Why accessibility to technology is essential for disability inclusion in the workplace
Technology, like video conferencing tools and online messaging systems, has grown in prominence in workplaces across the country, especially during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as many businesses have shifted to remote and hybrid models. In fact, more than half of American workers rely on technology to complete their work. For workers with disabilities, accessibility tools like screen readers and captions for video meetings are extremely important and necessary for the workplace. inclusion.
2021 has been an important year for DE&I efforts in companies nationwide, as 77% of workers with disabilities say their employer has done a better job of supporting them since the pandemic began. But there is still room for improvement, and the accessibility of technology is a great place to start.
For Josh Basile, quadriplegic lawyer and community relations manager, the developments in the field of technology have been “life changing”.
“I was injured in 2004. We didn’t have the technology and scalable solutions that we have today to make the internet more accessible. And looking at how our technology has progressed and evolved, I see more and more independence for myself,” he tells CNBC Make It. “Technology, like AI-powered apps on websites, gives me another way to access the world around me and be included.”
According to The Employer Assistance and Research Network, a resource center for the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace, accessibility to technology means “tools that can be used successfully by people with a wide range of abilities and of disabilities”. This allows everyone in the workplace to interact with different systems and programs in the way that best suits their needs and abilities.
Basile, community relations manager at AccessiBe, a web accessibility center, says making technology accessible in the workplace has allowed it to be more “efficient and polished”.
“It’s amazing what you can do with the right technology or the right layouts,” he says. “It’s created a level playing field in many ways. It allows you to contribute at your highest level. And, over the years, it’s helped me continue to improve my performance and my contribution at work. ” For example, Basile uses a QuadStick, a mouth-operated controller, to surf the web and edit Word documents with his voice.
“There are tools like AI-powered solutions that can create customizable experiences for different disabilities,” he says. “So it’s not just for people who are paralyzed or blind. It’s also for people who have cognitive impairments like ADHD and epilepsy.”
EARN lists several areas where companies may need to improve their technology accessibility efforts, including email and other electronic correspondence; “stand-alone” products such as calculators, printers and photocopiers; and software applications and operating systems.
Promoting inclusion through accessibility has proven to have several benefits for businesses. Not only does this increase productivity and boost the company’s image, but it also helps in employee retention and recruitment. A recent Adobe study found that, among millennials with and without disabilities, nearly 3 in 4 say accessibility and inclusiveness are key factors when evaluating a job opportunity.
Basil sees it as a “domino effect”.
“Employment for people with disabilities is becoming more accessible and less complicated. And you have more people, because they’re entering the workforce with a disability, have success stories, and then all of a sudden other people are saying “If Josh can do that, I can do that too.”
77% of workers with disabilities say their employer has done a better job of supporting them since the pandemic began
43% of employees say they have few opportunities for mobility at work
35% of women who left or lost their jobs during the pandemic are still unemployed