MeetingsNet’s 2022 Changemakers list recognizes outstanding meeting professionals for their efforts to move their organizations and the industry forward in unique and positive ways. Find the full 2022 Changemakers list here.
Senior Product Manager-Accessibility, Cvent
For driving accessibility in Cvent’s technology products and company culture
In January, Stephen Cutchins joined event-technology company Cvent with a mission to improve accessibility in the company’s customer offerings and in its own workplace. Six months in, he’s developed a roadmap for change.
“The great news is that it’s really not that hard,” says Cutchins. “We create products that go on the Web, and browsers are already pretty good about relaying semantics to assistive technologies, such as the JAWS screen reader, Braille displays, and Dragon Naturally Speaking” voice-recognition software. The job, he says, is to make sure the Cvent technology is “semantically correct—a button is read as a button; a link is read as a link. Most of this stuff we are doing already. It’s minor tweaks we’re doing to really make it better. We’re trying to push ourselves, and really the whole industry, to do the tweaks” to be sure people of all abilities can participate in events.
As work progresses, Cutchins plans to validate the accessibility of Cvent’s technologies. “We’re bringing in an independent, unbiased third party that’s going to test our products and verify accessibility, and then publish the findings on a public web site.” Each product will have a VPAT, or Voluntary Product Accessibility Template, that grades how accessible it is. “We want our clients to know, so they can let their users know, that if an attendee has a screen reader, for example, that the website, registration site, and other Cvent products will work with it.”
Cutchins says that every Cvent product will eventually have a VPAT, “but realistically it’s going to take a few years. We’re starting with the public-facing products where there’s the biggest risk of somebody not being able to enjoy or participate in an event—things like our registration products and the Attendee Hub engagement tools.” After that, he’ll work on getting VPATs for the Cvent tools that planners use to execute meetings and for products used by hotels and other hospitality companies.
“Eventually, we want start an accessibility certification program for planners,” Cutchins says, noting that in addition to using accessible technologies, clients need to execute events in an accessible way across a range of issues, from room set-ups to transportation to the colors used in presentations.
He also wants to help Cvent’s HR department hire more people with disabilities. “I even want to pursue a DEI, or Disability Equality Index, from Disability:IN, which rates a company on its practices for employees with disabilities. I want to know where we stand,” he says. The DEI looks at company culture, hiring practices, whether internal systems work well with assistive technologies, and a variety of other areas.
Cutchins has 17 years of experience in the accessibility sector, most recently as accessibility lead at Accenture, and has found a lot of hurdles while working to get companies to prioritize accessibility. “I understand [the importance] on a personal level,” he says. “My mother lost her leg to bone cancer when I was eight.” But for businesses, he uses a dollars-and-cents approach.
“I’ll say to clients, ‘About a quarter of all adults in the U.S. have a disability, representing trillions of dollars of spend.’” When you put it that way, businesses take notice, he says, and the math is pretty simple. “The dollars spent on a VPAT are likely to be well offset by additional revenue to a company.”