Editor’s note: John Samuel is head of LCI’s new tech division, working to break down digital accessibility barriers. He had been scheduled to be a keynote speaker at NC TECH’s Diversity + Inclusion Summit at Durham’s Sheraton Hotel on March 13. That event is now postponed to June 23 due to the coronavirus outbreak.
CARY — This week was supposed to be a very big week for me. I was supposed to travel to Anaheim to attend the 35th CSUN Assistive Technology Conference, and then return to North Carolina to keynote NC Tech’s Diversity + Inclusion in Tech Summit. However, I was not able to attend either event because of precaution against the coronavirus.
Each day, we hear about new companies implementing a work-from-home policy, as the world tries to navigate through the global pandemic we are facing. However, this type of policy is not applicable for many types of jobs, in particular, roles that many people who are blind fill.
At LCI, we employ hundreds of people who are blind in manufacturing, distribution, and retail, not all of which can be done from the comfort of people’s homes. However, when we launched LCI Tech, our goal was to create employment for people who are blind in the knowledge economy – which are often the same jobs that can be done outside of the confines of a company’s walls.
To me, the positive aspect of this terrible situation we are going through is that more companies are figuring out how to enable their workforce to be able to work from home. This will greatly benefit the disability community, who are often limited because of transportation barriers, and open them up to opportunities in the knowledge economy, which they were previously blocked from.
Like many people, I have been more glued to CNBC than normal; watching the wild swings in the stock market, and one show that I often listen to is “Mad Money with Jim Cramer.” Over the past couple of weeks, he has been talking a lot about companies that will thrive in the “stay at home economy.” This includes companies like Zoom, Amazon, and Netflix, where they will help people work, shop, and enjoy being at home.
What is interesting about all three of these companies is that they are also very accessible, and have done a great job of ensuring that people with disabilities can consume their products and services.
So, as we think about all of the products and systems that will be required for people to work from home, it is important to think about the accessibility and make sure that all members of our teams will be able to successfully complete their work away from the office.
I am hopeful that this experience will force companies to not only worry about the accessibility of their external facing websites, but also place a spotlight on their internal systems, which will make the knowledge economy more inclusive of all people.
Note: This post was originally published on LCI’s blog.