Nowadays, the majority of small businesses in Canada rely on technology for their day-to-day operations. But when this technology isn’t accessible, it creates barriers for Canadians with disabilities. With over 6.2 million Canadians living with a disability, accessibility is more important than ever – but what can we do to make tech more accessible in the workplace?

What Does Accessible Technology Entail?

Accessibility refers to hundreds of different technologies that exist to help people with a variety of disabilities. Assistive technologies (AT) can be utilized in hundreds of ways to benefit the lives of disabled workers. Whether it’s a disability-adapted switch for tech like computers, artificial intelligence, or speech recognition and text-to-voice/voice-to-text, there’s a massive range of ATs available for use.

Tech Accessibility for Businesses

As an SMB, what can you do to help make technology more accessible for employees with disabilities? Though it might sound like a lot of work, finding and using ATs isn’t as hard as it might seem.

Understanding Disabilities

One absolutely crucial step that many businesses gloss over when considering accessibility is learning about and understanding the disabilities themselves. In order to use AT to its fullest extent, you and your team need to understand disabilities and the basic ways to assist disabled employees.

Disabilities come in many forms, including seeing, hearing, mobility, learning, developmental, and pain-related disabilities. Many of these are ‘hidden’ disabilities and are non-visible, like learning disabilities.

Adequate training should be given to employees, including basic accessibility practices like pushing in chairs and not touching service animals. Being aware of the variety of disabilities and knowing how to implement accessibility contributes to an inclusive work environment for all employees, regardless of any disability.

Outfitting Your Business With Accessible Technology

In order for all employees to excel in their careers, the technology has to be accessible to them. As a business, the most inexpensive way of implementing AT is by getting them right at the start, rather than retrofitting them later on. While this is sometimes an added expense, many ATs are actually free! For example, Google Drive offers a voice-to-text function, so you don’t need to type anything out. 

There are also several apps and extensions designed for people with disabilities. These can magnify text, alter the colours on a webpage for easier reading, predict words, and show you a dictionary whenever necessary. Many of these apps are free as well, and can be helpful for abled employees as well. 

Accessible Technology Program

The Accessible Technology Program is a program designed to bring innovative, accessible technology to all Canadian workers with disabilities. Since 2017, the program has been co-funding hardware and software solutions to help Canadians with disabilities fully participate in their community and workplace. The program will invest $22.3 million over the course of 5 years to create a more inclusive workforce.

The Benefits of Accessibility For All Employees

Though AT most strongly benefits workers with disabilities, it can actually help all employees work to their fullest potential. How often do you use tech trends like a smart speaker? Even if not, you’re sure to have used AT at some point in your life. Captions help sighted employees understand pictures, subtitles allow employees to understand content in other languages, and accessible websites are easy for everyone to navigate. Accessible technology is a win for every Canadian worker.

Need Reliable IT Management?

At Alt-Tech, we want your business to be optimized for all employees, regardless of their situation. Running a business is a challenge, and that’s why we work hard to keep your systems running and secure – so you can focus on creating a more accessible and successful workplace. Contact us to discuss how our services could benefit your business.