Prerna Goja of Zensa: Two things technology companies can do to create accessible products

 

Prerna Goja, Founder and CEO, Zensa

Prerna Goja is the founder and CEO of Zensa, a mobile solutions company developing applications for multiple industries, including retail, education, finance, insurance, and travel. Zensa designs and develops accessible apps and web solutions, delivering custom applications that are usable by all, including those with different abilities. Prerna is an accessibility leader and champion who has built a business around inclusion and creating a sense of belongingness. We talked about her journey as a founder and leader, and she shared two things all technology companies can do to make their products and services more accessible.

 You’ve worked in the technology space for several years. Can you tell us a little bit about your career?

Prior to being an entrepreneur, I spent over a decade supporting organizations like Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, and Intel, driving solutions through strategic planning, account management and partner relationship management. I founded and scaled technology solution companies across the Americas, Asia-Pacific and the Middle East.

Why did you decide to start your own company, Zensa?

The name Zensa suggests balance. My goal was to build a company with a balance of giving and building great products and services to empower people and businesses. That balance has been crucial to making Zensa a reality.

Can you tell us a bit about your journey as a female founder and entrepreneur? What were some of the challenges you faced?  

My journey has been focused on building inclusion and delivering solutions to make tech experiences usable and accessible to all. It’s about creating opportunities where people with different abilities can succeed.

I experienced some challenges as a female founder that I think other women entrepreneurs face: access to capital, business opportunities and an inadequate support system for business mentorship. Fortunately, I think a huge transformation is taking place as large corporations are focusing on diversity and inclusion (D&I). One thing all companies can do is to allocate a percentage of business spend towards D&I efforts.

Let’s talk about Zensa’s accessibility services. What is accessibility?

Accessibility is the ease with which every individual with different abilities can access information, digital experiences, and web content and use features as well as contribute to them. Accessibility enables inclusion of every individual. Zensa provides compliance testing, web, app, and mobile testing, usability testing, and document accessibility, among other services. We also provide accessibility program management, development, deployment and staffing services.

When did Zensa add accessibility services to your offerings? What was the impetus to add accessibility services to your portfolio?

Accessibility has always been very close to my heart and integral to how we’ve operated since the beginning. Creating a sense of belongingness and progression for all motivated me to build services that provide accessible and usable experiences for everyone. Empowerment comes from belongingness.

 Why does accessibility matter?

I believe every person has the fundamental right to access information and technology via the web or a device–no one should be excluded. Every company and organization has a responsibility to provide equal service to its customers or users and to create a sense of belongingness.

From a business standpoint, accessibility is important because there are more than one billion people in the world with different abilities, so excluding this huge number of potential customers and users can be detrimental to growth. In many countries, accessibility in technology is required by law, with strict penalties for non-compliance. Most people will experience some type of different ability in their lives, even if it’s temporary. It’s important that we’re all able to use and access technology.

 Why is accessibility essential for web content and apps?

We live in a world that is more technology and web dependent than ever, and access to web and mobile content has become an essential part of daily life. Web sites, web applications, and native apps designed with accessibility in mind allow people with different abilities to perceive, understand, navigate, interact and contribute to the web. Accessibility is about inclusion.

Zensa is a Microsoft Gold Partner. Why did you choose to build your accessibility practice with us?

It’s been incredible to be a Microsoft Gold ISV Partner. Microsoft has been instrumental in driving thought leadership around empathy in business and demonstrating how empathy can drive growth. At Zensa, we’re focused on advocating and empowering everyone. Microsoft’s mission to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more aligns well with our values and how we do business.

What are two things tech companies can do to create web and mobile apps that are more accessible?

In my experience there are two integral things we can do. Firstly, companies need to involve all stakeholders in the product development process from the beginning. Planning and designing accessible applications from the get-go is more effective than trying to add accessible features later.

The second thing companies can do is identify an accessibility champ for each team to serve as the go-to person for accessibility-related issues and making sure products and services follow accessibility guidelines.

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