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Accessibility: The Missing Piece in Your Workplace DEI Initiative

Every October, we join in the celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). It was established by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to highlight the extensive contributions of America’s workers with disabilities and continues to serve as a way to educate society about disability employment issues. Apprenti, which creates alternative pathways for employers to access diverse talent and solve the digital skills shortage through Registered Apprenticeship, supports apprentices of all abilities by removing barriers to learning and working. 

Disabilities are more common than many employers may realize. One in four American adults lives with a disability, however, only 3-5% of individuals in the workforce self-identify as having a disability. The significant discrepancy has propelled us to envision a workplace where individuals do not feel pressured to hide their disability and where accessibility is proactively integrated, not a mere afterthought. Organizations that are inclusive and accessible experience a variety of benefits. 

Investing in Disability Makes Business Sense

By embracing disability inclusion, employers can gain access to a new talent pool of 10.7 million people. Additionally, inclusive and accessible workplaces report 28% higher revenue, 2x net income, and 30% higher economic profit margins. The significant return on investment can be attributed to taking steps to build empathy for their customer base, constructing systems that mitigate conscious and unconscious bias, and improving employee retention.

Employing a diverse staff with differing viewpoints can also grow the bottom line. The tech industry relies on divergent thinkers to identify novel solutions to complex problems amidst a rapidly changing landscape. Individuals with disabilities constantly seek creative solutions to close the gap between their current ability and the environment in order to complete daily living tasks. Those real-world experiences translate to valuable skills that can be applied on the job.

Accessibility Benefits All Individuals

To attract and retain top talent, it is critical to construct an inclusive workplace—one where everyoneincluding individuals with disabilitiesfeels welcomed, respected, and has equal opportunities to participate. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which governs disability regulations, accessibility is defined as “the design of products, devices, services, vehicles, or environments so as to be usable by people with disabilities.” In practice, accessible design removes barriers to participation. This yields success for all employees and their employers.

By integrating accessibility standards with universal design principles, we strive to improve the baseline experience for as many users as possible. Here are a few tips to expand your diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) initiatives: 

  • Digital accessibility: Accessible design helps ensure that everyone can equally perceive, operate, understand, and interact with digital websites and tools (website, CRM, emails, documents). For example, an individual who is blind or visually impaired may utilize a screen reader that reads aloud the information on a web page. Hearing content read out loud via a screen reader can also improve reading comprehension and reading speed for individuals with dyslexia.
  • Universal design for learning: Technical and on-the-job training instruction should be designed to provide multiple means of representation, engagement, and expression. For example, when an instructor or mentor is communicating new concepts to an apprentice, they should aim to deliver the information in different ways such as lecture style, visual diagrams, written notes, etc.
  • Flexible work hours: Flexible work schedules can benefit an employee with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who may need an extended lunch break to help them recharge so they can be more focused and productive during the afternoon hours. However, it may also be helpful for a parent who needs flexible work hours to drop off or pick their children up from school. 

Accessibility doesn’t have to be complicated; it can be as simple as clicking a few buttons. One simple way to make any meeting more accessible is to turn on closed captioning. This enables individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to have full access to meeting information. It can also benefit someone with dyslexia, an English language learner (ELL), or someone who is in a loud environment and unable to listen with the sound on. These are just a few strategies to promote equity in the workplace.

Hire Talent with Disabilities Through Apprenticeship

Registered apprenticeship creates a diverse pool of individuals who are trained in occupationally specific skills needed in high-demand fields. This proven workforce strategy, recognized by the Department of Labor, allows employers to reduce recruiting and hiring time by developing qualified talent at training wages.

Apprenti targets placements for women, Veterans, people of color, and individuals with disabilities, providing them with best-in-class, relevant classroom technical and on-the-job training that prepares them for a variety of in-demand tech careers that require digital skills, such as software developer, cybersecurity analyst, network security administrator, cloud operations specialist, and more.

Unsure Where to Start? Apprenti Can Help!

Apprenti’s dedicated Access Team supports apprentices and employers throughout the apprenticeship journey. The Access Team demystifies the accommodation process by outlining clear steps, offering a human-centered interview framework, and identifying solutions for all stakeholders.

As outlined above, employers can foster a culture of inclusion and belonging by ensuring they have clear and simple accessibility standards in place, from recruiting to hiring and onboarding and beyond. Companies with inclusive hiring practices and workplaces not only gain access to a broader and deeper talent pool, but also exhibit measurable improvements in performance, productivity, and profitability. For employers seeking talent to fill in-demand roles via alternative pathways, such as apprenticeship, Apprenti’s Access Team offers resources and support to identify and implement accommodations that provide equal access to all apprentices so they can be successful. 

Below are additional resources for employers interested in creating a more disability-inclusive workplace, or who want to learn more about Apprenti’s Access Team:  

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