Diversity and Inclusivity: Springer Nature Disability & Neurodiversity Network

Posted on June 28, 2021 in Diversity & Inclusivity

Interview with Leo Johnson and Hollie Kay

Conversations around inclusivity and diversity within publishing have become more frequent, but what does that actually look like within the industry? We spoke to Hollie and Leo from Springer Nature on their day-to-day roles, and how they’re involved in making publishing a more accessible space for all. 


What is your role and what does your day usually look like? 


[Hollie] I lead the accessibility arm of the Frontend Enablement team – we support web development teams in building accessible web experiences. We also provide support to related disciplines, so one day we might be asked for our help on multimedia production by the multimedia team, and on another the User Experience and Design team could ask for our help in finding some resources to help them design a particular experience. I spend my entire day thinking about accessibility, disability, and inclusion, mainly (but not exclusively!) from a technical perspective.


Leo: I am an Editorial Assistant in the book division. So, my day-to-day job is quite varied. It generally involves  contract preparation, contract distribution,  I am heavily involved in the peer review and manuscript submission process and dealing with a range of queries regarding these processes. I am also an internal system key-user and a co-founder of the Springer Nature Disability and Neurodiversity (D&N) network.


What is the D&N Network at SN and what does it aim to do?


Leo:  The SN D&N network presently has three key aims:  

Advocacy: We aim to provide practical support and consideration for all employees locally and globally, acting as a unified voice on issues related to disability.


Advice: We aim to advise the business on accessibility and innovation for Springer Nature both within our offices and within our products. Providing consultation and advice to ensure that employees with disabilities and long term conditions, in addition to colleagues interested in support strategies at work are encouraged and empowered. SN D&N will also serve as a forum for accessibility issues in the products that we create


Support:  A really important aim is supporting and connecting employees with disabilities or impairments at a global and local level, and offering advice to those needing further guidance or wishing to support others.


How has the D&N Network helped you (has it given you a sense of belonging in the industry, has it provided you and others in the network more of a voice?)


[Hollie] One of the biggest impacts that the network has had is in finding people who are willing to come together to act as allies in a cohesive group. Before we created the network, as a person with a disability, I found my status as “the disabled person” in my department quite an isolating experience. The usual figure cited when people talk about how many people with disabilities there are in the UK is about 1 in 5, but knowing this figure in theory is no substitute for actually being directly connected to colleagues who are also dealing with challenges around accessibility and inclusion. Being connected to people who share a part of your identity is incredibly valuable from a human perspective, and it’s crucial if you want to create positive change. 


In terms of my day-to-day job, it’s also been very helpful at getting non-disabled people in the company used to the idea that the people that they work with have disabilities… and that we’re not unusual or uncommon. This realisation that disability isn’t a niche concern helps people think a bit more broadly about how they can help to make accessibility and inclusion happen. The D&N Network has also been the contact point for colleagues who have specific concerns about their own customer-facing products, but who work in a different part of the business, and so don’t know that my team exists or that we can help them. Without close collaboration between the D&N Network and the accessibility specialists, we’d never have been able to achieve the reach that we have today. 


Leo: SN D&N has offered me a place to really develop my understanding of a range of business areas and how they come together, which has been invaluable. I have also become more aware of a whole range of new ergonomic pieces of equipment that really make a difference to my day-to-day work. Playing a small part in the business and our CEO making the Valuable 500 commitment was a particular recent highlight and gave me a real  sense of achievement. 


Do you have any advice for others interested in entering the publishing world?


Leo: The  best advice I would have is to be your authentic self and seek out any opportunities you can to expose yourself to as many scenarios as possible.  It may sound a bit odd, but really seek to put yourself under pressure and see what you can do, see it as a chance to explore rather than a reason to be stressed. I am always amazed at how much a mindset of,  I want to be the best I can be and how pushing oneself and to improve actually can make. I like thinking about the phrase “just go for it” more-and-more now. After all, there is no reward without a bit of risk. Oh and believe in yourself. 


[Hollie] Publishing is a massive industry and there are many ways into it, not all of them “traditional”. Technologists like me also have a place in publishing, and as publishers continue to move into digital spaces, roles like mine are becoming increasingly important. It might be helpful to broaden your ideas of what publishing is – perhaps there are uses for your skills that you hadn’t realised are valuable in the publishing industry. I personally find that knowing something about the importance of accessibility to people with disabilities goes a long way in so many different roles at Springer Nature! 



Thank you so much to Hollie and Leo for this piece on their job roles and their experience in publishing. If you would like to find out more information about Springer Nature’s Disability & Neurodiversity network, follow this link: https://group.springernature.com/gp/group/taking-responsibility/employee-networks#c17495436.