Ep 232 – The Role of Universal Design in Workplace Inclusion & Accessibility

According to the Mobility Resource, 18 million people have limited mobility caused by everything from accidents to disease to the aging process. Only 12% of people with spinal cord injuries or SCI are employed one-year post-injury and only 33% in post-injury year 30.

In this podcast interview, I wanted to shine a spotlight on mobility disabilities including spinal cord injuries also known as SCI. I’m excited for you to hear from today’s guest. She shares her personal experience, how she’s helping others, and ways that employers can make their workplace more accessible using technology for all employees including those with mobility disabilities. 

This episode of the Workology Podcast is part of our Future of Work series powered by PEAT, the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology. In honor of the upcoming 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act this July, we’re investigating what the next 30 years will look like for people with disabilities at work, and the potential of emerging technologies to make workplaces more inclusive and accessible. 

Episode 232: The Role of Universal Design in Workplace Inclusion & Accessibility

Today, I’m joined by Brook McCall. Brook is the Director, Tech Access Initiative at United Spinal Association. Brook leads the tech access initiative at United Spinal, focused on emerging tech, and where that ties into employment success for job seekers living with mobility disabilities. Through the initiative she is leading for United Spinal, she is working hard to connect with the tech industry. Brook is working with industry partners to advance accessible technology and is supporting tech insiders in their communities as they engage with users to understand their end-user experiences. Current partners include Teledoc, Microsoft, Verizon, and Google.

Job Descriptions and the Hiring Process Needs to Be More Inclusive

In talking with Brook in her work with United Spinal Association and as someone who has personally suffered a spinal cord injury, she shares her own personal experience on the challenges with hiring and interviewing as someone who has a visible disability. She says that HR and recruiters should start with the job description to make it more inclusive and accessible as well as anticipating the types of different types of candidates who may flow through the application process. She says that those who interview should be prepared to handle any type of candidate request quickly when it comes to accommodation. Brook suggests also the hiring manager and HR ask the candidate directly for the type of accommodation they might need.

Why Remote Work Makes Employment More Accessible

One of the challenges Brook says for people who have mobility disabilities is transportation to and from work. While advancements in self-driving and autonomous cars are a welcomed technology change, the move to a virtual and remote workplace a welcome change. Because transportation can be a challenge, working from home makes it easier for employees with mobility disabilities to have scheduling flexibility and access. Working from home allows the employee to have access to an environment that they feel comfortable in and is fully accessible. You can listen more to this interview to hear Brook’s thought on remote accessibility.


I feel so honored to have Brook on this podcast interview, and I love the work that she and the United Spinal Cord Association are doing. Their pathways to employment is a fantastic resource for employers. We’re linking to it in the transcript of this podcast. The United Spinal Cord Association works closely with their members as well as with the state’s vocational rehabilitation services to take advantage of any available work incentive programs, including on-the-job training, salary incentive programs, and others.

I mentioned the unemployment numbers for people with SCI at the beginning of the podcast and I think it bears repeating. Only 12% of people with spinal cord injuries or SCI are employed one-year post-injury and only 33% in post-injury year 30. As employers, we have a real opportunity to make our workplaces more welcome and inclusive for every single person who works at our company as well as is interested in employment with us. This starts with education, training, and conversations with our leaders to help make this change happen. 

The future of work series in partnership with PEAT is one of my favorites. Thank you to PEAT as well as our podcast sponsor Workology.

Connect with Brook McCall on LinkedIn




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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.


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