Focusing on Individuals’ Unique Abilities in the Workforce

Is the glass half full or half empty? Do you have a unique ability or a disability?

Words are tricky. Describing the same thing in two different ways is like magic because the undertones can change between negative and positive. Is your glass half full? Is your blind friend at work uniquely abled?  

Take low vision for instance, a physical condition that limits a person’s sense of sight. At first glance, that may have negative connotations. The mind immediately jumps to the things that a person with low vision cannot do, the places where they are limited.

Let’s look at the common dictionary definition of disability: dis·a·bil·i·ty, noun, a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities.

Sounds pretty bleak. However, let’s look at the word with a different slant. A person with low vision who is unable to drive a car may find taking the bus absolutely liberating. On the bus, the person can relax, work, or sleep. The person with low vision can stare out the window for minutes or hours at a time, totally enjoying the scenery. The disability brought that personal enjoyment.

All this is my way of emphasizing that words are complicated. The fact that we are having this discussion is a product of a societal shift. Around the world, people are becoming acutely aware of the huge contributions people with unique abilities make every day in the workforce.

In the 25 years that I have worked with people who are blind and visually impaired, I found that many times these individuals were better suited to do specific jobs because of their unique ability to focus on the task at hand and not get distracted by their visual surroundings.  I have worked with people who were effectively using screen readers working in customer service in large hotels. I have trained individuals using screen magnification and screen reading software to work in call centers where they had to handle a large volume of calls, and they could keep up, and, in some cases, surpass their fully-sighted coworkers. Unique abilities!

One encouraging indicator stems from an article in USA Today, More businesses are opening up to people with disabilities, which notes, “The 2017 Disability Equality Index (DEI), a survey conducted by the U.S. Business Leadership Network (USBLN) and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), reports that U.S. businesses are becoming increasingly accessible for people with disabilities.”  This underscores the fact that U.S businesses are becoming more accessible for individuals with unique abilities.

As noted above, people with disabilities have various unique abilities. One way for those unique abilities to be fully expressed is through technology.  In order to most effectively use their assistive technology, individuals need to have it integrated into the work environment. One of the best ways to ensure that an organization is meeting those needs for individuals is by following the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) model with a focus on accessibility.

Years ago, I heard a saying that stuck with me.  “It is not how far you have traveled; it is what you brought back.”

The CMMI model, when focused on accessibility, allows organizations to travel new pathways and bring back focus on individuals and full accessibility which is very important.

Businesses are becoming more effective in working with people with disabilities by improving their website accessibility in the work environment. This is a great start, but how do you get started with making your websites more accessible and how do you best move forward with accessibility in mind for your entire organization?

Many organizations today are struggling with knowing the best way to support accessibility and how to maintain accessibility compliance over time. Complying with the WCAG 2.0 and the WCAG 2.1 standards is a corporate-wide effort that encompasses much more than just technical accessibility.  Real success comes from ensuring that accessibility is thought of and implemented throughout the entire organization and into the software development lifecycle.

For maximum efficiency and impact, accessibility should be integrated directly into the various areas that impact the development and use of products, including, for example, the following:

  • Corporate policies
  • Procurement policies
  • Exception policies and procedures
  • Support center call center scripts
  • FAQ documents
  • Social media guidelines
  • Design guidelines such as brand usage and web style guides
  • Design pattern libraries
  • Technology guidelines for strategy, browser, and assistive technology support
  • Code libraries
  • Product launch checklists

Establishing metrics and tracking progress is important and should be integrated into business controls.  The goal of an accessibility program is to produce products that are accessible and usable for people with disabilities, but making the statement that the products will be 100% compliant in a certain timeframe is unrealistic. 

The Accessibility Maturity Model focuses on five main accessibility areas: 

  1. Management and Governance
  2. Process and Procedures
  3. People and Culture
  4. Measurement and Reports
  5. Communications

Overall, the process helps an organization to successfully integrate accessibility in their organization by having consistency, efficiency, and a predictable final process.

At TPGi, we are here to help your organization make the most of every individual’s unique abilities by providing you the tools you need to create the most accessible websites and software products possible.  We will also assist your organization with the implementation of the Accessibility Maturity Model into your everyday policies and procedures.

For additional information on the creating and integrating an accessibility maturity model into your program, talk with TPGi about creating an accessibility strategy.

Categories: World of Accessibility