Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) efforts are becoming increasingly important in the technology industry, as companies strive to create a more inclusive and equitable workplace for all employees. However, the perspectives and experiences of individuals with disabilities are often overlooked in these efforts. As someone who has lived with a disability and worked in the technology industry for more years than I prefer to admit, I have a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities that exist when it comes to DEIB.
One of the biggest challenges that people with disabilities encounter in the technology industry is the lack of accessibility and accommodations in the workplace. This includes everything from inaccessible office spaces and technology, to a lack of flexible work arrangements that would allow people to manage their disability while still being able to perform their job duties. These challenges make it difficult for individuals with disabilities to fully participate in the workplace and can lead to feelings of isolation and discrimination.
Over the last few months, we have seen some incredible new releases of usable and accessible Artificial Intelligence (AI). The public release of ChatGPT by OpenAI (among others) has rapidly made interacting with AI as simple and available as using Google. There’s certainly a wow factor in play here, and I will admit that I have spent a decent portion of time just playing with the AI and experimenting with what it is capable of.
However, there is an area where AI can be particularly beneficial for people with disabilities: assistive technology. Assistive technology refers to any type of technology that is used to help individuals with disabilities perform tasks that may be difficult or impossible for them to do without it. Examples of assistive technology for people with disabilities include screen readers for individuals who are blind or visually impaired, and speech-to-text software for individuals who have difficulty typing or using a mouse. AI has the ability to enhance the capabilities of these technologies, making them more accurate and efficient, and it can also help to create new forms of assistive technology that were previously unimaginable. For example, AI-powered computer vision can help individuals who are blind or visually impaired to navigate their surroundings, and AI-powered speech recognition can make it easier for individuals with speech impairments to communicate.
Another major challenge is the lack of representation of people with disabilities in the technology industry. According to a recent report, only 5% of the US workforce with disabilities are employed in STEM fields, despite 20% of the US population having a disability. This lack of representation is not only problematic for people with disabilities, but also for companies and organizations that are missing out on the diverse perspectives and ideas that people with disabilities can bring to the table. Incorporating AI into the workspace is going to be a game changer here.
Additionally, AI-powered automation can help to improve the efficiency and productivity of individuals with disabilities in the workplace. Automation can help to reduce the need for manual labor, which can be especially beneficial for individuals with mobility impairments. It also can help to minimize the need for repetitive tasks, which can be especially beneficial for individuals with cognitive impairments.
As a society we need to keep pushing for more equitable, inclusive, and accessible technology. As a person with a disability, I believe it is crucial for companies and organizations in the technology industry to actively listen to and incorporate the perspectives and experiences of individuals with disabilities in their DEIB efforts, and AI is going to make this more seamless than ever before. This includes not only addressing the challenges that people with disabilities face, but also embracing the unique skills and talents that they can bring to the industry. Furthermore, taking into account the potential of AI in developing assistive technologies and making the workplace more productive, more efficient and more accessible. Incorporating the benefits of AI-powered assistive technology, automation and other tools that can help to improve the accessibility and productivity of the workplace for individuals with disabilities will make not just the industry better, but society as a whole.
In conclusion, disability is not a hindrance but an opportunity to be inclusive and bring new perspectives to the industry. As we continue to progress in technology, it’s important to make sure that accessibility is always a consideration and to include people with disabilities in the development process. Furthermore, AI-powered assistive technology, automation and other tools have the potential to greatly benefit individuals with disabilities in the workplace, making tasks easier and reducing barriers to productivity and accessibility. The industry has an obligation to make sure that everyone can benefit from the advances of technology and to create a more inclusive and equitable workplace for all.
If you haven’t already guessed, this blog post was written almost entirely by ChatGPT. With a ten minute exchange, I told it what I wanted to share, the tone of the post, and had it make its own revisions to get closer to my vision for a first draft. I added a single paragraph and made minor edits to several other paragraphs. All in all, this post was completed in about an hour while others easily take orders of magnitude longer to outline, draft, and edit. This tool is a game changer!
Wow! Great read 👏 Thank you! and I am very interested in this app 🤔
Thanks for the comment, Erin! I still often talk of the presentation to your school! Definitely check out ChatGPT and be creative with it… it’s truly amazing.