Workplace Initiative Weekly News Roundup: December 16, 2019

By Workplace Initiative

Here are some highlights from this week’s news about disability inclusion (DI) in the workforce—and how you can use this information to make your company the best it can be.

What’s reported: Sam Latif has always rallied for disability inclusion. As a blind woman, she knows the challenges of working with a disability. And as Procter & Gamble’s first Accessibility Leader and a consultant for inclusive design, she’s “spearheaded major changes” for the company, Glassdoor reports. They include:

  • Creating sensory-enhanced bottles for Herbal Essences hair products, featuring tactile stripes to differentiate between shampoo and conditioner. 
  • All P&G ads in the U.K., the U.S., and Spain now include audio descriptions of what’s happening on screen.

“All of a sudden I’m not one person championing inclusion,” Latif says. “It spreads to others, who spread it further, and the culture changes as a result.”

What it means for you: In a workplace, everyone plays a part in a disability inclusion effort. It means getting buy-in from company leadership and engaging employees at all levels to build enthusiasm and support. Learn more about the steps you can take to make your company inclusive for people with disabilities.

What’s reported: Voice assistants such as Alexa and Siri are designed to make life easier. But the technology doesn’t always recognize the unique speech patterns of people with Down syndrome, reports Disability Scoop. Google’s new partnership with the Canadian Down Syndrome Society is working to change this. They’re enlisting participants with Down syndrome to repeat simple phrases to train the voice assistant technology. The goal is to record 500 voice samples from adults with Down syndrome. “The more people who participate, the more likely Google will be able to eventually improve speech recognition for everyone,” says Julie Cattiau, product manager at Google. 

“For most people, voice technology simply makes life a little easier,” adds Laura LaChance of the Canadian Down Syndrome Society. “For people with Down syndrome, it has the potential for creating greater independence.”

What it means for you: Assistive technology is one way to support employees with disabilities. Adopting universal design (UD) is another. According to a survey by the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), 58 percent of accommodations cost nothing, and nearly all the rest involved a one-time cost that averaged only $500. 

The Workplace Initiative can work with your company to adopt a disability inclusion program that allows employees to reach their full potential. Check out our Quick Start Guide.

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What’s reported: In honor of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD), a series of panels took place at the United Nations to discuss best practices of disability inclusion with business leaders, PR Newswire reports.

In a panel called “The Future of Inclusive Employment,” Kessler Foundation president and CEO Rodger DeRose spoke about the need for “authentic inclusion” in the workplace.

“For an organization to be successful in their inclusion and diversity efforts, it needs to look at an individual’s ability across the whole organization, to take a holistic approach to see what individuals can add to the organization,” he said.

The event highlighted the goals of the U.N. Disability Inclusion Strategy. It was launched in June to create and promote a more inclusive culture for people with disabilities across the United Nations workforce.

What it means for you: The U.N. inclusion efforts emphasize the importance of empowering people with disabilities in the workplace. Not only is disability inclusion the right thing to do, it creates a more accepting and supportive environment for all employees. 

What’s reported: What if instead of waiting for employees with disabilities to ask for accommodations, your company asked all employees what they need to be their best? This “will show that you mean well, you are genuine in wanting to help and not using the information to exclude,” argues a Forbes article written by organizational psychologist Nancy Doyle. 

Forbes cites a study by the U.K. Business Disability Forum (BDF). It reports that 90 percent of disabilities at work are hidden and 83 percent of disabilities are acquired. Many people avoid disclosing their disabilities for fear of being treated differently or excluded, but “by encouraging our teams to be authentic, we build loyalty, trust, which ultimately leads to the fulfilment of potential,” Doyle writes.

What it means for you: Employees who disclose their disabilities are more than twice as likely to feel regularly happy or content at work than those who have not disclosed to anyone, according to a 2017 report. This leads to a productive company culture where all employees can thrive.