Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Global Accessibility Awareness Day: How businesses are closing the disability digital divide

There is growing awareness of the need to design features for people with disabilities into digital products.

There is growing awareness of the need to design features for people with disabilities into digital products. Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Caroline Casey
Founder and Director, The Valuable 500
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Diversity and Inclusion is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Society and Equity

Listen to the article

  • People with disabilities must have equitable access to digital services.
  • The Valuable 500 are a global business partnership of 500 companies working together to end disability exclusion.
  • Member organizations are invited to report against five harmonized disability inclusion KPIs.

The importance of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) is unquestionable. People with disabilities are entitled to the same quality of digital experience that their non-disabled counterparts are privy to. In order to make digital life equitable, people with disabilities must be able to effectively utilize web-based services, content and other digital products with the same successful outcome as those without disabilities.

Over the past 12 years, there has been an acceleration of innovation and a development of the understanding that accessibility needs to be part of the design process, not considered retrospectively. Using some of the world’s biggest brands’ reach and influence, The Valuable 500 has a mission to transform the global business system, shaping a society that includes everybody, not just the non-disabled.

The Valuable 500 is the largest network of global CEOs committed to disability inclusion; increasingly data-driven in their quest to assist companies through their inclusion journey. Moreover, technology is the second largest industry group in the network, including giants Apple, Microsoft, Google and Salesforce.

Have you read?

Digital accessibility should be considered both within internal systems to enable inclusive employment, and within all products, including hardware, software, content and media. Digital accessibility is a key area of focus for Valuable 500 companies, with 58% surveyed in the Valuable Truth report stating that they have started, or invested in, exploring inclusive innovation opportunities.

In line with moving from commitments to action, The Valuable 500 has made digital accessibility one of its KPIs and will be asking their companies if they have undertaken a review of the accessibility of their digital platforms and content. In the event that they have not, they will be asked when they plan on doing so and provided with supporting resources.

Following the launch of The Valuable 500’s white paper ESG and Disability Data: A Call for Inclusive Reporting at this year’s World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, 10 of their companies have opted to become early adopters of their five reporting KPIs. The white paper, co-funded and developed with Allianz and the London Stock Exchange Group, is the beginning of a larger body of work.

Further collaborations will happen as the network works together to transform business and ensure the key objective are met. Currently, 110 of Valuable 500 companies report on disability inclusion, and they will be supported in adopting the five KPIs by the end of the year.

The Valuable 500's five KPIs are:

  • Workforce representation
  • Goals
  • Training
  • Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)
  • Digital accessibility

Below are some examples of how the corporate sector is closing the disability digital divide:


Embedding disability inclusion within business strategies from inception saves a great deal of time, costs and pain later when trying to retrofit products and services to make them accessible. Google recently worked with blind and low-vision users to create its innovative new Guided Frame feature for Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro. The feature includes precise audio feedback as well as vibrations to help people capture the perfect picture without needing to see the image displayed on the screen.

Moreover, Google recently opened its first accessibility research centre in the UK. The Accessibility Discovery Centre has been purpose-built to push inclusive design boundaries and assist people with disabilities through research and product development. The goal of the new centre is to uncover the potential of assistive technology to help remove barriers and increase opportunities for disabled people.


Microsoft partnered with the disability community to build new accessibility features as part of the Windows 11 2022 update. These include System-Wide Live Captions to automatically generate captions from any form of audio content on Windows 11, voice access that allows users to control their PCs and write text using only their voice, and Natural Voices for Narrator, which mirrors natural speech more closely. Microsoft also announced a new Adaptive Accessories line, which lets users configure, 3D print and customize their own mouse, keyboard inputs and shortcuts, to create a bespoke set-up that works for them.


Procter & Gamble

In partnership with the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), media owners, TV sales houses and other key industry partners, Procter & Gamble’s (P&G) latest initiative, Reset the Bar in Advertising Accessibility, aims to promote progress towards 100% advertising accessibility across Europe by 2025. P&G have a proven track record of pushing for ads with audio description and captioning to drive societal change and business impact.

Whilst accessible advertising is the first step, next this must include inclusive executions at the point of sale in order to truly transform consumers’ customer journey, brand loyalty and raise further awareness. With an estimated 30 million adults in Europe having limited vision and 200 million with hearing loss, these consumers need access to inclusive ads to make informed purchase choices.


Businesses need to ensure that they consider all aspects of the customer experience to make it truly accessible. L’Oréal recently launched accessible packaging to improve customer experiences with the brand. It developed a universal tool that allows consumers to hear audio product information via their smartphone by scanning a QR code on packaging. The tool enables consumers access to information they have a right to. This is a huge advance in making packaging more accessible for people with visual impairments, and replaces the common use of braille, which is challenging to learn and limiting in terms of the information it can contain.

An estimated 50 million people globally live with limited fine motor skills. Daily gestures, like applying makeup, can be incredibly challenging. Under development by L’Oréal scientists and engineers, HAPTA is a handheld, ultra-precise smart make-up applicator for users with limited hand and arm mobility, offering them the ability to steadily apply lipstick at home. The key to HAPTA is its combination of built-in smart motion controls plus customizable attachments that give the user an improved range of motion, increased ease of use for difficult-to-open packaging, and precision application that is otherwise hard to achieve – to help individuals feel confident, independent, and empowered to enjoy the self-expressive power of beauty.

The Valuable 500

Over the course of the next three years, The Valuable 500 will be taking accountable synchronized collective actions across their three pillars: leadership, reporting and representation. They aspire to galvanize, measure and track system change, thus proving the indisputable value of disabled people in business.


What's the World Economic Forum doing about diversity, equity and inclusion?

While technological advances are undoubtedly something to celebrate, corporations must not overlook the scale of the remaining challenges for disability inclusion that persist in both business and society. Only by continuing to champion systematic change will we drive a cultural shift and reap the social and economic benefits of catering to the grossly underserved community. Disability inclusion benefits all.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Equity, Diversity and InclusionJobs and the Future of Work
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

It’s financial literacy month: From schools to the workplace, let's take action

Annamaria Lusardi and Andrea Sticha

April 24, 2024


About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum