Accessibrand: Nothing for us without us! 

This story is created and shared in collaboration with the Waterloo Region Small Business Centre, a valuable resource for entrepreneurs looking to start or grow their businesses in the Waterloo Region. Their expertise and support have been instrumental in providing insights and information for this post, highlighting the Centre’s commitment to fostering the entrepreneurial spirit in the community.

Jolene MacDonald is a passionate graphic designer who began her career in the 90s when the industry was just taking off. After her youngest child was born with a rare form of dwarfism, she began to explore accessibility with a new perspective. The challenges and limited options she encountered inspired her to raise awareness and advocate for greater accessibility for all. She realized that many elements of graphic design that she had taken for granted, such as contrast of colors, typography, and imagery, were major barriers for people with disabilities.

The Accessibrand team. Photo from Jolene MacDonald

In 2017, Jolene founded Accessibrand, a full service social enterprise agency, assisting other businesses in developing marketing materials that are inclusive and accessible to everyone. The company also represents numerous professionals and persons with lived disability experience. It offers a broad range of services such as design, marketing, branding and user testing as well as providing advocacy and training to companies and individuals.
Just in the past year, Accessibrand was recognized as the recipient of the Employer of Distinction Award for Alumni Engagement by Conestoga College. The virtual event was held during National Co-op and Work-Integrated Learning month to acknowledge the exceptional experiences that Accessibrand created for Conestoga students, graduates, and clients.

Connecting Accessibrand’s mission to the SDGs

Accessibrand goes beyond its mission of assisting clients in integrating accessibility into their products. To align with SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) and SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities), Accessibrand is committed to create employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities and/or lived experience with disability to support themselves and their families. Jolene states that traditional employers may not always be able to accommodate disabilities, so Accessibrand has stepped up to address this issue. At present, the company employs individuals, all of whom have a disability and/or have firsthand experience dealing with disability. With respect to SDG 3 (Good Health and Wellbeing), Accessibrand fosters a safe environment where employees feel comfortable disclosing their disabilities to the employer and discussing them openly without any apprehension. Accessibrand also works towards SDG 13 (Climate Action) by enabling employees to work remotely, reducing the need for commuting to an office by car. Furthermore, the company operates digitally, eliminating the need for printing, which further aids in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Encountering challenges along the way

One of the biggest challenges Jolene faced was balancing her business goals with her social and environmental goals. She wanted to make sure that Accessibrand was financially sustainable, but she also wanted to make sure that the company was making a positive impact on the world. She struggled to find the right balance, but she kept pushing forward, knowing that her work was making a difference in people’s lives. Over time as Accessibrand continued to grow, it collaborated with more than 200 clients who were enthusiastic about enhancing their accessibility. They also partnered with local organizations to conduct user audits of digital materials, and they created e-learning courses to help other businesses learn best practices in marketing and design.

Jolene Macdonald, Accessibrand Founder and Creative Director. Photo from Jolene MacDonald

Jolene knew that there was still a long way to go, but she was proud of what she had accomplished with Accessibrand. She envisioned a future where accessibility was the norm, where people with disabilities could fully participate in society, and where businesses saw the value in designing for everyone. She will continue to use the SDGs as a guide for her work, knowing that they provide a framework for creating a better future for all.

“Accessible marketing impacts everyone. It’s good for business and society!”

Jolene MacDonald, Founder and Creative Director at Accessibrand

For more information, please check out Accessibrand’s website