together external and internal Disability Inclusion experts, our people with lived experience, and leadership allies from across our global network to foster greater digital accessibility and broader disability inclusion awareness this GAAD.
As we at PwC continue our journey towards enhanced accessibility and inclusion, I’m very excited about the opportunities ahead. Together, we’re cultivating a more inclusive workplace for everyone with a disability, enhancing the sense of belonging and fostering collaborations between people with different experiences and trajectories.That’s the future we’re working to create.
We’ll know we are successful when – among other things – we are intuitively considering disability and accessibility in every business and people decision we make, all the way from product and service development through to continuing to foster an environment that supports people with disabilities in reaching their full potential.
1. https://accessibility.day/ Global Accessibility Awareness Day, viewed May 2023
2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zeQyhd2wsvA, Asian record holder blind runner at TSK25 with zero touch, viewed May 2023
Leandro is PwC’s Global Disability Inclusion Leader, Partner and I&D leader at PwC Brazil and member of the Global I&D Council. With more than 26 years of experience in auditing financial statements in family-owned companies, public companies and large multinationals, he also leads PwC's operations in Santa Catarina.