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Ongoing work on digital accessibility for employees with disabilities has helped Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. rise to the top 10 percent of companies cited by “the nation’s most trusted annual benchmarking tool” for disability policies and practices.

For the second year running, RCL was named one of the “Best Places to Work for Disability Inclusion” by Disability:IN (formerly the U.S. Business Leadership Network) and the American Association of People with Disabilities, after scoring 90 percent or better on its Disability Equality Index (DEI). In 2017, the cruise line was cited for a score of 80 percent or higher.

Since then, RCL has hired a dedicated resource staffer to guide the company in becoming digitally accessible.

“What that means is that we are using industry-standard accessibility guidelines, and that’s to make sure our websites, mobile applications and other digital technology can be used by people with disabilities,” says Ron Pettit, RCL director of disability inclusion and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance – and himself hard-of-hearing since birth. “For example, our website could be used by blind people using screen readers. It could be used by people who have mobility difficulties who cannot use a mouse.”

The new hire is Claudio Luis Vera, now senior analyst, digital accessibility, on the RCL Access team. “He will guide our company and business units on digital accessibility not only in compliance, but improving the user digital experience,” Pettit says, “and continue to help us maintain Royal Caribbean’s industry-leading position as the most accessible cruise company for people with disabilities.”

Besides business degrees from Johns Hopkins and Boston universities, Vera has earned Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies certification from the International Association of Accessibility Professionals, “putting him among a very small group of accessibility professionals who have earned the prestigious certification,” Pettit adds.

A unique project, the DEI allows leading U.S. corporations to self-report their disability policies and practices. This evolving survey then scores each corporation on a scale from 0 to 100 – 100 representing the most inclusive.

Companies that take the DEI self-report do so on a wide variety of criteria within four categories: Culture & Leadership, Enterprise-Wide Access, Employment Practices, and Community Engagement & Support Services.

Among the best practices for being internally inclusive, RCL has a disability-focused employee resource group (ROAR – Royal Organization for Abilities Resources), as well as a senior executive who proactively champions and sponsors the ERG.

RCL’s three global cruise brands – Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises – offer a wide variety of accessible products and services designed to meet the needs of guests with mobility, hearing, visual and other disabilities.

The company has a team of some 20 employees dedicated to the disability market, and offers pre-cruise guest support service centers that provide help for guests and travel agents in planning accessible cruise vacations and shore excursions.

Recognition for being a “Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion” is reserved for those companies scoring 80 or above on the DEI.

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