Technology can help optimize and accelerate productivity on the job for all workers including employees with disabilities.
As long as the right technology is accessible, it can help employees with disabilities obtain, retain, and advance in employment.
However, to optimize their full potential, employees with disabilities should have a basic understanding of what accessible workplace technology is as well as be able use this knowledge to assess and meet their own needs.
Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology (PEAT) provides several steps to guide employees with disabilities in determining their technology needs in the workplace.
First, let’s begin by understanding the difference between Accessible technology and Assistive technology.
The Difference Between Accessible Technology and Assistive Technology
Assistive technology consists of equipment or devices specifically used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capacities of employees with disabilities.
Alternative input devices which enable control of computers through means other than a standard keyboard or mouse.
Screen readers which allow people who are blind to hear what’s on their computer by converting the screen display to digitized speech.
On the other hand, Accessible technology can be used successfully by people with a wide range of abilities and disabilities. Basically, the users interact with the technology in ways best suitable for them.
Accessible technology is either directly accessible, which means it is usable without additional Assistive technology or devices, or indirectly accessible, meaning it is compatible with Assistive technology.
For example, a mobile smartphone with a built-in screen reader is directly accessible, while a website navigated effectively by individuals with visual impairments using a screen reader is Assistive technology compatible and therefore indirectly accessible.
Employees with disabilities should have access to technologies they need to best do their job. You should be proactive in getting the technology you need, whether directly or indirectly accessible, to maximize your productivity on the job.
Getting Employees With Disabilities Technologies They Need In The Workplace
Look at the Technology You’re Using Now
Take a good look at technologies you already use successfully such as your smart phone, e-mail software, or any social network apps.
These can help you identify other tools you can leverage to maximize your productivity at work.
Understand What Technology You Need
Educate yourself on what technology tools you need to be successful at work and be proactive in obtaining them. Register for training on the technology solutions you use often to ensure you are using their accessibility features to full potential.
Know Your Rights
Under The Americans with Disabilities Act, all employees with disabilities have the same rights and privileges in employment as employees without disabilities.
The federal law generally entitles employees with disabilities to “reasonable accommodations,” which includes Accessible and/or Assistive technologies.
A “reasonable accommodation” is considered any modification or adjustment to a job or work environment which enables a qualified person with a disability to apply for or perform a job.
Even though not all employees with disabilities, especially those with temporary disabilities or functional limitations, are entitled to or even need accommodations, you should determine your accommodation needs.
Build a Technology Support Network
There are several resources available to help you assess and meet your technology needs on the job.
Start with your tech support team at work as well as the support sections on the manufacturer’s website.
Build strong working relationships with peers or the technology support team who know a lot about accessibility tools and can help you when needed.
Understand Compatibility Challenges Of The Technologies
One of the main issues you may have to deal with at work is compatibility of the technologies. For example, you may be familiar with Assistive technology you use at home or you used in school, but it may not be compatible with the software you need to use at work.
Account for the time you might have to take to learn the new technology. Your employer may have tech support team to guide you so make sure you ask for the help if you need it.
Understanding their needs when it comes to Assistive technologies as well as learning how to use them properly can help employees with disabilities be successful in the workplace.