Professor Vinod Namboodiri, the AccessComputing representative of Wichita State University, was one of the organizers of the Accelerating Disability Inclusion in Workplaces through Technology workshop that was sponsored by the Convergence Accelerator Program at the National Science Foundation. The purpose of the invitation-only workshop was to systematically prepare themes for use-inspired research that requires the convergence of different research and practice communities (convergence) that are ready for at least the prototype stage in three years (acceleration). The themes with their rationale would be folding into a proposal to NSF for a new solicitation in the area of accessibility.
Co-PI Sheryl Burgstahler delivered a keynote presentation to kick off the multi-day workshop. In her presentation, Burgstahler described an “inclusive” workplace as one where everyone who meets requirements, with or without accommodations, is encouraged to apply; all employees, with or without accommodations, feel welcome; and employees are fully engaged using accessible IT in inclusive project teams. She expressed concern that:
- anyone must request an accommodation simply to apply for a job,
- anyone has to request an accommodation to read information on a company’s website,
- any employee cannot fully engage with coworkers using the IT systems used by the company,
- any worksite is not designed accessibly for future employees with disabilities in mind, and
- any IT company produces inaccessible products and does not demand that faculty teach about accessibility in their courses.
For more information about the universal design (UD) framework, consult The Center for Universal Design in Education.
Over 90 researchers, practitioners, and advocates worked together for three four-hour sessions in small groups to come up with challenges and potential solutions. Themes that came out of the workshop included these topics:
- Hiring and workplace accommodations
- Access to workplaces
- Policy and economics
- Design and innovation
- Training and workforce development
- K-16 education
Groups prepared compelling arguments about why projects under each theme should be funded. A smaller group will later merge these arguments to make a compelling case for a new NSF solicitation. A final report from the workshop will be posted on the workshop webpage in due course. Congratulations to Vinod and his colleagues for pulling this workshop together.