The Business Value of Integrating Accessible Technology into Business Organizations

Businesses today are looking for solutions to empower and retain employees—and accessible technology can help do just that. From Accessible Technology in Today's Business, business leaders learn about the benefits of integrating accessible technology into corporate technology plans. Accessible technology helps businesses keep great employees, recruit from a larger pool of candidates, and enhance team collaboration and communication among all employees—including those with disabilities.

It's important for businesses to consider the number of people impacted by physical and mental impairments. One study found that 101.4 million working-age adults (ages 18 to 64) in the United States have a mild or severe difficulty/impairment (Source: Study commissioned by Microsoft, conducted by Forrester Research, Inc. 2003). In addition, large numbers of people experience temporary impairments caused by illness or accident that impact their abilities on the job. The aging of the workforce adds another dimension. Consider that by 2008, 40 percent of the workforce will be comprised of aging computer users who will, in growing numbers, experience physical impairments due to the natural aging process. Providing technology that helps valued employees remain productive makes good business sense. Following are highlights of the business value of integrating accessible technology.

Retain the Most Valued Employees

Accessible technology, which accommodates visual, hearing, mobility, learning, and language impairments, helps organizations retain talented employees who develop temporary or permanent disabilities, and those who develop impairments due to the natural aging process. Retaining employees helps eliminate the high cost of hiring and training replacements, and improves employee morale.

Enhance Productivity for All Employees. By providing accessible technology, a business can facilitate collaboration and communication among all employees in an organization—whether they have a disability or not. This results in greater overall organizational productivity.

Accessible technology that is adjustable and meets the needs of a variety of employee needs increases productivity, job satisfaction, and employee morale. The range of definitions of "accessible" varies from person to person, so when choosing technology, it is critical to consider the diverse needs and preferences of all employees, not just "special cases" flagged by human resources.

For some, accessible technology simply means the ability to easily change font size, icon size, colors, sounds, and speed of the mouse cursor on their PCs. For others with more profound impairments, compatible assistive technology products need to be added to computer systems to allow access.

Reduce Costs. Accessible technology can help reduce costs of time lost and money spent when an employee develops a temporary disability. Providing accessible technology also allows an employee with a temporary disability to remain productive and up-to-date, and may prevent an organization from needing to hire a temporary replacement or letting the work pile up while a valued employee is recovering. Read a real-world example in: "Assistive Technology Reconnects Employees to the Workplace While Recovering from Temporary Disabilities."

Enhance Collaboration and Communication. Accessible technology empowers employees—including employees with and without disabilities—to share documents, collaborate on projects, and communicate among team members. When all employees have the power to customize their computers to meet their individual needs, they can more easily communicate with one another. For example, employees who can modify the way information is presented to them visually, aurally, and tactilely (in the case of Braille output) can more fluidly communicate with coworkers. With productivity software, it's also easier to collaborate on projects. For a real-world example, see: "General Motors Provides Needed Assistive Technology to Help Employee Who is Blind Be More Effective in His Work."

Recruit the Most Talented Minds

An organization's public image plays a crucial role in its ability to recruit and retain talented employees. With a strong reputation and well-thought-out human resource practices, an organization can draw top talent to new positions and retain its most talented employees. Job candidates naturally evaluate the entire compensation package offered including human resource programs, work/life balance, community involvement, and the diversity of an organization and how it accommodates the diverse needs and styles of its workforce.

Attract New Customers

Fostering a diverse workforce—which includes people with disabilities—enhances your ability to provide products and services that appeal to a broader range of customers. Having people with disabilities on staff helps your organization relate to its customers with disabilities.

As the demand for accessible products grows, businesses that are already experienced with and attuned to the needs of customer segments with accessibility requirements are naturally in a stronger position. A diverse workforce gives businesses market insights they might not otherwise gain. In the end, a diverse workforce provides a competitive edge.

Case Studies for Success

Read real world case studies featuring people with disabilities using accessible technology in business and education. These case studies feature best practices and lessons learned. Also read about the 5-step plan for developing and executing an accessible technology plan in your organization.

Myth vs. Fact

Myth: Accommodating employees with disabilities is expensive.

Fact: According to the U.S. President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, the majority of accommodations cost less than $500 US, and many have little or no cost at all. (Job Accommodation Network 2000) However, the average recruiting cost equals more than 13 percent of an employee's annual salary.

(Employment Management Association 2000)

"Diversity is important not only because it enriches the workplace and enhances the lives of our employees, but also because it enables Microsoft to better serve the needs of customers and communities."

Steve Ballmer
CEO, Microsoft Corporation

Did You Know?

Corporate citizenship, if strategically managed and communicated, can have a positive impact on brand awareness and consumer loyalty. Fourteen percent of the U.S. population seeks out good corporate citizens when making purchases.

(Council on Foundations)