Workplace Initiative Weekly News Roundup: March 16, 2020

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

What’s reported: Tel Aviv-based startup Point.AI is filling a business need while creating jobs for people with autism.

In a Globes article, co-founder Tamar Dvir explains the business model. As artificial intelligence (AI) becomes more common, businesses need more data annotation services. For example, before a website can ask you which images have crosswalks in them, someone needs to train a computer to recognize crosswalks. And even the most state-of-the-art AI needs human labor to get there.

Dvir’s business is filling that need by hiring people on the autism spectrum. The work requires focus and attention to detail, making it a good fit for the talents of many people with autism.

“We came up with the idea of trying to combine an existing AI need in the market, which requires a lot of data annotation, and a group of people who want to work and fit in, some of whom have capabilities that give them a special advantage in these jobs; good visual capabilities, close attention to detail, and the ability to work long hours at routine and monotonous tasks,” says Dvir.

Point.AI employee Yalon Shani had trouble finding a job after he left the Israeli military service. He landed his position with the help of a local nonprofit organization that serves people with disabilities.

“I wake up in the morning with something to do. I earn my money by myself and it feels good to be independent,” Shani told Globes.

What you can do: Play to your employees’ strengths. Make sure your interviewing practices are inclusive, so you don’t miss out on good candidates. And network with organizations that can help you find talent, like vocational rehabilitation agencies and nonprofits. 

What’s reported: When Greg Wharton first started his career as an architect, he didn’t share with his employer the fact that he had a hearing impairment. He missed instructions, which hurt his relationships with co-workers. And according to Architect magazine, he considered leaving the profession.

People with disabilities have struggled to find acceptance in the world of architecture. Wharton eventually left his job because of the barriers he faced due to hearing loss.

But disclosure can have benefits, as Wharton found when he decided to tell a later employer about his disability. That firm made reasonable accommodations to enable him to do his work.

And people with disabilities have a lot to bring to the field of architecture. For example, architect Todd Hanson used his personal experience with disability to create a new product. His firm now offers accessibility roadmaps for public spaces, setting them apart from the competition.

What you can do: Build an inclusive workplace culture to encourage employees to disclose their disabilities. And understand that people with disabilities bring a valuable perspective that helps companies do their best work.

What’s reported: As technology improves, it’s getting easier to make jobs accessible.

According to InformationWeek, a recent Gartner study predicted that the number of people with disabilities in the workforce will triple in the next three years. And technological improvements will drive the shift.

Companies will see significant benefits from employing more people with disabilities. According to the report, those benefits will include “89 percent higher retention rates, a 72 percent increase in employee productivity, and a 29 percent increase in profitability.”

That’s just one reason why it’s important for companies to build strong disability inclusion programs now.

What you can do: How can your business be a part of this shift? Start working to strengthen your disability inclusion program. Make sure your organization listens to the concerns and ideas of employees with disabilities. And take measurable steps to make your workplace as inclusive and accessible as it can be.

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What’s reported: Diversifying your hires is important, but it’s not enough to make a workplace inclusive. Inclusion means that everyone is welcome and valued for who they are. And leadership and management have to actively create an environment that fosters inclusion. Forbes writer Nish Parikh outlines six character traits that show an inclusive leader in action.

They include:

  • Respecting individual ideas and opinions. Parikh cites research by Kristie Rogers that shows employees who feel like they’re being heard are happier at work.
  • Being ready to buck tradition when the situation calls for it. Sometimes, entrenched attitudes need to be shifted.
  • Curiosity. An inclusive leader is always looking for new ways to help employees thrive and make the best use of their skills.

What you can do: Provide company-wide disability inclusion training for workers at all levels of the organization. And make sure your leadership team understands their role in modeling inclusive behavior.