The specific context of publishing is one which calls on publishers to not just improve the diversity of their workforce, but to also pay careful attention to what and how they publish. But publishers face major challenges when working to operationalize and implement the changes they need to make. Research tells us that – although top-down commitment is essential – Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) initiatives are most successful when they are embedded in all aspects of an organization’s activities, and when everyone in an organization feels accountable for DEIA.
For many publishers, knowing how to get started on making meaningful change can be daunting. The People-Process-Technology (PPT) model might provide a useful starting point.
This model, which is traditionally used to drive business efficiency and improvement, can be adapted to provide a useful way of identifying priorities for your DEIA efforts. The PPT model is often described as a “3-legged stool” approach. It has the benefit of ensuring that all aspects of the business are taken into consideration and – ideally – that they move forward in sync. From a diversity perspective, these distinctions can provide some useful structure for thinking about your own organization.
While the PPT model views this aspect of the business through the lenses of skills and relationships, we also need to consider how representative your workforce is when thinking about diversity issues. In a publishing context, this becomes particularly important when we consider how we build and develop platforms to deliver our content to users.
Lack of diversity in development and product teams can cause a range of issues, such as the encoding of biases into algorithms. But on an even more basic level, a lack of diverse perspectives means that you are unlikely to be developing platform delivery which serves all users. Consider how a visually impaired user would access your site, or one with ADHD or dyslexia. How well are these diverse needs catered to, and how easy is it for a user to personalize their experience on your platform?
It is unlikely that your internal workforce will represent a full range of possible user experiences, so you should consider how you broaden the range of perspectives. Can you, for example, create user groups to test new developments which specifically include a range of both physical and cognitive diversity? If you choose this route, be aware though of the “diversity tax”, which refers to an unintentional burden placed on marginalized individuals within an organization to help address DEIA issues and participate in these efforts – this burden falls on many employees from under-represented groups, so be prepared to pay for the expertise these groups bring). Also consider what training may be available to broaden the range of thinking in the organization.
A good question for all publishers to ask is: how well do my processes support the delivery of inclusive content? Often, content enhancements such as alt-text for images and audio descriptions for videos are an afterthought, bolted on when content is ready for publication, often using free tools delivering poor quality.
By planning for inclusion upfront, processes can be embedded in your workflow to ensure content accessibility. Good resources are available to help you improve the quality of your alt-text and audio description, but when and where in your workflow is the best place to do this? You need to consider both who is best placed to deliver this material and what level of quality you are aiming for. Could authors or copy editors be generating alt-text as an article goes through production, or is an automated tool sufficient? Can testing the alt-text and audio description become part of the approval to publish workflow? Does your XML schema allow you to correctly capture metadata associated with these alternative formats?
Finally, you need to consider the tools and tech that will support your efforts. If you build accessibility into the workflow as described above, does your platform front end actually support displaying the alternative formats? How easy is it for users to access these formats?
Also remember that we can use technology to our advantage to automate and streamline. There are lots of tools available that can run checks on your platform or website to identify any issues and help you address them (the W3C web accessibility initiative has a useful list here). Improving AI technology can also support your efforts without incurring large costs (see, for example, AccessiBe and Equally.AI).
Building accessibility and inclusion into your publishing processes is a journey, not a destination. While this may feel daunting, it is also important to be clear-eyed about how meaningful and impactful any changes you make are going to be. Using the PPT model ensures that you are thinking through the end-to-end issues before you start and aligning all aspects of the business around the DEIA agenda.
To learn how Maverick can help your organization operationalize DEIA, Contact Us.
By Nancy Roberts, Head of Technology and Content
Nancy Roberts is the founder of diversity and inclusion start-up, Umbrella Analytics. She has worked in a variety of production and operational roles across publishing for the past 20 years, following on from the completion of her postgraduate publishing diploma at West Herts College. She has a Ph.D., in Postcolonial Feminist Literary Theory and an Executive MBA from Cranfield University.
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