Doing that likely will require a host of conversations and an effort to learn about those other “lived experiences.” Crohn has engaged in that process with her DEI lead at Coverys and come away with new perspectives, she said.
“I now look at every single thing I do through the lens of inclusivity, and I did not do that prior to two years ago,” she said. “I didn’t even know what it meant.”
Crohn specified the ways she now picks menus to be gluten free and provide choices that adhere to common restrictions like nuts or certain meats. She provides opportunities in the registration process for participants to share information that will improve their experience as an attendee. Most importantly, for Crohn, it’s about creating an environment of inclusivity for all while remaining mindful of attendees unique needs.
“I really look at it through the eyes of, ‘Am I being inclusive of as many people as possible?’ And if the answer is no, what do I need to change or what approach can I adjust or who else can I bring into this conversation to make it more inclusive?”
Evans said it’s not necessary to “boil the ocean” in one go, and one small change at a time is better than none at all. “On a scale of one to five, we all start at zero,” she said. Over time, small changes can accumulate to new models that organizations can apply to more situations, including how they work with travel and meeting suppliers.
Partnering for Progress
Suppliers are taking note. Choice Hotels International head of associate diversity, equity and belonging Corinne Abramson told BTN, “We have an associate resource group that’s dedicated to ensuring within our organization that we think about the business in regard to including people with all different kinds of abilities.” Choice calls the group Enable, and Abramson said it continuously reviews Choice’s offerings to ensure the company is thinking about all those lived experiences. “For example, do we have within our large meetings the ability to have closed captioning? What is the technology that we’re offering, and what options can we toggle on for folks, and how do we make [those options] available?”
Meetings technology provider Cvent also has advanced its accessible options, and the company is working to further accessibility and inclusivity for meetings and events.
It recently hired Stephen Cutchins as senior product manager for accessibility to ensure Cvent technology platforms consider usability from the perspective of those who are blind, deaf or have physical disabilities. The company incorporates Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, as defined by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium, that level the playing field for such users.
“They are pretty technical standards and not a lot of people know about them,” said Cutchins, citing best practices around color contrast standards, images and “alt text” that make images not only readable but meaningful within the context of the other content on the page. “There are 78 ‘success criteria’ defined in WCAG 2.1, and we have a third-party firm reviewing our technology so that we can be transparent about not only what we are doing well but also where we fall short. Because we know we aren’t perfect, but building an awareness around this type of usability is critical for us so our own users can reach as many people as possible.”