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Debra Ruh

  Employability & Technology

10/26/2009

Accommodations Do Not Have to Be Costly

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Snapshot of a man in a wheelchair using JAWS on his laptop computer.While receiving the New Freedom Initiative Award, Bill Gates, Microsoft, stated, "We can all look forward to a future with technology that enables people of all abilities and all ages to realize their potential."

Well, that day is here!

Technology is being used everyday to increase productivity of employees with and without disabilities. For example, instant messaging and email software allows an employee who is deaf or hard of hearing to communicate effectively with coworkers. While "Virtual" offices and meetings allow all employers, with and without disabilities, to improve productivity while increasing employee satisfaction. Other accommodations include software that allows an individual to more efficiently manipulate data and telecommuting to reduce stress or other issues associated with getting to work. More examples of real-life accommodations many of which are low or no cost. The US Department of Education also offers a number of other low cost strategies available as well. For example, connecting with your local schools, instituting mentoring and internship opportunities to place students in your company-sponsored programs, and using your business connections to provide schools with instructors in specific professional and technical fields who can work with special education and vocational rehabilitation professionals in your community.

It is also wise to connect with your local community colleges and universities. When you recruit at colleges and universities, indicate to the career office that you have an interest in recruiting students with disabilities. To provide work-based learning experiences to college students with disabilities, reach out to colleges or universities.

Job fairs are also a valuable platform to exemplify best practices in hiring people with disabilities and providing accommodations. For example, when you attend job fairs, provide recruiting materials in accessible formats, make sure interviewing locations are accessible, and be sure your website is accessible to people with disabilities.

The cost of providing such accommodations will be easily offset by savings from increased productivity and retention of employees. And in some cases, tax incentives may also be available when accommodating employees or customers with disabilities.

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