What Being A Chief Accessibility Officer Means
By Rosemary Musachio, Ruh Global Communications, Chief
Recently, Ruh Global Communications appointed me its Chief
Accessibility Officer (CAO). In my role,
I will manage internal and external accessibility projects. I will ensure that accessibility best
practices will be followed within the company and help clients meet their
accessibility needs, including website and product accessibility. I will consult on accessibility and inclusion
issues that clients face from the employee to the customer level.
Every business needs to include accessibility in its fabric
to become stronger. Otherwise, it will
rip and create big gaps. Making every
aspect of a company accessible and inclusive increases productivity, embraces
diversity with common goals, and promotes more of a positive image to the
public. According to Frances West, CAO
of IBM, “"Today, it affects everyone’s use of a product or service and
helps deliver information in the most consumable way possible. Organizations that have embraced and embedded
accessibility throughout the enterprise are better connecting with customers,
expanding their market reach and creating an inclusive workplace environment
where everyone has the best chance of success."
Since I have cerebral palsy, I bring a personal perspective
to my role as CAO. I know what a company
needs to do for employees with disabilities to feel accepted and purposeful,
and what a business must do to serve customers with disabilities with
consideration and respect. Other persons
with disabilities have held CAO or similar positions. For example, Microsoft recently hired Jenny
Lay-Flurrie as its new Accessibility Director.
Becoming deaf from an ear infection during childhood, Jenny will
integrate her personal experiences into her new position. As it’s inferred in the article Talk to
the Hand, Lay-Flurrie’s motto “You can do anything” is helping Microsoft
execute programs to assist persons with disabilities with technologies. For instance, she helped plan Ability Summit,
a showcase of products and services to empower them for the future.
Another accessibility executive who has a disability is Jonathan
Avila. His vision impairment has brought
a personal perspective to his job also.
Who else better than a person who cannot see can develop solutions and
innovations for users with vision, as well as other, impairments? Avila also serves on WCAG working group and
mobility accessibility task force.
You can be skilled at accessibility testing and know all
about best practices and guidelines. But
the first-hand experience of facing accessibility barriers gives a CAO an extra
edge. It brings empathy to the role,
making the CAO passionate about helping businesses bulldoze those barriers that
other persons with disabilities have encountered.
If a company even creates a COA or a Director of
Accessibility position, it is taking a smart business move. With 15% of the world’s population having a
disability and $1 trillion in aggregated spending by consumers with
disabilities, appointing a skilled COA will allow a business to be more profitable
and reputable. If the skilled COA has a
disability, it makes the company more credible, sending a strong message to the
public that it is serious about accessibility.
Learn more about
our work at www.RuhGlobal.com or follow us on Social Media @rosemusachio,
@debraruh and @ruhglobal on most channels.