How Assistive Tech Can Aid Employees With Disabilities

Published on 13 Oct 2021

People with disabilities have faced a similar issue for generations: how to contribute their skills and talents in work environments that are not necessarily created with their bodies and abilities in mind. The twenty-first century has heralded a new age of networking and knowledge governance. A smart, innovative workplace has emerged as a present reality that deviates significantly from the classic notion of the workplace. The new, highly friendly work environment not only benefits society as a whole but also provides new possibilities for individuals with disabilities.

See also: How Machine Learning Makes Self-Driving Cars a Reality 

Assistive technology is any program, gadget, or equipment that can assist a disabled person in performing a function that would otherwise be difficult. In this article, we’ll discuss how companies can bring out the best in the workplace by investing in assistive tech.

Remote Communication Using Extended Reality

XR technology has the potential to drastically change traditional workplace communication, making it almost borderless. It might be a game-changer for those who suffer from motion problems. The term "XR" refers to an environment that is artificially created and combines the real and virtual worlds. Mixed reality can establish a decentralized workplace by addressing the barrier of distance, allowing employees with mobility impairments to be virtually on the field, carrying out assignments and job activities remotely.

Microsoft Remote Assist, Vuforia Chalk, and any apps that allow displaying any product from anywhere in the world in augmented reality, mixed reality, or virtual reality are among the most promising examples of XR applications.

These apps integrate live video streaming with mixed reality (MR), which adds digital information to the current world. In essence, XR's remote support improves communication between specialists and distant personnel. Using MR assistance, professionals can see what remote employees are seeing on-site. Furthermore, aural communication mixed with visual presentation dissolves formal boundaries between multiple places, allowing employees to be independent of their location. As a consequence, professionals with limited mobility may offer their knowledge and services on an equal basis with their able-bodied counterparts.

Effective Remote Communication Solutions

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, many businesses are most likely searching for new ways to communicate with their staff remotely. There are several alternatives available, and while selecting how to communicate, you must consider disabled individuals. Do platforms, for example, function for people who have vision or hearing impairments?

Zoom, a video-conferencing platform, is an easy-to-use platform for video calling. Closed captions can be added to the video-conferencing system for the Deaf and hearing-impaired, or a third-party captioning service can be included. You may discover that the video option is disabled by default. Turn on the video for people with hearing problems so they can see you and any subtitles.

Other methods for collaboration exist, such as MS Teams, which also allows you to set up a video call. You may also use backdrop blur in video conferencing. This function was created by a Microsoft employee who used to lip-read during calls but was having difficulty due to background interference.

Robotic Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence

AI technologies can equal visually or physically challenged people with the rest of the workforce by allowing them to operate in the workplace via speech. Tasks that formerly needed physical effort and/or eyesight may now be accomplished using speech thanks to AI-powered software. As a consequence, an employee's vision and motion handicap is no longer a competitive disadvantage.

Voice checklists and voice assistants are used in task management, such as managing control processes or financial operations. Interaction with AI-powered software is influenced by audio instructions rather than hand gestures, thus data entry is done by speech, making the work environment accessible to those with disabilities. AI-powered voice assistants can also work in reverse. Employees who have physical issues speaking may now bring their professional talents to the workplace and compete with the rest of the workforce. For example, Google has launched Project Understood, which aims to educate Google Assistants to comprehend people with Down syndrome.

Users of AI-powered voice assistants can enter a message in text format, which a voice-powered software converts to a voice command or immediately executes the supplied instructions. As a consequence, persons who have difficulty communicating can work in office stationery without feeling discriminated against.

Solutions For Neurodiversity

You may have neurodivergent employees in your organization. Neurodiversity is a word that refers to situations in which the brain functions differently than in others and encompasses a wide spectrum of people, including those suffering from ADHD, Autism, Bipolar Disorder, and Dyslexia.

The way we communicate is evolving, and there may be more online and phone conversations than usual, which might pose special challenges for the neurodivergent population. It is easy to ignore and misunderstand social cues. Some people, on the other hand, prefer internet and telephone contact. According to Nancy Doyle, CEO of Genius Within, specialists in neurodiversity, you'll need to give extra assistance and let everyone know you're giving strong connections and communications.

The workplace is a social environment that fosters a sense of involvement and belonging. If someone is capable of doing their job but is isolated from or unable to participate in the social elements of the workplace, the outcome might be poor job performance and satisfaction.

Disabilities frequently limit entry to numerous job fields and professional positions. As a result, persons with particular disabilities may not always be able to demonstrate their professional competence in the workplace. However, with the rapid advancement of new technologies like AI and XR, the gap between employees from the general population and those with disabilities can be considerably decreased owing to the development of workplaces with disability-friendly work environments. Remote experts, voice assistants, and digital twins are examples of innovative technologies that can aid persons with disabilities in achieving job equality and becoming self-confident and self-sufficient.

As a result, there is little doubt that technological and design advancements are changing the way youth with disabilities think about their futures. Employers may also remain ahead of the curve and significantly expand their talent pool by investing in assistive technology!

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