eSSENTIAL Insights  
A CEO Perspective on Disability

Some of the highest profile companies in the U.S. and around the world are creating economic and social value by factoring people with disabilities into their planning. For many, a key step has been to enroll in the Disability Community Involvement Initiative, spearheaded by eSSENTIAL Accessibility™ and championed by leading advocacy groups. The Initiative's mandate is to represent organizations and brands meaningfully in the disability community to empower its members accordingly.

With 19.6% of Americans identifying themselves as having a disability, higher ambition leaders are tailoring their information and offerings to the last hidden demographic. In a statement of strategic intent, chieftains across all sectors from 3M and Kraft through to MasterCard and Walgreens are tuning in to the disability space. By tapping their firm's capacity to profitably address social problems, they are doing well by doing good.

Welcome to the inaugural edition of eSSENTIAL Insights, eSSENTIAL Accessibility's newsletter on defining disability market-driven strategies and evolving practices. Our ambition is to show how cross-functional teams that include executives from marketing and customer service to diversity and product development are engaging the disability segment to achieve transformative growth.


Best regards,
Simon Dermer
Simon Dermer
Managing Director

Autumn 2013
Rich Donovan, Managing Partner of Fifth Quadrant Analytics and Chief Investment Officer of WingSail Capital
Feature Article
Disability: From Redheaded Stepchild to Golden Girl
by Rich Donovan

Once upon a time, U.S. companies did not employ, do business with, or market to women. But as packaged goods companies and then other businesses realized the potential of women as consumers, this 'minority' market became critical to their business. Eventually, they decided to hire women. Manufacturing, accounting and other B2B verticals saw that hiring women was a good business move and followed suit.

Over the decades, this pattern has repeated itself with African and Latino Americans, gays and lesbians, and so on. But the biggest minority market of all is still not on companies' radar. Consider this: if you were the CEO of a major company in the U.S. and you completely ignored the existence of the California and Ohio markets, don't you think that you would be fired?


Deborah Dagit, V.P. and Chief Diversity Office, Merck
Merck - a Disability Community Pioneer

In July 2011 Deborah Dagit, Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer at Merck, had the honor of addressing the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee on the subject of employment and disability. Her committee recommendations were prefaced with some highlights from her life—a familiar story to many: from a young age, Deborah had to overcome discrimination rooted in a societal syndrome—that of seeing disability as a problem rather than simply a difference.

In the committee session at which she was called to speak, Lessons from the Field: Learning From What Works for Employment for Persons with Disabilities, Deborah made specific recommendations for bringing inclusion to the next level, and detailed some of the actions that Merck has undertaken, one of which was the addition of assistive technology to the company's online game plan.


Removing health network boundaries
It's not difficult to understand that knowing how people with disabilities adjust and perform in a working environment is especially valuable for a company like Merck. As one of the world's preeminent pharmaceutical companies, Merck is at the hub of the healthcare system. Radiating outward like the spokes of a wheel are medical professionals, information sources like WebMD, health maintenance organizations (HMOs), hospitals, drugstores and other health community constituents. Within that central hub consisting of Merck and similar pharmaceutical players are country divisions and brands. Tying it all together is a web of communication upon which citizens depend for health information and service delivery.


Chrysler and Braun: Motoring Empowerment

When Chrysler was first approached by The Braun Corporation in 1975 for help in building wheelchair accessible vehicles, the automaker's full size Dodge B-series transit vans quickly became the industry standard.

Now celebrating its 40th anniversary, Braun attributes a portion of its success to this longstanding relationship with Chrysler. "Without their help and consultation in the early days, our BraunAbility wheelchair accessible vehicle business would not have gotten off the ground nearly as quickly as it did," says Greg Cook, VP of Commercial and International Sales. "In fact they have supported us all along. When Chrysler first came out with the power sliding door, we had to integrate functionality and their electronics engineers went to great lengths to accommodate us."


