Communications and Inclusion: Reaching and Engaging a Truly Diverse Audience

We work in a communications landscape where not everyone in our community experiences our messages the same way—and sometimes they don’t receive them at all. Nationally, one in five people has a disability. The way we communicate has evolved with technology, but often technology is not automatically accessible to all, including many people with disabilities. From social media to printed collateral, the Chicago Community Trust and the American Heart Association have made accessibility for people with disabilities a priority, including when engaging with the public and on our websites. We see disability as being part of the human experience and an integral dimension of diversity.

To best engage and serve our truly diverse communities, we’ve taken many actions and established internal guidelines to ensure inclusion. For example, we make sure our web content is accessible for those using screen readers, use CamelCase in our hashtags, create different versions of our annual report depending on access, and ensure that all our videos, including live video, have captions or a transcript. As a standard practice, our events are designed for full inclusion.

This session will share our journey to become more accessible and our continued learnings, best practices for every organization to make accessibility a priority, and how to start today!

Learning Objectives

  • Learn why accessibility is important
  • Learn best practices for digital engagement, including web design, social media, and email
  • Learn how to make events accessible and how to get started at your organization


Mark Fisher
American Heart Association
Grassroots Advocacy Manager
Mark Fisher is a Grassroots Advocacy Manager at the American Heart Association (AHA), where he focuses on running its grassroots program, You're the Cure. In addition to managing and analyzing federal appropriations and stroke grassroots efforts, Mark also helps plan and execute lobby days and fly-ins. Before beginning his work at the AHA over 5 years ago, he also interned for other nonprofits in D.C. and was a field organizer on a U.S. Senate campaign. Mark earned his Masters of Public Policy from American University and is originally from Pittsburgh, PA.

Eva Penar
The Chicago Community Trust
Director of Marketing & Communications
Eva Penar is the director of marketing and communications at The Chicago Community Trust, where she is involved in day-to-day practices that support the vision for all Trust marketing and communications activities. She previously served as manager of public relations, increasing the Trust's visibility and elevating the work of grant recipients and donors. Prior to joining the Trust, Penar was part of the launch team behind Time Out Chicago. As marketing manager/events, promotions and publicity, she developed partnerships that made the introduction to the Chicago market so successful. Penar also worked at the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum for five years. During her tenure there, she worked on the "Gelman Collection: Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and 20th Century Mexican Art" exhibition and supported an expansion that tripled the museum's size. Her hard work was recognized at the Chicago Emmy ceremony in 2004, where a public-service announcement that she coordinated with Univision Channel 66 won an award. She has also worked as a communications associate for the Chicago Millennium Celebration, Department of Cultural Affairs for the City of Chicago. Penar is fluent in Polish and Spanish. In 2009, Time Out Chicago recognized Penar as a "Super Connector" in its feature about Chicagoans who go above and beyond in networking.