Read on to learn how the latest technologies are helping to build more inclusive and accessible workplaces.
Accessibility is a hot topic among business leaders and employees around the globe. Those championing accessibility ensure that all their employees feel cared for and are treated fairly at work.
However, accessibility is about more than mobility aids and reasonable accommodations. Genuinely accessible workplaces use new technology to build workspaces where employees can flourish.
Today, technology like robotics, automation, and VR intersect with accessibility to give employees the support they need to overcome challenges and reach new heights in their careers. In this article, we explore how technologies help to build more accessible workplaces.
The Internet of Things and More Accessible Workplaces
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a term that describes the network between devices that connect to the internet. Laptops, PCs, smartphones, smart speakers, and even some TVs are connected to the IoT. These devices leverage the massive amount of data we use daily to make our lives easier.
IoT can be used to promote more accessible workplaces by seamlessly integrating tech-based solutions into employees’ everyday lives. For example, employees that live with diabetes can now connect their smartwatches to a continuous glucose measuring system (CGM). This can help keep employees safe at work and help those who live with diabetes reach their career goals.
The IoT can also support employees who may need assistance throughout the workday. Those with low vision can utilize web-based screen readers connecting to their smart devices to pick up notifications and alerts they may otherwise miss. Likewise, IoT devices like smart bells can help remote workers with mobility disabilities determine whether or not they need to interrupt their workflow to answer the door.
Taken together, these small advancements make a meaningful difference in the lives of those with disabilities.
AI and Automation and Workplace Accessibility
Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to change the way we work forever. AI can utilize massive data sets to provide quick insights that improve performance at work.
Businesses that utilize AI can improve their operations by integrating data in decisions like supply chain management and risk management strategies. AI can also minimize overheads by automating HR functions and organizing sales leads.
However, AI can also advance accessibility at work. AI can help employees overcome challenges and free up time for more complex daily tasks. For example, workplaces that use Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility program can ensure that they create recruiting materials that are truly inclusive and encourage a diverse applicant pool.
Similarly, Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility program can be used to promote inclusive design based on research and AI-generated workplace blueprints. These AI-led suggestions ensure that everyone has access to workspaces that meet their needs and empower employees at work.
However, it is essential to recognize that AI cannot fix poor corporate culture, and new tech cannot overcome the workplace’s villainous culture or implicit biases. Implicit biases exist at every level of the corporate ladder, and further training is usually needed to ensure that workplaces are truly accessible and disability-positive.
Extended Reality and Accessible Workplaces
Extended reality (XR) is an umbrella term that includes augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR). Inclusive XR can transform the workplace by promoting accessibility, simulating real working environments, and giving employees all the tech-based support they need.
XR can be a potent tool during the design process. For example, if an architect with mobility restrictions needs to adjust some of the designs for a new home, they can do so from a remote location. VR headsets can give the architect a quick visualization of the space, and they can use AR to overlay their real-life blueprints with data and other insights they may want to keep close at hand.
User Experience and Websites
Remote workplaces allow employees with disabilities to work from the comfort of their own homes without having to worry about accessibility requirements or the opinion of their peers. However, some remote working environments can still be hostile to employees.
Websites with poor user experience (UX) design are usually inaccessible and undermine the use of accessibility tech like screen readers. This is a major issue for employees who are neurodiverse and/or live with visual impairments or deafness.
Understanding the core tenets of web accessibility is essential for all employees who create or edit digital materials. Employers must train their teams to use digital materials with accessibility in mind. This means that all text should be screen-reader friendly, and images must include meta-descriptions, so the meaning isn’t lost
Technology is improving accessibility in workplaces around the globe. The IoT helps employees monitor their health, AI and automation help recruiters create inclusive materials, and extended reality technology allows folks with mobility disabilities to work without fears of accessibility issues. Of course, managers still need to take an inclusive approach to business leadership, but technology will support them in their mission to build more accessible workspaces.