How has assistive technology changed disability employment? One word comes to mind: dramatically! Assistive technology has forever changed the employment possibilities for people with disabilities. Many new gadgets and applications make employment possible for people with disabilities, when it wasn’t conceivable before. Assistive technology has been a concept for many years, but is dramatically increasing its footprint recently due to cell phones and tablets that allow you to carry technology with you 24 X 7.
Take a moment to think about people with disabilities you may know or have interacted with. What’s something that comes to mind, perhaps his or her type of transportation? Consider wheelchairs and the difference they’ve made for people with physical disabilities. Individuals who could not find a way to the workplace are now equipped with wheels and have access to public and private transportation. It’s odd to think of a time before wheelchairs, but there was a time when this assistive technology didn’t exist!
There are many tools and applications that make life easier for people with disabilities. Let’s highlight those assistive technologies that can increase disability employment. Portable devices such as cell phones, laptops and tablets have greatly increased accessibility for people with disabilities in the workplace. With those devices, people with disabilities can utilize many different applications.
For the hearing impaired, applications such as Dragon Dictation and ASL Dictionary, help translate English into American Sign Language. A conversation between an employee and people with disabilities is now possible, without the need for an interpreter. For the vision impaired, the gadget itself is accessible because of voice adaption technology. There is no need to “look” at the screen when the computer can read it to you! People with disabilities can also use applications such as Voice Brief, to “hear” what’s going on in the news and on their social media feeds.
What about people with disabilities that face speech issues? Many people use assistive technology to “talk” with applications such as TapToTalk where the user sees a picture and can touch it to make the tablet speak the word out loud. A bonus? This application is completely free!
The Internet has made things accessible to people of all walks of life, but keep in mind the Internet may have barriers for people with disabilities as well. If your company plans on building a website, encourage them to consider disability-friendly features such as keyboard accessibility, transcripts for podcasts, alternative text for images and more. These ideas not only assist people with disabilities, they can help people with temporary impairments or other special needs.
As an HR professional, are you looking for an easy and efficient way to stay up-to-date with disability legislation? There’s an app for that! You can check out The Americans with Disabilities Act app to keep you up to date on the latest disability news.
The assistive technology ideas highlighted in this article are just the tip of the iceberg! There are many ways technology has changed disability employment and life in general for people with disabilities. These advancements have changed lives and made things possible that were never possible before. Forward thinking made dreams a reality for people with disabilities and will continue to do so as our society joins the disability employment conversation.