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Imagine if accessibility design in products, services and employment wasn't an add-on, like a stamp to an envelope, but built into business functionality.

Sharon, the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Business Partner for Australia Post, has helped transform this idea into action and accountability.

She calls her job "the best job in HR," focused on making sure her organisation has fair and equal employment and participation opportunities for everyone.

"I want to get to a point where someone like me does not need to drive this work," where accessibility is always considered first and foremost, Sharon said.

Listen to the full interview in the player below:

Australia Post has morphed from a siloed, disparate hierarchy of business units into an organisation built on and powered by relationships across its breadth.

The organisation is a Disability-Confident Recruiter, having had the Australian Network on Disability review its recruitment process end-to-end, from job ad to on-boarding.

"Where there were unintended but systemic barriers for candidates with disability, we removed those," Sharon said, lauding "straightforward, simple" workarounds.

Take, for example: supporting tests for delivery drivers who are deaf with Auslan interpreters, or focusing pre-employment medical checks on "can-do" abilities.

Sharon Carroll
Sharon Carroll

This thinking has since influenced and enabled the embedding of accessibility and universal design principles into Australia Post's newest products and services.

"The work has grown from the experience of recruitment, being shown unintended barriers in that process, to all systems and processes in the business," Sharon said.

Australia Post has reviewed its IT systems, from staff being able to easily use leave and other entitlements online, to overhauling retail point-of-sale devices.

The IT gap analysis improved device font size, colour, contrast and adaptive tech compatibility to the benefit of low vision employees and the ageing workforce alike.

Further, its range of packaging underwent print accessibility checks, finding old designs had too-small, too-pale fonts: too hard for people with low vision to read.

Australia Post also worked with Vision Australia to improve the safety of its electric delivery vehicles, facilitating pedestrian alerts and driver behaviour training.

Sharon estimated that 5.7 per cent of the mail network's employees identified as having a disability, but that it was likely even higher, with more yet to self-nominate.

She said there had been a culture of fear - of both offence and ostracism - but "if you're not educating and helping people to feel comfortable, that fear will remain."

Noting the Australian Network on Disability was fee-based, Sharon also suggested the free online resources of IncludeAbility for employees and those seeking employment.

Australia Post could deliver many roles to blind and low vision job-seekers, Sharon concluded: "In customer contact centres, HR, IT, marketing, procurement, finance, legal..."

Sharon is part of Career Path, a podcast series that supports jobseekers who are blind or have low vision, those who have found meaningful employment and recruiters who recognise the strengths of blind and low vision candidates.