Over the last decade, workers with disabilities have played a larger role in the national workforce. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ labor force release, over 19% of the entire workforce consists of persons with disabilities. This reflects an almost 18% increase over a single year. The fact that this jump comes in time with the proliferation of remote work, is by no means a coincidence.
As the work around the world was forced to transition to a remote setting reliant on technology, this opened up a space for workers with disability—many of whom, were already working in similar settings anyway. But just how does technology today empower workers with disabilities who often have to work within a world that isn’t the most inclusive? Read on to find out three of the most popular and game-changing tech tools that are helping workers with disability today:
1. Tailored online job searches
Admittedly, most job searches have transitioned online since the Internet boom in the early 00s. However, many of these searches still require hours of research. This is not always easy for persons with disabilities, since they may be dealing with joint, vision, or cognitive concerns. Thankfully, an easy to use but highly effective way to overcome this is via tailored Google Alerts. As explained in LHH’s article on job searches with Google Alerts, using these alerts can help in two major ways. First, these alerts can cut through the massive amounts of online data for you. This eliminates the need to manually go through this. Second, Google Alerts will immediately present you with the most relevant information for you. This significantly cuts away any outdated, irrelevant, and unverified data.
For workers with disabilities searching for work, Google Alerts also helps you stay up-to-date on brand and market news that can help streamline your hunt. What’s more, since Google Alerts can be customized to give you alerts only at your chosen frequency, you can further control the data you have to sieve through.
2. Inclusive remote working platforms
As shared in Kari Turner’s series on internalized ableism, the virtual world has its pros and cons. As highlighted in her piece, video conferences are one such example because they can connect workers but also glaze over disabilities. While this speaks to a larger need to make office tech more sensitive, in general, it also underscores how this platform has potential. In WeForum’s assessment of digital technology, it is shared that tailor-made digital workspaces have become a tool to overcome unconscious biases. Because employees can only be judged by the value of their input rather than their appearance, it allows others to form a less biased assessment.
At the same time, these online platforms offer the distinct advantage of special features. For instance, the video conferencing application Zoom also offers automated closed captioning. This is a simple yet integral addition that can help those with hearing disabilities. Of course, this is not to say that these platforms are mediums with which to hide a disability. Rather, they are opportunities for workers with a disability to interact with others without feeling like they need to prove themselves.
3. Assistive office add-ons
Last but not least, tech has also been instrumental in aiding employees with disabilities in physical offices. By integrating universal office design, office setups that are typically designed for those without disabilities can be more comfortable to navigate. Some examples of these are named in the Administration For Community Living’s post on employment opportunities and include lights that automatically turn on/off, automatic doors, voice-controlled thermostats, and IoT pantry devices.
By making use of these additions in an office setting, workers with disabilities are not forced to conform to a design that may cause them discomfort or harm. Experts even state that in the long run, these can address feelings of isolation or disengagement. Overall, this can result in a more social workplace that fosters loyalty, productivity, and satisfaction.
Although 2021 surveys show that people with disability have twice the unemployment rate, the contribution of workers with a disability is undeniable. Studies show that employees with disabilities increase overall company innovation. Company revenue can even be boosted by almost 30% through disability inclusion. As such, now more than ever, we need to optimize technology to help break barriers and open doors.