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Why accessibility is important in the workplace?

William Soltz
Apr 15, 2022
6 minutes

Recently the corporate giant Amazon has been experimenting with the idea of an internal company app for Amazon workers to communicate with each other while at work along with functioning as an internal social media app. Amazon has stated that the intent behind the creation of this app was to increase productivity and general happiness among their workforce by introducing a social aspect to work and more chances for a diligent worker to have their hard work recognised. 

However, Amazon has also opted to strictly monitor and moderate this social media site as well in order to ensure a positive online community. This has led Amazon to experiment with an automated word filter that doesn’t just filter out the banned words but also blacklists the employee who sent them from sending messages on the app. It’s understandable why Amazon would strictly moderate their social media to prevent online harassment and other unpleasant aspects of the internet; however people have been raising their concerns about the specific words Amazon has chosen to blacklist. Quite a lot of words featured in the ban list are not used to harass but rather are issues in the workplace Amazon seemingly don’t want workers discussing with each other. One of these banned words, accessibility, will be the focus of this journal. 

List of words barred in amazon's internal communication app including Accessibility
Barred words from Amazon's internal App

Amazon's choice to ban the word accessibility implies it’s an issue that they don’t want workers to discuss amongst themselves using the app. While this app has not yet been released and is very subject to change this also means it’s more important than ever to raise ethical concerns about this way of handling accessibility in the workplace. It is very apparent from an ethical standpoint Amazon should reconsider this choice, and many people have voiced their concerns over this already. However it’s not just ethics that are lost with this decision, it’s also a very questionable business decision as accessibility is an important part of any business not just from an ethical standpoint but also from a profit standpoint; which is what this journal will explore.

Why Accessibility is good for Business

There are many benefits to creating a workplace that is accessible and inclusive to all. People with disabilities as well as people of varying ethnicities, faiths and sexualities are capable of just as much in the workplace as a less diverse team. However it extends further than this, accessible and diverse workplaces are statistically better performing than other workplaces. Statistically, diverse workplaces are:

  • 6 times more likely to be innovative 
  • 2 times as likely to meet or succeed financial targets
  • 6 times as likely to effectively anticipate change

Companies in the top percentiles of racial and ethnically diverse workers average higher financial returns and often meet or succeed financial targets. People of different backgrounds offer a new and unique perspective to a lot of workplace matters and can provide insight that otherwise wouldn’t be present in a workplace that isn’t diverse. To use a hypothetical example if your company has the goal of making your work building easy to navigate for people with disabilities, you will naturally get useful advice from personal experience if you’ve hired a person with a disability. Diverse people almost always means diverse insights and people with vastly different lives and experiences collaborating on projects together gives further security that your workplace will succeed. 

It’s important to note that the hiring process can be quite difficult for people with disabilities. Some companies unfortunately write off people based on this fact alone which is devastating to read about however it must also be acknowledged just how good statistically workers with disabilities have proven themselves to be.

For starters companies hiring people with disabilities often have a lower turnover rate, people with disabilities have proven statistically they make for committed workers and this commitment to the job reduces hiring and training costs for employers. 90% of people with disabilities averaged better when rated on performance compared to their other coworkers. They are also statistically more likely to attend work and be punctual when doing so. An accessible workplace is important as it permits the hiring of some truly exceptional workers who have proven statistically that they will be committed to the work you give them. 

While statistics and profits are important to any company, it’s also worth looking into worker satisfaction. Hiring people of different backgrounds creates a diverse inclusive workplace that people are more likely to feel included and valued in. This positive work environment increases general worker satisfaction which increases things such as productivity while decreasing things such as turnover rate. Workplaces where people feel included and have their voices heard are more productive and innovative, so the value of making work accessible to all shines through. 

Why is this Important?

All of the statistics and general information presented gives off a clear indication of the sheer value in making work accessible to a wide variety of people. This is why it’s important to address Amazon's approach to accessibility. Not allowing your employees to discuss their accessibility needs amongst each other prevents needed innovation for a thriving workplace, as well as potentially creating a work environment that contains less motivated, committed and satisfied workers.

These things lead to lower profit returns than what could be possible as well as higher turnover rates creating additional cost needs for the hiring and training process for new replacement workers. Amazon is a giant corporation but will hopefully recognise their mistakes from both an ethical and business standpoint and correct them; as the app has yet to be released and is still in testing stages. However it is important for smaller businesses to take heed of the benefits of making their workplace accessible and inclusive to all as not only is it the right thing to do ethically but from a business standpoint an accessible business is more often than not a more successful business.

It should also be drawn attention to that while the business side of accessibility is great for companies and workplaces to consider, it is important regardless to create a workplace that people can feel included in and have their accessibility needs fulfilled. People of diverse backgrounds are human beings who deserve the ability to work unimpeded by issues regarding accessibility, and the only way to create this environment for them is by listening to them.

This is what Amazon’s word blacklist is preventing that is the most pressing issue. Listening to workers regarding issues of race, disability, gender and other accessibility topics is essential to the work environment and is also important in order for everyone to feel included and valued in the workplace. 

About VIP World

The VIP World platform plays a role in creating accessibility for people with access needs. We are a platform that connects you remotely to VIP, people with other disabilities and accessibility experts. We also provide services such as assistive tech configurations as well as mobile and desktop testing. We also strive for an inclusive and accessible workplace. You can find out more about how we help create a more accessible world by visiting our home page.