Ep 246: Out of the Box Accessibility Solutions for Employers

Two of the biggest myths when it comes to working with disabilities is the belief that technology and employee accessibility is expensive. The second is the belief that employees with disabilities hurt not help drive business revenue. These myths are conversations we need to hit and work to debunk which is why I’m excited to talk to my podcast guest today. 

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 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act this year, 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. Today, I’m joined by Mike Hess.

 

Ep 246: Accessibility Solutions for Employers with Mike Hess (@MikeHess)

 

Mike Hess is the Founder and Executive Director of the Blind Institute of Technology. After 20 years as a tech veteran managing 7-figure projects for Fortune 500 companies, one thing troubled Mike: he was always the token blind guy. Knowing that the invaluable skills he developed because of his blindness were the keys to his success, he couldn’t understand why unemployment amongst the BVI community was so high. He embarked on a journey to change corporate America’s stigmas and misperceptions of BVI professionals, developing the Blind Institute of Technology. Using the same skills that made him a success in IT, Mike has built partnerships and placed BVI professionals in Fortune 500 companies nationwide. 

Mike has been featured in the Denver Post and the Denver Business Journal and has been honored with the 2017 Martin Luther King, Jr. Business Award, and the 2019 GlobalMindED Inclusive Leader Award. BIT’s focus on accessible technology garnered invitations to present at Google Cloud Next 2019 and Salesforce’s Dreamforce 2019 conference. Mike is a co-host for Choose Inclusion, a podcast addressing the benefits of diversity and inclusion. In 2019, Mike’s vision of full access for BVI led him to develop EdgGuide, a navigation system that allows independent navigation in previously inaccessible public spaces.

 

Creating Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities

 

Mike launched his own non-profit and left his corporate sales job with the goal of helping create more employment opportunities for people with disabilities. His organization, Blind Institute of Technology provides staffing and placement services for organizations to hire and employment people with disabilities. Mike shares the why behind why this is so important to him. His work is helping employer find great employees to fill a variety of positions in organizations driving productivity, revenue and lowering employee retention rates. One of the reasons I wanted to talk with Mike is because of his work with so many global organizations. He offers great insights for HR and workplaces leaders on how to establish and grow diversity and inclusion programs focused on not benefits including return on investment.

Mike recommends a great resource report which is newly published from Accenture that points to some great research and case studies tying employment programs for people with disabilities directly to how they impact an organization’s bottom line. See the resource section for the link below.

 

Assessing Your Accessible Technology

 

Another area I tapped Mike for insights on involves accessible technology. He believes that more remote work options allow for more employment accessibility especially for people with disabilities. Many employers are concerned about making an employee’s home office accessible and Mike offers some great insights. He says many technologies offer accessible options and are doing so at a growing rate. He recently spoke at Google’s Cloud Next Conference where he talked about how employers can use Google’s technology and take advantage of different features and services focused on accessibility. He and his team use tech including Google and Salesforce to make their workplace tech and systems completely accessible. Technology like this is an absolute game changer for everyone. Another amazing benefit is that it is completely out of the box and fully accessible without any additional investment.  Many companies believe that accessible technology has to be expensive, but Mike says it doesn’t have to be.

 

I truly believe that technology is the greatest mitigator for all of humanity, from the Wright brothers to the pencil...And in the digital age, it's absolutely essential for our quality of life, let alone our ability to earn our own. - @mikehess… Click To Tweet

 

Conclusion

 

The Accenture report “Getting to Equal: The Disability Inclusion Advantage,” found that companies that offered inclusive working environments for employees with disabilities achieved an average of 28% higher revenue, 30% higher economic profit margins, and 2x net income of industry peers. I appreciate Mike sharing his time and expertise today. He is on a mission to change not just an industry but the business and workplace world. 

Connect with Mike Hess

 

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES 

 

Mike Hess’ LinkedIn page

Finding Your Next Great Hire with Blind Institute of Technology

2020 Disability Equality Index Report by Accenture

2020 D-30 Disability Impact List honoring Mike Hess

Salesforce User Video

Salesforce Admin Video

EdgGuide: Empowering BVI Through Independent Navigation Technology

Podcast Episode Transcript

 

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

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