Suzie Miller, Solutions Architect at Amazon Web Services and Chair of Amazon’s People with Disabilities employee affinity group, understands Amazon’s accessible and inclusive design is not just the right thing to do, it’s also good for business.

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Amazon Solutions Architect understands the value of inclusivity

Amazon Solutions Architect understands the value of inclusivity

 May 24, 2019

Suzie Miller, Solutions Architect at Amazon Web Services and Chair of Amazon’s People with Disabilities employee affinity group, understands Amazon’s accessible and inclusive design is not just the right thing to do, it’s also good for business.

Amazon Solutions Architect understands the value of inclusivity Suzie Miller is a Solutions Architect at Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Chair of the Amazon’s People with Disabilities employee affinity group in the UK, that ensures Amazon is an inclusive and accessible company both for employees and customers.

She shares how Amazon is striving to create a culture of diversity and inclusion through accessible design and a workplace culture that values different perspectives, skills and experiences.

Amazon’s inclusivity makes good business sense

Amazon employee group disability

For both Suzie and Amazon, creating an inclusive culture for both employees and customers is the key to a thriving business.

“Living with ‘invisible’ disabilities myself – including Asperger’s, dyslexia, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and osteoarthritis – I have come to realise that accessible and inclusive design is not just the right thing to do, it’s also good for business,” says Suzie.

“So the risk is that businesses which do not cater for everybody could miss out on a huge and growing customer base.”

Suzie cites some important statistics” globally, the World Health Organisation estimates that more than one billion people live with some form of disability – about 15 percent of the world’s population. In the UK alone, disability charity Scope estimates that 13.9 million people live with a disability, with more than 3.7 million disabled people in work. Sometimes referred to as the ‘purple pound’, the combined spending power of British families with at least one disabled person is more than £249bn per year (€285bn) – but charity Purple estimates that UK businesses lose £2bn (€2.3bn) a month by overlooking the needs of people with disabilities.

“The influence of that spending power across Europe is growing rapidly as multinational businesses wise up to the lucrative market and potential benefits of catering for all potential customers,” explains Suzie. “But this has not always been the case – and there is still more to do.”

Amazon purple pound

Amazon considers accessibility for all

Suzie understands that people define accessibility differently based on their own experiences.

“The reality is that no person has full capability for every activity throughout their life. Accessibility issues can impact anybody at any point in their life, whether that’s through a medical injury, a temporary medical condition, language barriers or simply unfamiliarity with a new product or environment. And the definition of disability varies greatly – some people may not even consider themselves disabled.” 

Suzie gives two great examples: the dropped kerb and subtitles. Both were originally intended to increase accessibility for those with disabilities, but now they have wider use for everyone. And it’s along this line of thought that Amazon thinks about its products – they must benefit all customers.

“If a non-disabled person cannot follow the flow of a website, there is a risk that those consumers feel alienated and will not return,” she explains.

“For example, what if a customer speaks English as a second language, or a visual impairment means they want to change font sizes and colours? Considering accessibility from the outset is a brilliant way to avoid ‘locking out’ certain audiences.”

Amazon attracts and retains a diverse workforce

Amazon’s focus on inclusivity and accessibility is not just for the benefit of customers, but also employees.

For Suzie, attracting and retaining a diverse workforce through accessible working conditions and company culture is essential. Without a diverse workforce, companies could miss out on a diverse range of skills, perspectives and experiences that enrich the business.

“Internally, Amazon believes that accessibility shouldn’t be left to people with specific job titles – instead it’s important to upskill everyone in these concepts. As always, adoption and loud advocacy from senior management is the first step in changing those working practices for the better,” says Suzie.

“Although the target audience of an event like Global Accessibility Awareness Day may be professionals working within design, development and usability, there is also an opportunity to extend that message to consumers.”

“The reality is that users do not necessarily know how to request adaptations for accessibility, and they may not realise the growing movement among technology companies to cater for their needs. Working together, consumers and businesses can foster positive change that is both worthwhile and profitable,” she adds.

Amazon’s products enhance accessibility

Suzie steers designers and developers towards two of Amazon’s products that have an accessible design: Amazon Polly, a text-to-speech service that can be integrated into products, and Amazon Transcribe, that can be used to caption video content.

“Global Accessibility Awareness Day sends a message that a universally accessible product is the goal and universal design is the process. Organisations cannot assume that a truly universal solution is ever possible, instead it’s something designers should work towards and consider from the outset,” she says.

“Features that enhance accessibility do not diminish, dilute or compromise the final user experience – they make it stronger for everybody. And in our digitally driven economy, that’s good for business. That opportunity is too good to turn down.”

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