Inclusive Workforce

Streamlining the Workplace Accommodations Process

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I’ve been deaf since contracting spinal meningitis at two years old.

I am accustomed to a world without sound. Many call it silence, but from my perspective, I’m here to make as much noise as possible – at work and in my personal life.

As a sixth grader, I wrote my first program using BASIC language to help teach people the “ABCs” in American Sign Language (ASL). Today, I am working with the IBM Accessibility Research team to help enable others to make more quality accessible products for people of all abilities.

This is why it was important for me to be part of the team that was collaborating with West Virginia University’s Center for Disability Inclusion (CDI) to develop a first-generation mobile workplace accommodation case management app to help U.S. businesses create inclusive workplaces for employees with disabilities. The app is free and can be downloaded in the Apple App Store.

Screen shot of the MAS app that is helping an employee request an ASL interpreter.

The Mobile Accommodation Solution guides users through the accommodations process, in this case requesting an ASL Interpreter.

Personally, I would not have gotten very far if it was not for the accommodations that IBM provided since my first day on the job. I was welcomed by a team that not only understood the business of accessibility, but also asked the right questions about what I needed to do my job to the best of my abilities. For example, my manager realized right away that a phone with voice mail would not make sense in my situation and that I’d benefit from a video phone with a mailbox that recorded video messages interpreted by a video relay services agency.

Mobile Accommodation Solution

IBM’s history and commitment to accessibility combined with the in-depth knowledge of the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), a leading source of free and expert guidance on workplace accommodations managed by the CDI, made for a perfect match to create the Mobile Accommodation Solution (MAS).

It was created to help increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities and streamline the disability accommodation process at various phases of the employment cycle. It will support talent management, human resources, and accommodation staff to create inclusive workplaces by facilitating the process of accommodating applicants, candidates, and employees. The app also enables service providers by helping people with disabilities to better manage the accommodation process.

We have also received great feedback from beta testers of MAS:

  • “I thought the app was very intuitive. It streamlined key resources and links to specific information that is needed for each of the three user types. I think the simple design works well. It makes finding information easier and less stressful,” Jasmin Bailey, American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)
  • “This app has so many possibilities that employers can utilize,”Margaret Spence, President/CEO, Douglas Claims & Risk Consultants, Inc.

When it comes to workplace accommodations, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach since every user’s need and situation is unique. For example, someone who is late-deafened or hard-of-hearing who does not rely on sign language may not benefit from an ASL interpreter as much as I do, and prefer real-time captioning for the meetings. It justifies a need for a robust accommodation tracking tool that will help navigate through the maze of accommodation’s complexity characteristics and compliance requirements.

With its availability, MAS will now help organizations in every industry engage, develop, and support job applicants and employees. It will also help give everyone a better chance to be more productive and have a better opportunity to create their noise.

Louder is better, in my opinion.

Advisory Software Engineer

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