The Honourable Bob Rae speaks on accessibility in Canada's House of Commons
A government take on disability

You may have heard that Ottawa is currently appealing a Federal Court ruling obliging it to revise the design and coding of its websites to make them accessible to visually impaired users with screen readers. At the same time, a new Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Standard came into effect January 1st 2012 for all organizations operating in Ontario. Add to the mix a recent parliamentary announcement concerning assistive technology, and Canadian government appears to be moving in several different directions simultaneously.

The parliamentary announcement, made just in time for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3rd 2011, declares that all Liberal Party of Canada web properties will feature eSSENTIAL Accessibility™.


Connecting with a broader community
Connecting with a Broader Community
by Rob Gerth

In case you don't know us well, the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation raises money for spinal cord injury research and to improve the quality of life for individuals living with paralysis.

In our community, Internet access is a critical tool for improving quality of life. For many individuals living with paralysis, the Web is the main means of communicating with the outside world, so online accessibility is paramount.

What most people don't realize is that the Foundation, through its Paralysis Resource Center, and the online paralysis community, spends as much time interacting with families and loved ones as we do with individuals living with paralysis. Most of our beneficiaries have an extended family that is extremely dedicated and involved.


Find and Share Your Voice
by Debra Ruh
Debra Ruh, Chief Marketing Officer, SSB BART Group

When we support each other, we are more successful. By helping each other implement accessibility and inclusion across the entire enterprise landscape, we lift each other up and win in every imaginable way. The big question is: how can an organization better understand and include people with disabilities? But ahead of that question comes another: how important is it that we do so?

The fact is, the numbers are staggering. Why should a company care about someone like me - a middle aged, married, working mother of two children, one of whom happens to have Down syndrome?


eSSENTIAL Accessibility On the Move
Here's a snapshot of what's been going on:

New Partners and Member Updates
Greyhound, Tiffany & Co, Walmart and Investors Group are the most recent purpose-inspired brands to join the Disability Community Involvement Initiative. In leveraging its growing reach and awareness, exposure is being gained to an audience of over 70 million each month.

We look forward to welcoming new partners to the Initiative and helping organizations do well by doing good.

USBLN (US Business Leadership Network)
Several months ago, eSSENTIAL Accessibility participated in the USBLN® Annual Conference & Expo, the preeminent national business-to-business event that taps into the vast economic potential of people with disabilities. The mission of the US Business Leadership Network (USBLN) is to embrace the full inclusion of people with disabilities in the labor force and marketplace; assist in career preparation for and employment of people with disabilities; improve customer experiences for people with disabilities; and promote the certification and growth of disability-owned businesses.


Impact Profile  
Douglas Jericó Dôdi, Sao Paolo, Brazil
Douglas Jericó, São Paulo, Brazil

One of the finalists of the 2003 season of "Popstars", a Brazilian show that has the same format as "American Idol", Douglas Jericó recently reached out to eSSENTIAL Accessibility. He wants to play a role in platform development efforts, specifically in the hands-free area. Because of his C4 spinal cord injury, Jericó can only move his head.

To navigate the Web and accomplish his work as a software developer for IBM Brazil, Jericó makes use of hand-free technology without which his engineering talents would go to waste. "For people in my situation, hands-free technology is the best option for navigating the Web, better than voice and speech recognition," he says. "It's also the easiest way to accomplish my work." Jericó likes working at IBM Brazil—he finds the culture quite inclusive. "They value the contributions of everybody. Companies like this one and Walmart, that features eSSENTIAL Accessibility on their website, are some of the few that really focus on disability."


AODA Regulations: What You Need to Know

As our Ontario partners know, new Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) regulations came into effect January 1st, 2012.

The Accessibility Standard for Customer Service is the first in a series of five Standards to be enacted before 2025 under the AODA Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation. In just over a dozen years, the provincial government aims to have enabled virtually everyone's full participation in opportunities currently available to people without disabilities.

When the four remaining standards come into effect—Information and Communication, Employment, Transportation and Built Environment—people with disabilities should be able to fully participate in working, receiving goods and services, transportation and accessing the built environment, as well as sending and receiving information and communicating.

What does this mean for my organization?
By now, every organization with one or more employees operating in Ontario must follow Customer Service Standard guidelines.




Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation March of Dimes Canada DiversityInc