October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). If you are a worker with a disability or an employer of someone who has a disability, you likely already know the unique considerations and often under-recognized benefits that stem from employing people with disabilities. According to Accenture, companies who hire people with disabilities earn 28% higher revenue, two times the net income, and 30% higher economic profit margins than their peers. Additionally, only 35.4% of adult job seekers with disabilities are in the labor force, compared to 77.2% of those without disabilities. Therefore, it is critical to build an awareness of how much value people with disabilities bring to the workplace and how employers can better support them.

Avoiding Bias

PEAT is deeply involved in this space. We advocate for the creation and use of future workplace technologies that are fully accessible. That includes artificial intelligence (AI) based technologies like chatbots and HR recruiting software.

AI fairness has been a hot topic, especially where HR recruiting and hiring technology is involved. While these technologies can help expedite certain processes, they also might lead to unfair hiring practices for people with disabilities. A common example is eye-tracking software which some employers use to evaluate how engaged a candidate is during their interview. The technology may reject blind or visually impaired candidates based on this engagement metric. These cases require extra attention from HR and hiring departments. They need to evaluate whether the technology they use is introducing bias into the hiring process. If it is, they should then take steps to fix the issue and make the process fair.

PEAT recently released our AI & Disability Inclusion Toolkit that shows employers exactly what needs to be considered when rolling out AI within their organization. Companies who do not think about AI bias risk creating a workforce that lacks diversity, among other negative repercussions. When employers address the potential bias in the technology they use and take a proactive approach, they often see benefits, including improved productivity and higher employee retention rates.

Creating New Realities

As this year’s NDEAM theme is America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion, this is the perfect time for organizations to commit to building more inclusive practices in all aspects of their work. Of particular concern is technology built without accessibility in mind due to the rapid acceleration of digital transformation during 2020. The use of mixed, augmented, and virtual realities, which are commonly known as extended reality (XR), in the workplace has grown substantially.

These technologies are used in a wide variety of ways. XR is often used to train employees, which can be especially helpful when simulating dangerous or difficult tasks. For example, a construction site manager can allow employees to explore the worksite using XR before they arrive. This gives employees the ability to become familiar with where they will be working and identify potential hazards beforehand.

Similarly, these technologies can assist employees with disabilities in many ways. For example, an expert mechanic with a disability can use XR to guide another employee through onsite repairs without needing to be at the physical location. XR can also compensate for environmental limitations, such as providing different input modalities like speech, text, or gesture controls. For employees who wear thick work gloves, for example, these options are essential to ensure a safe environment.

Inclusion Powers Everything

As advanced technologies become widespread in companies across America, employers must understand the impact inaccessible technology has. Creating an inclusive workplace not only helps businesses to attract and retain top talent, it can boost their bottom line. Thanks to NDEAM and other efforts across the United States to promote accessibility in daily life, workplaces are quickly adopting inclusive practices and creators are building more accessible technologies.

Spark Inclusion In Your Organization