Accessibility Is Good Business Practice – Really!

Numerous studies and reports reveal that one in five people in the United States has a disability. Further, the current as well as the entering US workforce in the next few years includes individuals with diverse knowledge, skills, learning styles, and cognitive abilities. For example, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that in 2018, 19.4 percent of undergraduate (or ~380K) students reported having a disability to include visual, aural, kinesthetic, or psychological impairments.

At present, various laws, both at the federal and state level, prohibit discrimination, in a wide variety of settings to include employment, education, housing, and public accommodations, based on disabilities. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act are examples of laws that specifically protect equal treatment, accommodation access, and overall equity in the US.

As expected, employers of all sizes and types have take great steps and measures to ensure compliance with applicable disability laws and regulations. However, many organizations have yet to meet the challenges of developing and maintaining a workplace culture that adequately integrates, supports, and prepares all of their employees to succeed and thrive. Given the  social media age, where everyone can share posts and their reactions to almost  everything that matters to them,  agile and responsive organizations need to implement forward-learning measures to ensure that their clients and customers can continue to have strong feelings of connectedness with the products and services that they purchase and the brands that they value.  

Disabled man working on laptop
The “Enabled” Worker

Implication for Practice:  

Accessibility in public spaces is the law. As a result, many organizations have rolled-out efforts, activities, and policies to address the physical, cognitive, behavioral, and social needs of employees, customers, and partners. For example, higher education institutions have set-up an Office of Accessibility to provide tailored support services to learners with disability (LWD) in a traditional campus setting.  Yet, more needs to be done. Below are some concrete steps that forward-thinking organizations can take immediately to attract and retain top and diverse talents and thus be more in sync with their customers’ needs and interests.

  1. Develop Awareness Campaign. Lack of understanding of the kinds and types of social, cultural, and psychological barriers faced by people with disability is a major challenge to ensuring full integration and participation of everyone at work, school, or other public spaces. As a result, a carefully crafted awareness campaign is critically needed to foster greater sensitivity and attentiveness to the issues and challenges faced on a daily basis by people with disabilities. These include unsafe or inaccessible physical environments, long and overly complex written documents, and lack of accessibility and poor usability of information, computer systems and devices. An awareness campaign can help to build broad-based support for interventions and other measures that are needed to bring greater equity, inclusion, diversity, and belonging at all levels of the institution.
  2. Focus on Inclusive Training Approaches.  As many companies are now delivering their training and development programs online, special focus needs to be placed on ensuring inclusion, equity, and diversity in all contents to be used as part of those efforts. For example, training and related activities must be offered in a variety of formats and media to be able to accommodate differing abilities and learning styles. This is because learning activities and endeavors that do not take inclusivity and accessibility into account can hinder knowledge acquisition and skills development, thereby reduce their likelihood of being put into practice on the job.
  3. Leverage Multimodality Teaching and Learning Activities. Multimodality is a pedagogical approach that places focus on orienting educational activities to accommodate a combination of senses (e.g., visual, auditory, reading and writing, and kinesthetic or (VARK)) to strengthen interactivity, engagement, and collaboration in learning. By combining multiple presentation schemes, Multimodality allows for the creation of educational contents and experiences that will support diverse abilities (cognitive, physical, and behavioral) as well as a variety of VARK-centered learning styles. With a Multimodality-oriented pedagogical approach, designers, instructors, and facilitators can use a wide variety of modern learning and training methods to ensure that all learners including individuals with disabilities can participate fully in the education and training experience. These include adaptive learning with scaffolding, game-based instruction, simulation, immersive learning environments, and mixed assessment practices.

By placing focus on Accessibility, activities and experiences offered by any organization such as a private business, an academic institution, a government entity, or community association will tend to be made inclusive, equitable, and usable for all stakeholders.

We, at Brightspokes Learning, know that technology is not always the answer in human development or process improvement endeavors. So, we always take a holistic view of ALL of our learning or training activities. Our first task is to ensure that our interventions will have a positive ROI. We also strive to help our partners gain the most out of their investments in all relevant areas. We do this through a laser focus attention on delivering results that will improve the bottom line and support our partners’ mission, culture, and plans for the future.

Contact us to find out how we can help you “Soar Higher” now and in the future!

Author: Christa Guilbaud, Ed.D :: Email Me

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