How to lead on digital accessibility: The Valuable 500

Caroline Casey is the founder of the Valuable 500. Launched with a mission to take accessibility to the top, she updates us on the global movement

Top 3 Takeaways

  1. Building a global movement
  2. Mission-critical: Covid-19 as a change agent
  3. Understanding where intersectionality meets humanity

Based on Caroline's TechShare Pro 2020 session

Caroline Casey has travelled the globe encouraging leaders of some of the world’s biggest brand to embrace digital accessibility.

Speaking to us at TechShare Pro 2020 Casey had just completed a virtual tour of Australia, Canada, Geneva and Dubai, and had exciting updates to share. 

Building a global movement

A picture of the 2020 session showing Mark Walker in conversation with Caroline CaseyThe Valuable 500's mission is to put disability on the business leadership agenda of 500 national and multinational, private sector corporations.

Doing so aims to create a tipping point that unlocks the business, social and economic value of people living with disabilities across the world.

Founder, Caroline Casey created The Valuable 500 "to find the missing piece to systematically integrate disability into our businesses to stop it being the poor cousin of the inclusion family and to go from niche to normal," she said.

“Our missing piece was to get a collective and critical mass,” she added.

In particular, she wanted to change what she refers to as the “inclusion delusion stat”, whereby 90% of companies said they were passionate about inclusion but only 4% considered disability. 

Mission-critical: Covid-19 as a change agent

The movement is, says Casey, no longer a campaign. 

In November 2020 it boasted 342 companies in 31 countries across 52 sectors representing 12 million employees and 4.5 trillion in revenue. All TechShare Pro 2020’s headline sponsors are members.

“We are the fastest growing CEO community in the world outside Global Compact,” she said. “And we're going to be launching phase two in the new year to activate this historic community for system change.”

The pandemic has opened the eyes of business to disabled customers, said Casey. "People are used to me speaking from my heart and from a broken heart, you’ve got an open heart,” Casey said. 

“We have blown up the gross inequity that exists in our world. We speak to the right for freedom of speech. What about the right to communication for all?”

Covid-19 helped make the business case for accessibility. “Businesses now realize they cannot say we have other priorities. It's now risk-proofing a business and making sure that you are taking care of your opportunity for growth, innovation, and insight,” said Casey. 

Being part of a community with that shared mission is compelling. “The community of The Valuable 500 is a place to multiply our innovation and effect, to share best practice and to learn together.” 

Towards a culture of integration

The need for intersectionality or integration is key to lasting change. "No more excuses," said Casey. "Intersectionality builds from the beginning.”

She shared with conference attendees receiving an email from a company that said it was working on gender and LGBTQ inclusion but wasn't intending to address disability until 2022.

“Let me just tell you what intersectionality is. Replace that word with ‘human being’. I am a woman. I have a vision impairment and a disability, and I am proud of both of those. Intersectionality is about not categorizing our humanity into silos, which compete,” said Casey.

“We need to look at universally human corporate cultures.”

What’s next for The Valuable 500? Casey wouldn’t be drawn on details but said that there was more to come.

“We’re going to see a removal of the siloed approach to inclusion. Bring it on.”

How AbilityNet can help (accessibility services)