By Joan Leotta
Rather than sell accessibility improvement software on an individual basis, eSSENTIAL collaborates with firms that promote improved access features not only for visitor use on their own site, but to be downloaded and used elsewhere by those same visitors on other sites.Software that is designed both to make life easier for customers with disabilities and to make websites accessible for the same clientele is not a new idea. However, eSSENTIAL Accessibility’s new strategy for introducing such a product stands to dramatically expand a single company’s efforts to improve the experience of people with disabilities on their site and across varied disability platforms.
This approach demonstrates the company’s commitment to persons with disabilities through offering additional value to their site and then ultimately giving the product away. In the end, eSSENTIAL anticipates that the individual benefiting from this experience will return as a satisfied and loyal customer.
Development of the Software
Simon Dermer, Managing Director of eSSENTIAL Accessiblity says, “I owned a healthcare center and got a feel for the needs of people with disabilities in a clinical setting and then in the daily life setting with assistive technology. We were working with a Swiss company that has a platform for aiding people with paralysis. We were utilizing this technology in aiding people with severe physical limits use the internet.”
Dermer observes that these products were very expensive and often complex and specialized. “Many folks don’t even know they have resources out there to help them.” So he imagined a web based solution that would go beyond helping people with visual disabilities. By 2009 his concept began to take shape. Dermer began placing his software onto websites serving a variety of needs, which stimulated and expanded interest and use. Larger companies took note.
Overtime, eSSENTIAL began to reshape its marketing communication to companies. “If you want to do more than engage [a client] one time, to really reach the disability segment of the market as customers and employees and to expedite traditional regulatory concerns, then giving them access to this software will help.” Companies desiring to gain more customers with disabilities were very receptive to using the eSSENTIAL Acessiblity app™.
How Does It Work?
The eSSENTIAL Accessibility app™ provides a suite of keyboard and mouse replacement solutions, among other tools, designed to help people with physical, reading and age-related disabilities get online. The app is free of charge to the end-user and can be downloaded by clicking the blue wheelchair and keyboard symbol. One promising and determinative example of its effective implementation can be found on merck.com and merckengage.com. Once downloaded, the app can be used on any website.
What Makes This App Different?
Simon Dermer observes that “there are many great specialized accessibility solutions for those who can do the homework to find it and have a lot of money to spend on a specialized app. Our advantage is not so much in what our app accomplishes as in the way we are going about putting it into the marketplace. Its open availability is what makes us different.” eSSENTIAL calls the firms who use its app “partners” because they work together to provide a better internet experience for people with disabilities. He adds, “the elegance of our solution is that this is a social impact model that eliminates the cost barrier to the person with a disability who needs it and the app is easy to use.”
For example, on the Merck site, visitors who click on the icon are directed to a special Merck landing page. Here, they can download the app, access MerckEngage for online resources for healthy living, view job opportunities within the company, learn about Merck’s global diversity and inclusion practices and programs, and access the Merck Manual for Pet Health, which offers readers information on animal-assisted therapy and service animals for people who are differently-abled.
In September of 2014, Merck, a global healthcare leader, began its partnership with eSSENTIAL Accessibility. People who cannot browse the web using conventional methods due to conditions such as arthritis, paralysis or amputation, can use this app to browse completely hands free, using tools like motion technology and voice-activated navigation.
David L. Gonzales, Merck’s Chief Diversity Officer, announced “we are pleased to join this important coalition of organizations that are working together to empower people with different abilities by making inclusivity the norm.”
Dermer says of the partnership, “Merck has recognized, from the get-go, the importance of being a diverse and inclusive organization. From developing products that serve people with disabilities, to offering their employees with disabilities the outstanding Workplace EnABLEment program, to their community-giving efforts and their partnerships with organizations that promote thought-leadership on diversity, Merck truly sets the bar high. We are proud to have them join the coalition and we look forward to working together to help take their inclusivity efforts to the next level.”
In November of 2014, former Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer at Merck, Deborah Dagit, joined eSSENTIAL Accessibility at the 2014 ANA Multicultural Marketing & Diversity Conference. The three day conference highlighted people with disabilities as perhaps the last hidden demographic and explored how organizations and brands are creating economic and social value by tailoring their information and offerings for people with disabilities. Drawing on her extensive experience at Merck and as a pioneer in the diversity and inclusion realm, Dagit shared with attendees how weaving a people with disabilities message into brand experiences engages at a basic, powerful, emotional level to adapt to the changing demands of this consumer segment.
Dermer says, “it’s all about recognizing the overall buying power and importance of customers with disabilities and building loyalty by offering such programs as eSSential on their site, to be used anywhere.”
eSSENTIAL Accessibility helps organizations build loyalty with people with disabilities. Derner sees the company as “offering partners an assistive technology app that enables people with disabilities to interact with their brand online, and to execute marketing communications campaigns that support customer service, diversity and inclusion efforts. By joining a growing coalition, leading organizations from around the world are reinforcing a disability-friendly brand presence and creating sustainable business and social value by engaging and serving this overlooked market.” For more information, please visit essentialaccessibility.com.