Are some tech tools more harmful than helpful for employees with disabilities?

The shift to remote work and increased workplace technology has both benefited and presented challenges for employees with disabilities. While remote work offers safety and comfort, existing tech systems often do not cater to their needs. Giselle Mota emphasizes the importance of inclusive tech development. For instance, Zoom meetings may be challenging for employees with hearing impairments, but solutions like closed captions and interpreters can address these issues. Disabilities should be considered in all technology conversations to create a more inclusive environment.

According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, nearly 20% of people with a disability were employed in 2021, up from 17% in 2020. One of the reasons cited for this is the shift to remote work and the subsequent rise in workplace tech, which benefited persons with disabilities. Applicants with restricted mobility or neurodivergent tendencies could work safely and comfortably from home. However, the adoption of so much new tech also presented fresh challenges; existing technology systems are not suited to their needs.
According to the chief of product inclusion at ADP, Giselle Mota, ‘When it comes to creating an inclusive environment, there’s a saying among people who are disabled: nothing for us without us,’ she says. ‘People with disabilities are such an underrepresented group in many technology conversations. Often, disability only gets flagged when it’s for accessibility — organizations paying attention to it only when it becomes something of a risk area’.
‘Zoom meetings, for example, can be difficult for employees that are hard of hearing, and for employees who have reading and writing disorders, too much digital screen time can stunt productivity. But, these are solvable problems. Right now, I can actually turn on a closed captions feature [on this video call] to include those who might not be able to hear. They would see captions coming up on the screen. That same functionality also allows the person that set up the meeting to translate those captions to another language, and there’s even an app that you can plug in to have an ASL interpreter come on the call and translate as well’. She said.