Many industries have accelerated their transition to a virtual workplace due to COVID-19 over the past year. The conventional office we are most used to has desks, pens, printers, and industry-specific equipment. The individual cubicles may be laid out to promote open collaboration or snugly compartmentalized for individual contribution. Thought was put into each component at some level—whether it be cost, compliance, efficiency, a well-deserved perk, or a dire necessity. The virtual office is likewise full of these same set pieces but, unfortunately, is often not so thoughtfully composed as its real-world counterpart.
Choosing and purchasing software to equip workers for fully remote work is no trivial task—further complicated by such a short transition period for many industries. These software purchasing decisions have enormous impact on the daily lives of the users, and when a workplace becomes fully virtual, then the software tools become the face of the company.
Because of this new workplace model, key decision makers are not only selecting software tools but also building the foundation for their company culture. It is easy to see software as a tool to “get the job done” and nothing more, but that attitude ignores the immersive experience software has become for the virtual employee. And critically, making an effort to purchase inclusive and accessible software, giving all employees the opportunity to be productive using the provided tools, builds a positive workplace culture that is inviting for everyone from the ground up.
When procuring new software, there are a multitude of conflicting requirements.
- Should the new software stay in the same ecosystem or not?
- Should we just renew this software because "it is what we always used"?
- What are the security requirements?
- How much should we spend?
- Should this be built in-house?
These micro-decisions to narrow down a purchasing decision can quickly become overwhelming.
The one critical question that somehow often seems to become buried in this avalanche of other questions is this: Can everyone effectively use the software? Too often, one of the other 101 questions overrides this key point. Amid all of the conflicting choices when selecting software, remember that people should always come first. The software should be accessible to all individuals. Otherwise, it is worse than useless; it’s a hindrance to your workers.
An Inclusive Approach to Accessible Procurement Policies
In order to ensure your software tool selections are digitally inclusive, take the time to test the software under consideration with a screen reader, with magnification, and with all types of peripherals and devices. Read reviews on the software written by expert screen reader users. Ask individuals to test the software, and remember to select a truly diverse range of workers for the pilot. Or, you can contact subject matter experts, such as our team at AFB Consulting. The key is to always think about a diverse range of users and make sure they can come into the workplace just how they are by fostering a culture of inclusivity into the bones of the software infrastructure.
As a society, we build office buildings with features to better ensure everyone has a chance to access the world. Ramps, elevators, door specifications, and all of the other features of a modern building highlight a commitment to including everyone. The digital office should be just as inclusive, and the commitment to selecting accessible software is as important.
If you would like to learn more about how AFB works with organizations to establish accessibility policies and effective procurement practices, visit our website at afb.org/consulting.