Swink goes for win-win
Digital accessibility and more employment for people with disabilities .
“Seeing autism as a competence, not as a limitation”
As owner of the 'extraordinary' digital agency Swink, Niels van Buren is committed to digital accessibility. Swink is a large client firm that differentiates itself from other agencies not only by offering digital accessibility as its primary service, but also by its diverse workforce. We spoke to Niels about his inclusive organization and what they are doing about digital accessibility.
Tell us a little more about yourself.
I was always convinced of the fact that everyone, regardless of disability, orientation, skin color, should be able to participate in society without any problems. As this society becomes increasingly digital, digital accessibility also plays an increasingly important role within organisations. Before I became co-owner of Swink in 2014, I worked at ING. At a certain point I felt out of place there. I wanted to do more for people with a distance to the labor market. That urge was reinforced when I was diagnosed with MS in 2010 and a lot changed for me. Around that time I spoke to an old client of mine, Paul Malschaert, who told me about Swink and what he wanted to achieve with this company. This inspired me and I offered to help him. That's how I ended up at Swink in 2014 and I took over the company in 2020 when he retired.
What do you do exactly?
Swink focuses on creating content and web analytics, but we also deal with digital accessibility. Our main customers are the national government, municipalities and ministries. We employ researchers who analyze and assess websites for accessibility, make reports about them and talk to our customers about how they can improve them. This is often the case with the suppliers of the websites. We also give awareness sessions to create more awareness for digital accessibility and we offer training. We are a commercial company, but we want to have a social impact. We do this by mainly employing people with an occupational disability. Seventy percent of our employees have autism. It is actually bizarre that an estimated fifty to eighty percent of people with autism, people with disabilities at all, are unemployed.
Apart from more employment, what other benefits are there in employing so many people with autism?
Of course everyone with autism is different, but if we generalize a bit, you will see that people with autism work very accurately, are analytical, have an eye for detail and can concentrate on something for a long time. These are very useful properties for analyzing websites. We really see autism within our company as a competence and not as a limitation.
What are your ambitions for the future?
Just continue as we do now. Create more employment and awareness of our company, while ensuring that more services become digitally accessible. Like a knife that cuts both ways, a win-win situation.