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How We’re Making Sure Disability Doesn’t Hold Anyone Back At Vodafone

Carolin Lücker

Principal Manager Strategy, Design & Architecture

I am proud to say that Vodafone has a long tradition of nurturing diversity as a priority, and for quite some time accessibility has been a big part of our diversity strategy.

We understand that disabilities come in many shapes and forms and therefore we take a holistic approach to creating an accessible environment. Accessibility needs to be considered end-to-end within an organisation and should cover the entire virtual workplace, as well as the real-life one.

We also drive a lot of awareness around disability among our employees because we believe that is key to promoting genuine inclusion. Disabilities range from the visual, like seeing a person in a wheelchair, to the hidden, such as mental disability; so educating people and leaders on the realities and complexities of the disability spectrum, and how to make things accessible to them, is very important to us.

Vodafone’s commitment to accessibility

Accessibility is a key aspect of our diversity strategy that has been developed in partnership between our Technology and Group Diversity & Inclusion departments. We recognised that it was important to consciously respond to the diverse needs of our people and went through an accessibility assessment against the industry-wide standard Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

We then made adjustments to our core employee-facing productivity services such as our corporate Digital Workplace landing page and associated portal framework. The outcome was that all content was easier to read thanks to increased colour contrasts, and that our employees could navigate pages via keyboards, not only with a mouse. We also trained our development teams to implement accessibility by design as standard process, not an afterthought.

Today we have begun the next stage. We are building on the foundation we created and will scale this approach both internally and externally: we want to include our suppliers in our guidance and ensure they treat accessibility compliance with the same due diligence that we do. 

A wholly inclusive workplace includes the digital experience

Since the pandemic, the digital experience has become more important for companies. Many employees actually engage with digital environments more than physical workspaces now. 

Therefore, at Vodafone, we have made sure to adjust all facets of our remote working experience, including transforming employee-facing services like our intranet, internal applications and knowledge portals with appropriate assistive technologies. We inform everyone about the available capabilities so they know what is there to help them should they need it.

I am proud of how accessible we have made Vodafone and I would love to see every company out there take similar action to help build a more inclusive future in general.

A consistent approach to diversity and inclusion

Vodafone conducts regular webinars where our senior management share their vision and demonstrate their sponsorship of our diversity agenda. Teams from different countries are invited to share what is happening across our different markets, from sharing success to giving insights into the cultural transformations unfolding across our organisation.

Just recently, I was a participant in the latest global disability webinar. We heard from local teams who talked about visible and invisible disabilities, an external speaker on mental health, and from me and my technology team on our progress in maturing and standardising accessibility compliance internally.

Ultimately, understanding employee needs is a big focus at Vodafone. We have a vibrant community where we allow people to reflect, share and learn in a safe environment. All employees are invited to self-declare their needs anonymously, so that the company can adjust its priorities against the evidence it gathers by asking its people.

It is this kind of reflection and continual effort to improve that makes Vodafone the diverse and welcoming company I’m proud to be part of.

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