Back in March, when all employees at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) were instructed to begin teleworking full-time, none of us realized how much that decision would have on all of the employees. However, people with Disabilities at the NIH had significant concerns about how the decision would impact their work.
Their concerns involved mostly around accessibility. Accessibility can be defined briefly as the "ability to access." At the NIH, we believe strongly that everyone, no matter their disability, race, creed, gender, national orientation, and sexual orientation should have the "ability to access" everything within the confines of our digital and physical space within the NIH. During these past several months, the NIH has been working hard to ensure "Accessibility Matters" at the NIH, some efforts that have been made are:
- Sign Language Interpretation for all of NIH Director, Dr. Francis Collin's townhall meetings.
- FAQs on how to make virtual meetings accessible.
- Provided Reasonable Accommodation training for both the employees and managers.
- Purchased ClearMask for employees returning to work.
- Procurement of multiple virtual platforms.
- Handling over 100 individual reasonable accommodations requests.
The list above is only highlighting some of NIH's efforts to ensure that everyone has the same "ability to access." We do also recognize that we are always continuing to strive for a perfect tomorrow, a more accessible tomorrow. Accessibility does not start or end at the highest level of an organization; it starts and ends when every person buys in the importance of ensuring everyone has equal access. When we are thinking about accessibility, we need to think; why does it matter, and who does it impact? Does accessibility matter to you personally? Does it matter to your co-worker? Does it matter to your team? Does it matter to achieve our NIH Mission effectively?
Regardless of how you answer the questions, accessibility connects us all, and it creates equal access to everyone. Accessibility matters.
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