I’m pulling a Gini Dietrich and writing this post early morning (not as early as she would, but it’s still semi dark outside)!

Normally I write best the night before, but I’m still battling resuides of jetlag and we had a serious brainpower meeting yesterday (where I walked away a couple pounds heavier). Before I left for Thanksgiving vacation, I wrote a couple posts about self advocacy as a customer and employee which is rooted in accessibility.

So, this is my memo and 1/4 of my Christmas wishlist to Santa (and businesses) for 2014: We need more accessibility built into our work, internal processes, product/services, innovation and our mindset. Experimenting with different products and interactions this year has revealed business accessibility issues linger….even though it’s the 21st century! Some cases include:

  • Being stereotyped as somebody that might be guilty of identify theft.
  • Fat finger syndrome on mobile apps.
  • Lack of voice (or vibration) commands with some apps.
  • Lack of chat features in an conferencing app (what if you just don’t want someone to hear? Or you can’t hear/have no ear buds?)
  • No personalized assistance – just robots (or a phone tree that acts like one).

Guess what product usually wins my subscription, money and/or loyalty? The most accessible product and brand, Captain Obvious! :-)

We all have challenges – maybe we have a disability, or a temporary one (a broken hand? eye surgery? Always traveling through a noisy airport?) – but the best prodcuts adapt with us. Innovation should be about advancing people’s ability to experience life in exciting and improved ways and if you aren’t thinking about being inclusive, then you aren’t pushing boundaries (which innovation is about, right?).

lightbulbBusiness Accessibility Fuels Innovation and Collaboration

I’ve seen momentum but I predict in 2014 businesses will still be figuring out how to be more accessible from the inside and on the outside. Businesses will still need to improve awareness (take Charles Schwab for example – asking me if I could read?), need reminders to provide transcripts or train team leaders to take advantage of collaboration software such as Podio or Yammer to include all employees in work processes.

The frustration I have experienced with personal communication challenges throughout my life has heightened my awareness of those around me. No individual’s presence is inconsequential, and we don’t want to miss an opportunity for to gain a employee’s unique perspective or a loyal customer.

Take closed captioning for example. They don’t have to be just for the Deaf. Foreigners have told me that reading the text has proven helpful and that’s another opportunity for global reach, plus it makes the podcast/video/mobile experience more accessible (what if somebody forgets their earbuds (#hearingworldproblems)). There’s an easy solution.

If you aren’t sensitive to others, they aren’t going to want to help accomplish your business goals or become in a customer advocate (guess what? They do WANT to advocate for you). I truly believe inclusion is a gateway to advocacy and innovation – and leaves a lasting memory on your customer. I hope to see strides next year.

Ok, it’s definitely light outside. Time to stop and tell me how you think you are (or could be more) accessible for 2014!?

Photo credit: r. nial bradshaw via photopin cc