Building an Accessible Culture

Building an accessible culture can only happen when accessibility is integrated into the initiatives and teams within your company. This isn't something that can be broken down into a series of steps. Instead, it's a gradual shift in the way people think about accessibility internally. By constantly reinforcing the importance of accessibility and having spokespeople within the company delivering the same message, people will start to think about accessibility as a way of doing things in the company rather than as an afterthought.

Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2014 tech camp at our campus.
Plantronics executive who visited our head quarters in 2013
JAWS demonstration during our Global Accessibility Awareness Day internal event, 2013
Empathy Lab

In order to be transparent and communicate better about our internal accessibility initiatives, we interviewed people from teams who have worked towards building an accessible culture at Facebook and asked them to share their thoughts.

Meet:

Josephine Harmon, leader of the Differently Abled employee resource group

“Accessibility is important to Facebook because our mission statement is to make the world more open and connected. That includes everyone, including those of different abilities. Differently Abled @ FB is an employee resource group dedicated to connecting, celebrating and empowering Facebook employees, friends and family who are differently abled while raising awareness and contributing to differently abled communities. Our group works closely with Facilities, Ergonomics, and the Accessibility team to ensure that Facebook is accessible to all, both virtually and physically. In 2014, we developed a partnership with The Arc of San Francisco, a non-profit organization that provides support to people with developmental disabilities to become integral members of the community. We currently have 5 employees through this partnership and are looking for ways to expand. Inviting external speakers has also proven to help in this mission; we recently hosted Jessie Lorenz, the executive director of the Independent Living Resource Center, to speak at Facebook about 'Humanizing Disabilities’”

Jeff Wieland, Accessibility Team

“Working towards making our products work for people with disabilities is one necessary step towards achieving our mission. My team is responsible for helping our engineering organizations create accessible products. Accessibility sits at the intersection of design, usability and engineering, and our job is to enable all of the great experiences built across platforms to be as accessible as possible. This requires investing in training, documentation and solutions that scale accessibility across QA, Product, Engineering and other teams.”

Tom Wirth, Facilities Operations Manager

“Facilities Operations keeps the campus running. We also provide services and amenities to employees and visitors, produce and support events, and help transport employees to and from the campus if needed. People with disabilities often reach out to us to share their experiences on campus. We value and welcome feedback about Facilities and strive to make the campus as accessible as possible.”

Shaomei Wu, Data Scientist

“Facebook's mission is to make the world a more open and connected place and we can not do this without being as inclusive as possible. Accessibility is a key component of the inclusiveness we aim to provide. In the Data Science team, I try to gain a deeper understanding of the needs of people with disabilities, as well as to identify the key challenges/issues we are facing right now. Ultimately we want to empower the members of this community, and help direct our products to better suit their needs.”

Amanda Talbott, Diversity

“Facebook is committed to maintaining a work environment where employees can be their ‘authentic selves.’ A key part of that is recognizing that we all have different abilities and different ways of using our abilities. We want our workforceto be as diverse as possible because we think that will help us build better products that reflect the needs and desires of all of our users – who themselves are differently abled. We actively solicit referrals from agencies and groups committed to promoting hiring of individuals with disabilities.”

Some groups we work with include:

  • California State Department of Rehabilitation
  • California State Employment Development Department
  • Project HIRED
  • TransAccess
  • Deaf Counseling Advocacy and Referral Agency.

Anna Siebelink, Ergonomics Team

“Accessibility is important to Facebook because it helps employees work to the best of their abilities. Access to the ergonomics program and related resources at Facebook grants workers the environment and tools to do so. As a team of Ergonomics consultants, many of us with backgrounds in Physical Therapy, we have the ability to work with individuals to adapt the workplace to meet their personal needs. This often involves incorporating alternative ways of working into people’s days and using special furniture or tools such as voice activated systems and screen magnifiers. Furthermore, we share our knowledge and work closely with IT, Facilities and Human Resources.”

Ramya Sethuraman, Accessibility Team

”We built the empathy lab as a living installation in the heart of our headquarters in Menlo Park that showcases how people with varied abilities and living in various parts of the world interact with Facebook. We wanted to create something that tied accessibility to our culture of hacking and we have the HACK sign spray painted in sign language in the lab. The computers in the lab simulate how people use a computer without a mouse, with screen readers turned on, in high contrast mode and with content zoomed in. We also have phones with small screens and slow connections to demonstrate how people in emerging regions access Facebook.”

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