Benefits of Adopting Inclusive Technology in the Workplace

The Power of Inclusive Technology in the Workplace

According to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 27% of adults in the United States have some type of disability. So, a significant number of people require some degree of accommodation at work.

Elements of inclusive tech: Accessibility improvements, remote tools, dictation software, screen readers.

Providing disabled employees with inclusive technology helps them to settle more comfortably into the workplace. Also known as adaptive technology, inclusive tech refers to a wide range of devices and software designed to make it easier for people with disabilities to carry out various tasks. 

According to the University of Washington, “Assistive technology can include mobility devices such as walkers and wheelchairs, as well as hardware, software, and peripherals that assist people with disabilities in accessing computers or other information technologies.” 

Inclusive technology is far-ranging and cuts across nearly all aspects of human life. It includes simple innovations such as speech-to-text, predictive text, and spell checkers and more complex solutions like mobile and ceiling hoists.

While most of these inventions were initially developed for people with disabilities, many have evolved over the years. Some features, like speech-to-text, are now standard in nearly all personal computers and mobile devices. This is because, most times, inclusive tech delivers value to all users.

How Does Inclusive Technology Benefit Businesses?

In 2023, the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) discovered that most of the workspace accommodations needed to help people with disabilities perform optimally cost little to make. According to JAN’s research, many companies typically have to spend around $300 to make the necessary tweaks that would transform their offices into inclusive spaces

Also, some employers who took the JAN surveys disclosed that their organizations enjoyed a range of benefits resulting from restructuring their workforce to accommodate people with disabilities. These inclusive companies experienced increased productivity and commitment from their staff, reduced insurance, and lower training costs.

Here are a few ways in which inclusive technology helps bring value to businesses.

Inclusive work environments foster collaboration and encourage employees to do their best when completing assigned tasks. Something as simple as anti-slip mats at entrances or providing accessible parking spaces reinforces their importance to the organization. 

Aside from the direct, quantifiable improvements in income and productivity, adopting inclusive technology also helps improve a brand’s overall public image. Consumers purchase goods from businesses that share their personal beliefs and convictions. 

Employers can maximize their employees’ full potential despite their disabilities by making the tools they need available. The more employees have the necessary tools to execute their duties easily and effectively, the more productive a business will be, which translates to more value for its owners. 

Inclusive Technology Examples

According to the World Health Organization, more than 2.5 billion people need one or more assistive products to enjoy some form of normalcy in their lives. From hearing aids to wheelchairs, communication aids, spectacles, prostheses, pill organizers, and more, the types and kinds of inclusive technology are vast and continually increasing. 

We can divide inclusive workplace technology into four broad categories.

Physical Accessibility Improvements

Physical accessibility improvements are those features and equipment that make it easier for people with disabilities to move around easily. Though it’s normal to think of wheelchairs and ramps, the scope of physical accessibility improvements is so far-reaching that it can be subdivided into two parts: outside and inside the workplace.

Accessibility outside the workplace comprises all adjustments to the exterior parts of the workplace that make it easy for people with disabilities to enter the office. They include: 

  • Parking spaces with horizontal and vertical signage close to the building’s entrance
  • Large doors at the entrance and exit points to allow for easy mobility, such as for emergencies
  • Access ramps situated at entrances and exit points

Accessibility within the workplace comprises all accessibility adjustments made to create a safe and comfortable environment for people with disabilities to work optimally. They include anti-slip mats placed at entrances, aisles large enough to accommodate wheelchairs, inclusive bathrooms, as well as elevators, escalators, and access ramps.

Remote Working Tools

According to a report by GitLab, remote work has introduced several benefits to the modern workplace, most of which have helped destroy employment barriers for people with disabilities. As more businesses embrace the flexibility and ease of the hybrid office, people with disabilities are finally getting the chance to be evaluated purely based on their skills and competence.

File sharing, instant messaging, and video conferencing tools such as Zoom, Slack, Dropbox, and Trello are a few examples of the remote working tools currently redefining the modern workplace. 

With the recent strides in the artificial intelligence space and the continued development of the metaverse, one can expect the introduction of more useful assistive technology that will make working from home easier and more productive.

Screen Readers

Screen readers are a unique form of assistive tech that transforms text and image content into speech or braille for people with visual impairments. These software programs serve as an interface between the computer’s operating system, its applications, and the user. 

Available in mobile and desktop formats, screen readers offer great benefits to blind people, allowing them to easily explore websites and execute commands they normally would be unable to. Some programs include CakeTalking, BRLTTY, CDesk Compass, Dolphin Guide, and iMax for Mac. 

Dictation Software

The fourth category of assistive tech is dictation software, which allows people to write by talking. This software was developed for those struggling with dyslexia, motor skill challenges, and other similar problems. It instantly transcribes speech to text in real-time.

From Google Docs’ Voice Typing function to Apple’s Dictation, Dragon NaturallySpeaking, and Braina Dictation Software, people with disabilities have various tools to choose from to fit their unique needs and preferences.

The Benefits of Including Adaptive Technology in the Workplace

Assistive and adaptive technology play an important role in helping employers maximize the full potential of their employees with disabilities. For most people, it can be highly stressful and disorienting to transition directly from college to work life. People with disabilities may have a harder time adapting to new environments and require some help. 

By restructuring their organizational workflow to accommodate the needs of employees with disabilities, employers create an inclusive workplace, transforming their care and concern into action. Inclusive tech helps give employees with disabilities personalized access to learning and development opportunities, ensuring that they compete favorably with the rest of their colleagues.

Workplace equity technology shifts the focus from equality to equity, fostering a collaborative, motivating environment. Providing the needed resources for people with disabilities strengthens different teams and departments, ensuring that everyone is positioned to make an impact.

Why eLearning Is More Inclusive Than In-Person Training

Organizations must regularly train and retrain their employees to handle new and emerging realities to stay ahead in business. Though there are many other concerns, speed is one of the most important factors employers consider when trying to improve the capabilities of their staff. 

Organizations want intuitive workers who can pick up new skills quickly enough to adapt to the ever-changing marketplace. While group learning practices might appear to be the fastest way to achieve that, an adaptive approach helps employees learn in a shorter amount of time.

Adaptive learning refers to any teaching methodology focused on personalizing lessons, readings, and practice activities after learners’ preferences and current skill sets. 

Today’s business world no longer appreciates one-size-fits-all learning programs, as they fail to properly address the needs of employees who require tailored experiences. The Global Adaptive Learning Market was expected to reach $2,492,080 in 2022 and $7,278,202 by 2027, achieving a projected growth rate of 23.85%. 

Adaptive learning processes like eLearning allow workers to learn at their own pace through micro-learning and other personalized learning paths. In addition to being an unburdened means of distributing knowledge, eLearning mediums allow instructors to pinpoint each worker’s skill gaps and deliver targeted and specialized help. 

Thanks to the recent advancements in AI and machine learning technologies that modify content in real-time using the learner’s feedback, employees can now enjoy a personalized learning experience that provides a clear growth path. The entire practice increases employee engagement, encouraging continuous learning and incentivizing staff to improve.

It’s important that business leaders understand that disabled employees have value and potential. Discriminating against people with disabilities isn’t just a business management error; it’s unethical and, in many cases, illegal. 

Inclusive technology allows forward-thinking companies to allow disabled employees to do their best work, with the added benefit of strategically placing themselves ahead of their competitors on the journey to success.

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