PEAT and Teach Access identify large skills gap in the tech sector
(WASHINGTON)—One in five Americans has a disability, and in today’s digital age it’s more important than ever that people with disabilities are able to use technology, from websites to mobile phones to emerging smart devices. Twenty-eight years after the seminal passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, leading tech companies agree that building and buying products that everyone can use is an imperative, not an afterthought. But a new national study shows that a major barrier many tech companies encounter is that they can't find job candidates with the accessible tech skills the companies need—and 57% report that, as a result, achieving accessibility in their products and services takes increasingly more time and resources.
Based on discussions with 70 respondents from Teach Access member companies, partners of the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT), and others in the technology sector, the two organizations recently reported a significant accessible technology skills gap among employees and job candidates across a broad range of public and private organizations. Among the findings:
- 63% of the respondents reported that their current staff don’t have the skills necessary to meet their organization’s goals.
- 60% reported that it is “difficult or very difficult” to find job candidates with the accessibility skills that their organization needs.
- When asked how this gap impacts their organizations, respondents cited increased costs and decreased productivity.
“Today’s research underscores the fact that demand for accessibility skills is growing, and that it will only increase in the future,” says Larry Goldberg, Senior Director of Accessible Media at Oath and a founding Teach Access member. “We need to do everything we can to keep up.”
In response, Teach Access and PEAT are taking action together to close this gap. “These findings confirm that we still have a significant knowledge gap and that accessibility needs to be a fundamental part of education pathways for students of computer science and design,” says Jeff Wieland, Director of Accessibility at Facebook and another founding member of Teach Access. Earlier this year, PEAT partnered with Teach Access to support the development of resources for colleges and universities to infuse the teaching of fundamental accessible technology concepts and skills into their computer science curricula.
Their efforts this year have included the creation of a new grant award program for faculty members working to incorporate accessibility principles into their existing courses. Teach Access also recently hosted its inaugural Study Away program in Silicon Valley, bringing 25 students nationwide from partner universities to learn how and why accessibility is part of a promising career path.
In addition to their partnership with Teach Access, PEAT is working with the U.S. Department of Labor-funded IT apprenticeship intermediary Apprenti to help promising candidates outside of traditional higher education environments to reskill quickly with marketable skills through an inclusive apprenticeship programs that provide certification in accessible technology. “Apprenticeships are a crucial step to achieving full inclusion and closing the accessible technology skills gap,” says PEAT Project Director Josh Christianson. “There’s no better time than the 28th ADA anniversary to reaffirm the joint goals of PEAT and Teach Access to foster education and leadership in the accessible technology field.”
To learn more about the ways PEAT and Teach Access are addressing the accessible technology skills gap, and to read the full research results, visit PEATworks.org/SkillsGap.
About Teach Access
Teach Access is a unique collaboration among members of higher education, the technology industry and advocates for accessibility, with a shared goal of making technology broadly accessible by infusing accessibility into higher education, with enhanced training and collaborations with people with disabilities. Teach Access includes members from leading tech companies, academic institutions and disability advocacy organizations and other non-profit institutions. Teach Access operates as a fiscal sponsorship fund at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF). To learn more visit TeachAccess.org or email email@example.com.
The Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT) is a multi-faceted initiative promoting the employment, retention, and career advancement of people with disabilities through the development, adoption, and promotion of accessible technology. Funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), PEAT brings together employers, technology providers, thought leaders, and technology users to promote and improve the accessibility of technology for workers and job seekers. PEAT is managed by the Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) through a grant from ODEP. To learn more, visit PEATworks.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.