It takes less than a 1% additional level of effort for companies to make their applications and devices accessible to the disabled community. At its core, accessibility means that all web pages and platforms are coded so that they can be read aloud to the end user.
And with 20% of the U.S. population having some sort of physical challenge, including 22 million who are blind or visually impaired, there are tens of millions of customers that companies can reach if they make that effort. On a global scale, there are 285 million blind or visually impaired.
The world’s leading companies are starting to take notice and invest. For Blind Institute of Technology (BIT) Executive Director Mike Hess, who himself is blind, now’s the time to amplify the value of creating accessible platforms and engaging the vast talent pool of disabled people in the process.
“I wouldn’t be able to run my business without accessible tech,” he said. “Platforms like Salesforce are innately accessible to me. The only way I can track my business opportunities is with accessible tech. Salesforce has made extensive efforts to make everything they do accessible. They want accessibility to lead to jobs.”
Five years into starting BIT, Hess has the momentum and corporate support to launch the inaugural Accessible Technology Symposium on May 10 at the Denver Marriott West in Golden, Colorado. There, leaders from organizations like AETNA, Salesforce, Google, Microsoft, Wells Fargo, Frontier and the State of Colorado will share how they made their platforms accessible and the benefits that came with that action.
“They will take attendees through the whole product life cycle,” Hess said. “In one day, you’ll learn so much more and understand that it’s not so much work. It’s about being thoughtful during the process, not a time-intensive effort.”
Sessions will cover how you design for access, implementation and code techniques, test processes, the best management practices and much more. It’s all about education, Hess said, and attendees will walk away prepared to make positive changes.
“Google embraced accessibility from the start,” he said. “They asked themselves, ‘Where can we find the next billion consumers?’ Accessibility was that starting point.”
The next step for companies after adding accessibility to their tech is accessing the largely untapped, but talented, pool of disabled individuals. Connecting the two is BIT’s mission, and Hess hopes the Symposium will be a launching point for awareness around the opportunity.
Here in Colorado, thousands of tech jobs remain unfilled. But there are ways to fill the gap, and BIT is doing its part by educating executives and management teams on the benefits, engaging individuals on any questions they have about working with someone who is blind or visually impaired and training skilled workers, who happen to have a disability, on how to contribute.
“Every organization speaking at the event is having real trouble finding talent,” he said. “The way you get to the last talent pool is access. Accessibility is the ability to access ability in so many more individuals.”
The BIT Accessible Technology Symposium will be held from 8 am - 4:30 pm on May 10 at the Denver Marriott West in Golden, CO. Tickets are $75, with a 20% discount for groups of five or more. Breakfast and lunch are included. Net proceeds benefit BIT, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. REGISTER