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Robert Pearson

Accessible Media


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02/26/2015

The Disability Economy: The Contributions of Persons with Disabilities to the Workforce


If we wish to set a culture of accessibility as a default setting, then business processes have to fall in line to accommodate the entire disability eco-system.
 
The benefit of tapping into the disability economy is the utilization of this resource that in itself further promotes a sense of social inclusion and understanding

Image: The benefit of tapping into the disability economy is the utilization of this resource that in itself further promotes a sense of social inclusion and understanding.

In the absence of supportive executive sponsorship at the organizational level, for accessible policies and services that meet the needs of persons with disabilities, accessibility experts are often faced with the question, “what is the benefit of accessibility?” by corporate heads and Human Resource Departments.

What Hinders the Growth of the Disability Economy?

Lack of education and awareness as to its advantages is apparently a main barrier to adopting accessibility. Secondly, misconceptions about associated costs and concerns about stretching existing resources act as barriers to implementing accessibility.

 This is not to say that accessibility mandates aren’t widespread or not receiving enough attention. They are. However, if we wish to set a culture of accessibility as a default setting, then business processes have to fall in line to accommodate not just persons with specific disabilities, but senior citizens and users of all abilities – look at the entire disability eco-system as a whole.

Thirdly, perception about the abilities of persons with disabilities, or their lack of it, also hinders a thriving disability-inclusive economy. Have you ever considered why a blind individual may choose to wear sunglasses? Perhaps they figure that if they hide their eyes, persons they interact with won’t notice their disability first, and would in fact pay attention to their communication, knowledge and attention. This practice might not be as widespread in certain geographies or culture, however, universal acceptance of different abilities is a long way off.

What Can the Disability Economy Bring to the Table?

Persons with disabilities have much to offer. Not only are they a dynamic resource of intellectual creativity and motivation, but they are also an employable resource that has historically been under-utilized across all sections of the society due to perceived limitations of their abilities to work. It's been seen as a disgrace in many regards, because simple or even zero accommodations may be required to develop an inclusive workforce. The benefit of tapping into the disability economy is the utilization of this resource that in itself further promotes a sense of social inclusion and understanding.

At Accessible Media Inc. (AMI), we offer an inclusive work environment as put forward by our mission, collaborations and services. As we are licensed to primarily serve blind and low vision Canadians through our three mandatory carriage services, we employ individuals with these disabilities as our reporters; they appear on air, thereby reinforcing the point that it is the community speaking to the community – and ability is only a perception, not a barrier to doing what you want to do.

The main aspect of the disability economy is the driver of the economy itself: money. An organization may gain the benefit of tapping into a highly employable resource, but by becoming inclusive they may also benefit from those in the disability economy who may choose to utilize their services. Furthermore, if they seek the opinion of that audience as to how to best serve their needs, then they will only reinforce this positioning (Consider this Microsoft Customer Survey on Accessibility Feedback).
 
Inclusive Initiatives at AMI
Given our objectives at AMI, we have been consistently seeking consumer feedback. We receive feedback from our audience through a variety of channels, but we also conduct regular research through surveys and focus groups. If you are interested in learning about AMI's initiatives in this regard or if you are a blind or low vision Canadian who would like to join our research panel, please visit this link.

While we have no fiscal objectives to meet by conducting this research, due to our mandatory carriage status, the response to it has been significant. We represent the community in a media sense and therefore, it’s the community that shapes our programming and their self-portrayal. By giving individuals of all abilities a voice, you create potential benefits far beyond those which may be originally forecast.

Inclusion is about providing exactly that, a sense of being included. Understand that those in the disability economy are very much employable, that their opinion is important and that they may bring financial resources to the benefit of your organization. This insight becomes more salient with every passing year and regulations to entrust compliance to this understanding are continually refined. As the population continues to age across the global economies, the prevalence of disability will only continue to increase and those who may have previously been perceived as a person with disability will simply be a person in a position that will benefit your organization in many ways.

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Related Resources

Blog: How Do We Measure Progress in Accessibility Efforts? | Read Robert Pearson's Article.
 
Publication: Developing e-Accessibility as a Professional Skill | Download Free PDF.
 
Event: 2015 M-Enabling Summit Call for Presentations | Deadline: March 15 | View Event Details.
 

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Related Items:

• EZ Access

• MODEL DIGITAL ACCESSIBILITY POLICIES PRESENTED AT THE UNITED NATIONS

• Getting Europe Up to Scale for the ICT-Enabled Economy

• Nominations Open for U.S. FCC Chairman’s Award for Advancement in Accessibility (AAA)

• BSI documentary points the way to accessibility in buildings and the Internet

• North Georgia Digital Economy Conference, Cumming, Georgia, USA


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