Jill Houghton is the President and CEO of USBLN (US Business Leadership Network) and oversees the strategic direction of the organization as well as provides guidance on international disability inclusion best practices to more than 130 USBLN corporate partners. Ms. Houghton has more than 25 years of diverse leadership experience at the federal, state and local levels working with business to advance the inclusion of persons with disabilities.
Driving Innovation through Disability Inclusion
In the United States, there are over 56 million people with disabilities; that’s one in five Americans. As the largest minority, it is no surprise that they are propelling technology to become more accessible, which in turn is driving innovative breakthroughs from both companies and the people with disabilities who work at them.
Throughout history, people with disabilities have driven innovative thinking, leading to a wide-range of useful inventions. For example, though text messaging was originally meant as a communication tool for deaf people, we can all agree that it has since changed the way the entire world connects.
This year’s US Business Leadership Network’s 20th Annual National Conference & Biz2Biz Expo, entitled, “Disability: A Catalyst for Innovation,” will celebrate how people and corporations are driving innovation through disability inclusion. The technology-related breakout sessions focus on:
- Creating accessible content – Companies will share best practices and strategies to promote the creation of accessible emails, documents, media, PowerPoints, and more.
- How regulations are driving digital accessibility – Explore strategies for leveraging regulations to launch innovation within corporations.
- Creating a culture of accessibility – Learn how accessibility can advance careers for employees with disabilities, and how companies can create credibility within the disability community.
The sessions will also highlight how technology firms increasingly use human-centered design to leverage the experiences of people with disabilities to engineer new ways to connect and engage.
One of the technology-centered plenary sessions this year will be hosted by Microsoft, a presenting partner. Microsoft is a leader in its commitment to accessibility and inclusion. The company’s innovations over the years have had a major impact on the lives of people with disabilities. In addition, Microsoft is currently creating new technology to help people with Parkinson’s. Project Emma, a prototype watch, temporarily short-circuits the hand tremors common with Parkinson’s, allowing those wearing it the ability to write again.
Microsoft continues to be an avid supporter of accessibility, inclusion, and the USBLN as a whole. Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Microsoft’s Chief Accessibility Officer, recently became the new Chair of our Board of Directors. As Fast Company notes, Jenny is a champion of change, and she has helped drive innovation within Microsoft. Jenny will serve as a panelist in the Technology Marketplace plenary session at the leadership conference.
“Accessibility needs to go mainstream now.” That short sentence launched a worldwide movement now known as the Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). USBLN supports #GAAD to make technology accessible and usable by people with disabilities at work and at home. We encourage you to join us in Orlando at the 2017 USBLN 20th Annual National Conference & Biz2Biz Expo so you may experience some of these breakthrough innovations firsthand and network with other like-minded professionals.