Workplaces for all – how disability-inclusive practices can benefit your company and your employees
Digital inclusion means making sure that everyone can access and use technology. As our society moves increasingly online, it becomes more and more important to make sure that tech works for everyone.
One fifth of the talent pool
One in every five working-age people in the UK is disabled. Disability is incredibly common in our society, but often hidden.
At the moment, tech is often designed in ways that exclude disabled people. This can happen for lots of reasons. Regulations do not require accessibility as standard, and developers may not know what sorts of considerations they should make.
Accessibility considerations come in all shapes and sizes. For example, the company Tobii has made it possible to use an iPad with your eyes, while TextHelp supports users to digest information in formats that work for them (e.g. converting a paper document to an audio file).
The most reliable way to make sure that tech is designed inclusively is for that tech to be designed by a diverse workforce that includes disabled people.
There have been great efforts to get more women and people of colour working in the tech sector. While this work is by no means finished, there is an urgent need for parallel – and intersecting – efforts to get more disabled people working in tech. Taking an intersectional approach to diversity in tech will strengthen efforts to improve representation among all groups.
How to create an inclusive environment
There are a few things that employers can do to make sure their workplace is inclusive.
Employers can ensure that their recruitment processes and internal systems are digitally accessible. This can be stipulated when procuring these systems. At the moment, inaccessible tech is making it harder for disabled people to get into careers in tech – and in other sectors – in the first place, compounding the original issues.
Employers can also make sure they are informed and ready to employ disabled people by joining the government’s Disability Confident scheme. This gives access to free resources, including information about funding for assistive and accessible technology and other disability support through the government’s Access to Work scheme.
One of the most important but least tangible things employers can do is to create an inclusive workplace culture.
Some staff may not share their disability with their employer, so it is important for companies to embrace inclusive practices as standard. Examples of inclusive digital practices include highlighting free accessibility features to all staff and offering remote working to everyone.
Leaving no-one behind
The benefits of inclusion are widespread.
Creating an accessible workplace will improve the experience for all employees. The option of remote working benefits parents or carers who cannot commit to coming into the office five days a week. Accessibility features like closed captioning for meetings can remove barriers for staff working in a noisy environment, or whose first language may be different than the speaker’s.
Companies benefit by hiring from larger and more diverse talent pools. Research shows that more diverse boards make better decisions. There is a strong commercial argument for designing inclusive products. Global rates of disability are increasing and as our population ages, more of us are likely to acquire an impairment. This means more disabled customers and more disabled people of working age.
Inclusive tech will also make it more possible for disabled people to get into work – in the tech sector and many others. More than that, as our society moves increasingly online – with public services, socialising, healthcare and education going digital – inclusive tech means that no-one is left behind.