Making the Web Accessible to All with Sarah Jackson
This article is part of our Women in Partnerships series, highlighting female professionals in the partnerships space. To learn more about the series and the Women in Partnerships group, check out the series intro.
Sarah Jackson is the Senior Partner Manager for Contentsquare, where she’s been since November of 2020. Sarah is also one of our Community Ambassadors ensuring value for Partnership Leaders members and has joined us in the past to explore how Contentsquare partners with SIs & agencies. Today, Sarah joins us to discuss inclusion and her recent digital accessibility efforts.
Partnerships Professional & Mother of Three
Sarah Jackson has had an extensive, successful career in sales and technology leadership. After 20 years in direct sales and sales leadership, Sarah missed dealing with human accounts on her own and felt she could make a bigger impact in partnerships. She first entered the world of partnerships at FullStory as their Senior Solutions Partner Manager. In just a few short months, Sarah became the Global Director of Solutions Partnerships, and then ultimately left to join Contentsquare.
On the personal front, Sarah is a single mother of three. “I have three boys that are on the autism spectrum. My journey started about nine years ago. Two of my boys were only fourteen months apart and were diagnosed eleven days apart. The main treatment for autism is based on human behavior. Many of these we’re already tracking and analyzing using technology today, just for different reasons.”
When “Accessible for All” Excludes Millions
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) outline the requirements for making a website “accessible”. However, these guidelines merely outline the minimum requirements, which still leaves sites inaccessible for many individuals with disabilities.
Sarah shared that she made efforts at FullStory to make accessibility more of a priority. “When I was at FullStory, I kept pinging our CEO. The tagline was ‘Better web for all,’ but millions of people impacted by disabilities are excluded from that. Digital content for all should be for all.”
Moving to Contentsquare, Sarah has been able to increase her focus on improving and ensuring digital accessibility. “Digital accessibility isn’t just about compliance. Individuals who are blind have to use software to interpret web pages. Is your site set up for those tools to access? Can older adults increase the text size on your page? Are there other font options to ensure readability for individuals with dyslexia?”
Outside of doing the right thing, promoting digital accessibility can have a business benefit as well. “Your ultimate north star metric is conversion rates. If your site isn’t accessible, you're literally eliminating more than a billion individuals who are impacted around the world by some sort of disability.”
Empowering Individuals with Disabilities Through Tech Partnerships
Diversity and inclusion have come to the forefront of corporate initiatives in recent years. However, the focus has settled on a few key areas. “Whether it's race, gender, all these companies are starting to think about diversity and even implement teams dedicated to supporting them. When it comes to individuals with disabilities, there isn’t the same energy. How can we create momentum in not just doing accessibility compliance, but really trying to include everyone in the experience? It’s not something a lot of people think about when they're not impacted by it.”
We’ve seen extensive technology innovations come to market in the past few decades. From augmented reality and virtual reality capabilities to natural language processing, and more, technology can empower us. “It seems like a no-brainer to use technology to support individuals with disabilities. My middle son is non-verbal and communicates with a device. At Contentsquare, we map every mouse click and every interaction on a site to analyze user experiences. From a research perspective, being able to use that same technology for marketing with my son gives us the opportunity to see how my son is communicating, where he's frustrated, areas of friction, and more. There are amazing technologies that are only getting more powerful. How can we help push the bar to think creatively about what we can do with services and packages?”
Many people don’t know that there’s digital accessibility built into Microsoft’s entire Office Suite, and companies like Verizon and Accenture aren’t far behind. In fact, hundreds of organizations have gotten onboard via The Valuable 500, a cohort of Fortune 500 companies who have committed to putting accessibility at the forefront of their business goals. Contentsquare recently acquired Adapt My Web in order to accelerate their digital accessibility efforts. Sarah sees significant opportunities for accessibility in tech today. “Take, for example, our partnership with Qualtrics. We can track web activity and trigger a survey based on specific actions taken. How can we start to take these digital tools that have different purposes and repurpose that for a broader mission? Consider the impact of features like personalization, localization, and more.”
Use Your Tech to Make a Difference
Inspired by big players in the space, you can use your technology to make a difference, too. “If you think about Microsoft being a great leader in this space, how can you follow their lead? How much do you hear from disability being part of inclusion? Talk about a group of people left behind, and it’s the only minority group that we all could be a part of within moments. A lot of the tools we're using for working from home were originally developed for accessibility. There has been a broader impact, especially since COVID has driven us all online. How do we come out of this better? How could we engage with our tools day to day on some type of disability? How can we as technology companies focus on making everything accessible? When you're talking about what you do, why you do it, why it's important, even just mentioning that you make things accessible is such a valuable place to start.”
There a few steps Sarah recommended all companies take:
Focus on education, not just with your team, but externally as well.
Lead from the top on a global accessibility strategy/
Provide the right tools/hiring policies to include all candidates and provide critical tools for your employees with disability to perform their jobs.