It Takes a Network
The African Proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child” speaks to my upbringing as a person with a disability. I was born to hearing parents and became deaf at 8 months due to meningitis. My parents sought opportunities for me to live a “mainstream life” in which I could communicate through hearing and speaking. Because of their pioneering spirit, I participated in an FDA study as the earliest recipient of a cochlear implant. Doctors, therapists, teachers, transliterators, family and friends all worked with me to learn to listen and talk — all while ensuring I was living as normal of a childhood as possible.
Wanting to Fit In
Fast forward to college graduation from Wake Forest University, I “did it.” I can listen, talk, and communicate with those in the hearing world. As I wanted a place in the mainstream, I took on jobs that allowed me to blend in. I was a passionate accessibility advocate “on the side,” outside of work.
Then, one day my processors, what I use to hear, broke. The devices that gave me a place in this mainstream world, allowing me to communicate, attend meetings at work, participate on client calls had failed me. I could not hear. So I went to the manufacturer’s website and filled out the “Contact Us” form explaining my predicament and requested a replacement, stat.
The e-mail response I got was brief:: “give us a call.”
Do they not know their own customers? I’m deaf! hellooooo. The very device they manufactured allowed me hear was broken!
Their product provided me with access to a world of sound. However, their inaccessible digital experience took away my independence.
This got me thinking: are our clients’ digital experiences advancing or limiting independence?
Our vision is to be the digital agency whose ideas and work are unlocking the potential for anyone, anywhere to engage with the world’s most impactful organizations at any time. Now: this goes to mean anyone, regardless of ability.
We have the ability to ‘make or break it’ for those who need support. We have a responsibility, you and I. We as a company, Phase2, and in our partnership with you, dear client. We collectively make up a network, both literally and figuratively.
Who are you serving?
We have a lot of influence, in that our clients ultimately serve people. Lots of them. Diverse individuals. Our client, an energy company, fuels homes with gas. Will a blind customer, in the middle of winter, reliably be able to go online and pay their heating bill to keep their house warm? Or what about our Healthcare clients in which they have patients who are admitted for an emergency procedure and end up with a disability? Their lives changed at the blink of an eye, and they are faced with a new disability they have to learn to live with. So let’s reduce the barriers to them requesting follow-up appointments and services through an accessible web experience.
Considering these stories and connecting the “who” helps humanize the need for website accessibility. When we consider these audiences in a product planning meeting or a feature prioritization meeting, we elevate its importance, and that creates a ripple effect for adoption and consideration.
Be a part of this network. Be a lifeline and make a difference for those who need it most. You and I have an amazing opportunity to make a difference in this time of digital transformation. We are literally a bridge for access and independence.
Will you be a part of this network? Just like it took a village to raise me, it takes a network to create inclusive digital experiences for all.
Are you in? The choice is yours.