Many organizations adopt XR technologies to assist with training and daily operations. Popular applications include:
- Using virtual tools to train employees on dangerous or difficult tasks.
- Using remote assistance tools to allow experts to help with complex tasks.
- Using XR platforms to overlay instructions onto physical world objects.
- Using XR tools to increase workplace safety and efficiency.
Tools powered by XR can help people with disabilities experience environments, learn skills, and participate in activities in new ways. They can also provide options for people to use when physical environments create barriers.
The Rapid Adoption of XR
Some of the fastest-growing jobs in the U.S. are in industries that are rapidly adopting XR technologies. Those industries include manufacturing, healthcare, job training, retail, and public safety.
Industry leaders indicated that they use XR technologies to:
- Address warehousing and inventory needs.
- Assist with product engineering and design.
- Conduct immersive job training and upskilling.
- Monitor healthcare patients virtually.
Accessible Technology, Inclusion, and Business Value
People with disabilities can benefit greatly from XR tools. This makes it more important than ever for these tools to be accessible.
The rapid adoption of XR creates a unique opportunity for workplaces. They can now combine the use of immersive technologies with strong commitments to digital accessibility and workforce diversity. According to the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), employers whose Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) policies include hiring people with disabilities often have a competitive edge.
Indeed, hiring people with disabilities and effectively supporting employees who develop disabilities contribute to a diverse workplace and improve an organization’s bottom line. Organizations that hire individuals with disabilities earn 28 percent higher revenues, two times the net income, and 30 percent higher economic profit margins than their peers, according to a 2018 study by Accenture.
Closing the Skills Gap by Hiring People with Disabilities
As hiring began to tick up in early 2021, some employers expressed their frustration at the lack of qualified applicants in their search to fill jobs. Even before the pandemic in early 2020, 74 percent of hiring managers surveyed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation said they believe there is a skills gap in the U.S.
Employers indicated they find it hard to identify candidates with the necessary skills to fill job openings. These skill-based positions could be filled by experienced and knowledgeable people with disabilities. In fact, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has proposed that many organizations begin to look at so-called “opportunity populations” as a promising way to find talent. The phrase “opportunity populations” refers to people who face disproportionate barriers to employment, including people with disabilities.
However, no DEI program will be successful without accessible technology. Employers who want to enhance training and operations with immersive technologies should ensure the products they use are accessible. These technologies must be optimized for all employees, with and without disabilities. That means investing in XR technologies that:
- are flexible,
- support different input modalities, and
- allow users to interact in different ways.
For example, a user should be able to change the background color or add voice augmentation when using a tool.
Terms to Know
Virtual Reality (VR)
Replaces a user’s real surroundings with a simulated environment, such as a construction site, a subway system, a coastal floodplain, or an energy grid
Augmented Reality (AR)
Layers computer-generated imagery onto a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view
Mixed Reality (MR)
Blends augmented and virtual reality, allowing users to experience simulated content within their physical worlds and to manipulate and interact with virtual elements in real time