Accessibility at a Global Scale: Top 5 Insights from Merck’s Accessibility Leaders

January 20, 2023 BY JENA WALLACE
Updated: January 23, 2023

Spotlight Chat: Accessibility at a Global Scale with Merck [Free Webinar]


We at 3Play Media like to kick off the new year right, and in 2023, that means sitting down with Merck for a spotlight chat on implementing accessibility on a global scale. For our first webinar of the year, we welcomed two corporate leaders who are driving forces for Merck’s global accessibility policy: Stephen Framil, Corporate Accessibility Lead, and Jim Fox, Associate Director, Webcasting Services.

About Stephen Framil

Stephen Framil

Steve Framil brings to corporate accessibility over 25 years of executive leadership in business strategy and innovation, policy and governance, procedure and operations, and portfolio management expertise – leading global cross-organizational enterprise, consultant, and start-up teams in the Health & Life Sciences, Finance Services, Non-Profit, Information Technology, User Experience, and Marketing.

About Jim Fox

Jim Fox

Jim Fox joined Merck with a strong background in video production gained in the broadcast, cable, and power industries. Having been responsible for all aspects of commercial production, as well as producing and directing local and Ivy League Sports television coverage, Jim brought his experience to Merck by providing full video production capabilities from script to screen as part of Merck’s Research Laboratories Visual Communications.

In 2006, he formed and managed the newly created Merck Webcasting Services which later became a Center of Excellence (CoE) in 2008 providing webcasting solutions globally. Currently, Jim leads the Virtual Meetings initiative at Merck offering consultation, education, planning, and project management support capabilities in the execution of virtual and hybrid meetings globally.

Having earned certification as a Digital Event Strategist and certification as an Accredited Media Manager, Jim is recognized as a leader within the digital events industry.

Framil and Fox discussed the challenges global organizations face when it comes to accessibility and how companies can prioritize it at all levels. In this blog, we’re excited to share some of the top insights we gleaned from their experiences with implementing a robust accessibility policy at Merck.

1. Involve All Stakeholders in Accessibility

Fox says that starting with executive buy-in is an important first step. He adds that, “Typically, it trickles down. So if you can convince towards the top, you get buy-in as you proceed.” He also touches on how Employee Business Resource Groups (EBRGs) can help you make your case to stakeholders.

Merck has a capability network as an EBRG group. So they’re a global inclusive network for people with all disabilities and their allies. So by working with them for feedback, use cases, it’s a good way to build that foundational support for your business case.Jim Fox

Framil adds that at Merck, this can look like their Disability and Inclusion Strategy Council, which helps create valuable thought leadership around digital accessibility. With an EBRG, digital accessibility becomes “a very tangible thing to advance the interest and agenda of DEI and the capability network.” By default, digital accessibility improves equal access and supports EBRGs like Merck’s Disability and Inclusion Strategy Council, and that, Framil says, is something “I think can really bring to life DEI and related business resource groups.”

2. Relatability is Key for Leadership Buy-in

When working with leadership to get buy-in for accessibility initiatives, Framil says that things can get “very personal.”

I think [dealing with disabilities] is something that everyone can relate to. And I think it’s presenting that business case to leadership and making it relatable is where you’re going to be able to find that empathy and find that support. Stephen Framil

Leadership buy-in helps support accessibility permeating other areas of an organization, but additionally enables leaders and executives to “provide that guidance, that sponsorship, and that decisioning at the high level,” according to Framil.

3. Let WCAG Guide Accessibility Initiatives

Framil stressed that Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a great set of standards for companies to start with due to their availability and wide implementation across industries.

The easy part about accessibility is that we have the standards, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines standards. 2.1 is the latest. 2.2 is coming soon. And so those crowdsourced standards are really available. And that’s really kind of what guides the implementation. Stephen Framil

However, even with the availability of WCAG to guide an organization’s initial accessibility initiatives, Framil says one of the biggest challenges lies in the ownership of accessibility. For many large companies, this ownership spans multiple areas and departments, like at Merck. Framil highlights that Merck’s thought leadership for digital accessibility primarily starts with Human Resources and the Disability and Inclusion Strategy Council and expands across departments from there, creating a partnership for accessibility on all sides.

Watch 3Play’s full spotlight chat with Merck for free

4. Universal Design Can Be a Framework

Universal design can help future-proof an organization’s digital accessibility presence when it comes to not only inclusion efforts, but also cybersecurity and risk mitigation.

​​When you use universal design and accessibility design on your digital landscape, you’re improving, universally, the human experience, and thereby mitigating to some extent any sort of cybersecurity issues.Stephen Framil

Framil goes on to emphasize that because universal design provides the widest range of equal access within the digital landscape, by default, this helps avoid cybersecurity issues caused by human error–and because universal design supports a greater user experience, it creates less room for such errors.

5. Accessibility is Good Business for Global Organizations

Both Framil and Fox agree that organizations that prioritize accessibility are doing the right thing from both a moral and business perspective.

[F]rom a pure commercial point of view, it makes just good business sense to have accessibility design in everything that you’re doing that reaches out to your customers.Stephen Framil

Framil and Fox touched on numerous reasons that support the case for accessibility being good for business, but tended to come back to a few critical themes:

A Lack of Accessibility Can Be Dangerous

Framil notes that any technology company not weaving accessibility into all that they do can be dangerous for their existence. He also cited his time with Disability:IN’s Procure Access initiative for the idea that companies need to ensure that their suppliers, vendors, and third parties are also following accessibility standards on both a contract level and when it comes to following WCAG and assessments of anything delivered in a digital environment.

Take a Proactive Approach to Staying Up-to-Date with Accessibility

Fox admits that he’s “not an industry expert on the law and compliance issues,” but gives credit to the vendors who help partner with Merck to stay updated on the latest accessibility initiatives and continually provide better solutions. Both Fox and Framil note the importance of being part of professional organizations and think tanks, like Disability:IN, to remain efficient, inclusive, and continually learning.

Ensure People with Disabilities are Part of the Process

Framil highlighted that when it comes to testing for digital accessibility, having people with disabilities is crucial to the process of implementation and remediation due to their perspective and experience with the use of assistive technology tools.

Fox added the idea of ensuring that an organization creates opportunities for “continuous feedback” via various social channels and exit surveys so that people are constantly providing a loop of feedback that informs ways a company can continue the process of improving their accessibility.

Finally, Framil touched on the idea of organizations bringing in people with disabilities into conversations going beyond testing and feedback: “I think, as we go forward…bringing in folks with various disabilities to provide that real perspective will be invaluable.”

Eager to learn more about how you can bring global accessibility to your organization? Check out our spotlight chat with Merck, or explore our archive of free webinars covering a wide range of accessibility topics.

Accessibility at a Global Scale: Spotlight Chat with Merck. Stream now.

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