Almost two thirds of disabled tech workers face qualification barriers
Almost two thirds (63%) of disabled tech professionals are facing barriers in completing certifications, compared with 41% of non-disabled tech professionals, according to research by AWS recruitment agency Jefferson Frank.
This follows recent UK government data suggesting that the disability employment gap of working-age disabled people reached a five year-high in 2022, the widest since 2018.
According to the study, Careers & Hiring Guides, access in tech has become an increasingly pressing discussion over the last few years and the sector’s lack of diversity is a concern at every level, particularly in the context of a widening digital skills gap.
While there’s been an increase in reporting especially on gender disparities in the industry, it’s also vital to expand the conversation around disability access and inclusion in tech, the agency claimed.
The most common detail that disabled tech professionals shared was not having enough time to complete a certification.
“We need to be thinking about the fact that accessibility features can take longer, or that if a platform isn’t providing accessibility features, it can necessarily take someone longer to navigate it – and they may require more breaks, for example,” urged Jefferson Frank global EDI strategy lead Caroline Fox.
Deaf in the Cloud founder Rob Koch added that its crucial to remember that there are a number of disabilities and it’s not a case of one size fits all.
“Some people with the same diagnosis will have different accommodation requests. Disabilities aren’t uniform, and nor are learning types. So providing different formats and different ways to access the same information is essential. Variety of the same content is a means of ensuring wider accessibility.”
In terms of broadening the conversation and putting tangible measures in place to support disabled tech professionals, Koch said, “keep an open line of communication. Ask how you may help with making the person succeed. Let the person tell you what they need to succeed. Many disabled professionals in their career might be oppressed in a subtle way thus may not know how to ask for the right accommodation which is why an open conversation needs to happen.”
At the organisational level, Fox emphasised that businesses should give people the opportunity to ask for the adjustments that they need and then allow disabled professionals to drive it.
“A pre-determined set of accommodation options can actually shut down the possibilities of the conversation and deter people from asking for what they need,” she warned.
In the UK particularly, Fox recommends businesses make use of the government’s Access to Work programme. As it stands, “people don’t know it’s there,” she said, “but it’s an offer of financial and practical support for businesses.
It includes assessments and expert assistance with experts who are aware of a wider range of possible adjustments helps facilitate better conversations and therefore better outcomes.
Last month, the Digital Poverty Agency (DPA) outlined its 2023 UK strategy calling on UK government to create a new digital inclusion strategy, for public, private and third sectors to not only help raise awareness about digital poverty but also take “urgent” action to boost digital skills across society.
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