Creating a culture of accessibility: tips from global brands

Leaders from Microsoft, Unilever and advertising giant WPP share their tips on accessibility. Learnings include:

Realising the power of inclusivity

Panel speakers on Teams during the conferenceAccessibility is personal for Cindy Rose, President of Western Europe for Microsoft sharing how first-hand stories inspire her to prioritise accessibility. 

“Over the last few years, there's been a number of significant moments that have opened my eyes to the human impact of accessible design, disability and inclusion,” said Rose sharing one specific moment that made a big impact on her.

“In 2017 at our Future Decoded event in London at the Excel. We invited developer Tom Nabarro onto the main stage. Tom is a Microsoft superuser and has quadriplegia. He showed how he loves using Windows facial recognition, how he uses Cortana virtual voice agent. And then he started coding with eye gaze.”

“I've learned that you know when we empower people with disabilities using technology, we empower everybody,” she added. 

Unilever also believes in an accessible culture, starting with senior leaders, as its Senior HR Director Leena Nair told session chair Channel 4’s, Corie Brown. 

"Seventy per cent of the impact on culture is how leaders behave,” said Nair. “The examples they talk about, what kind of behaviours they role model,” she added.

Unilever’s Global Diversity Board is driven by its CEO, Alan Jope.

Unilever: driving change on the inside

Unilever also focuses on the “inner and outer game of leadership”.

“The inner game is all about a sense of purpose and service. It's about learning agility. It's about personal mastery. We're putting 150,000 people through purpose workshops. What is your purpose and mission in life? What difference can you make in Unilever with your individual purpose, passion, and mission? We are dialling up the inner game, and the sense of humanity increases in the company,” said Nair.

It is aiding an inclusive culture so that it is "easier for everybody to bring their best version to work…humanity. Everyone wants to do good in the world. Everyone has a force for good in themselves,” she said. 

"We want to be a beacon for equity, diversity, and inclusion across the world."

Read says change begins on the inside, with business culture.

"I take responsibility for making the company the type of company that I would want to work in," said Mark Read, WPP CEO. 

How to drive an inclusive culture

Rose agrees inclusivity needs to be embedded in the company's DNA. 

"It's about micro-behaviours and putting it a Diversity and Inclusion lens on every aspect of the employee experience from recruitment to onboarding, to learning promotion, and workplace design," she told conference attendees. 

Change on the inside, in turn, leads to external change. 

As the world’s biggest advertising agency WPP is well-placed to make an impact through its creative messaging and to reflect diversity on a global scale. 

“For me, it's about the impact of our work,” said Mark Read, WPP CEO. 


Screenshot from Tommy Hilfiger website. The words say Created for people with disabilities"When people see people like themselves represented in commercial messages. I think we can change attitudes to disability," he added.

One example is WPP's advertising campaign with Tommy Hilfiger, which highlights the adaptive clothing designed by Hilfiger for disabled people. 

The advert aired in 2018 and has received over 5.5 million views (to March 2019).

Similarly, Microsoft embraces inclusive design. "We don't build technology that works for disabled people; we build technology that works for everyone,” said Rose. 

Creating an inclusive future

Rose, Read and Nair are all hopeful for the future. “I’m very optimistic,” said Rose. “I’m blessed with a team of dedicated colleagues and a CEO that keeps accessibility at the top of our list of priorities.”

Nair said: “I hope when we speak three years, for now, Unilever is a beacon for inclusion for the world, and that there is no more need for the business case because people just get it.”

Read welcomed the comments from Unilever and Microsoft – both clients and said: “When the moral and the business imperative align, we are in the right place.”