Currently, there are four million Australians with disability, as well as elderly people, carers and families who face huge challenges and barriers in day-to-day life.

In many areas of Australia, people with disability may not have easy access to the services they need. Further, they may not have the means of comparing providers to decide which service would work best for them.

Fast forward to a time when a woman using a wheelchair arrives at work punctually, when a man with a missing arm types a document with ease, when a computer describes an image with total accuracy to a blind employee, when everyone does their job equally and accessibility is an intrinsic part of life. Inclusivity is something that all workplaces need to strive for, but we are not quite there yet.

The perfectly inclusive workplace embodies a welcoming culture – one that ensures respect and dignity for all, with strong policies in place to protect every employee’s rights and welfare.

Sadly, we are far from it when it comes to inclusivity in Australian workplaces. There are still significant barriers that exist, such as discrimination during the recruitment process; limited awareness of rights for people with disabilities in the workplace; lack of opportunities in the first place; lack of understanding of the spectrum of disability; unintentional insensitivity… the list goes on.

Australians living with a disability face almost double the rate of unemployment compared with people without disability; graduates with disability take significantly longer to gain full-time employment than their able-bodied counterparts and younger people with disability are 10 times more likely to face discrimination.

Australians living with a disability face almost double the rate of unemployment compared with people without disability

The thing is, in today’s technologically driven world, solutions exist that can help organisations become inclusive. The challenge lies within. Organisations need to step up, be more proactive and make the change towards promoting accessibility and having technology to assist.

So where do you start? The good news is there are many solutions available free of charge.

Here's five ways to use technology to create a more inclusive workplace:

  1. Utilise the AI you invested in. AI assistants are already a part of business – they can do everything from booking transport to arranging meetings. Take it to the next level by using it to get information to staff who can’t make it to a meeting, provide unbiased documentation of conversations and reduce unconscious bias.
  2. Get on Cloud PBX tech. These types of software integrate directly with devices to create flexibility in communication, doing things like routing calls automatically, taking messages, converting calls to text on the go, and more. In fact, it’s technology that could be useful for any staff.
  3. Software that affords movement. It is important to provide employees with disability the same accountability, responsibility and trust as the rest of the staff, and this will allow them to operate at the same level. There is everything from voice recognition, which allows use of a computer purely through voice commands, to mobility tools that allow computer control using just vision.
  4. Alternative access to the everyday. This is more along the lines of ergonomic tech designed for specific restrictions and includes things like joysticks that integrate into wheelchairs to allow control of work devices, gyroscopic devices that replace the mouse, or clips that reduce strain on the neck.
  5. Upgrade the everyday ICT. It could very well be that the mobile devices you already have aren’t being utilised enough to facilitate inclusivity when, in fact, they offer a wide range of functionalities to enhance this. Just providing preconfigured tech or assisting in the set-up of in-built functions like screen magnification, touch and gesture inputs, contrasting colours and the like will go a long way. And it’s already there.

These new forms of technology are specifically created with different disabilities in mind to allow access to a larger part of the community that need it. The additional benefit of creating a more inclusive workplace is that it enhances the lives of all employees in the organisation.

If figuring out the most relevant technology is a struggle, there are resources available that provide independent information on the technology available along with referrals for training, set-up and on-going support, such as the Accessible Telecoms project funded by the National Disability Insurance Agency.

Leaders, set yourself the challenge this year and make your workplace inclusive.

Summary

Making each and every part of society feel respected, equal and included is the responsibility of every ethical employer. Every hardworking person deserves to know they have a chance to realise their ambitions.

However, a lack of inclusivity in the workplace impedes people with disabilities from achieving that dream and, for far too long, society has allowed this to happen. It is time that organisations step up and begin the cultural transformation towards true equality.

However, leaders are not left without a guide or the resources to achieve this. Inclusive technology provides a cost-effective and all-encompassing solution towards the issue, from aiding with physical comfort through to allowing accessible communication across an entire team.

Not only are some of these tools free, there are also additional guides on availability, set-up, training and technology provision support for leaders to look to in making this change.

To learn more about the rise of ‘accessible tourism', we sat down with Martin Heng, Chair of IDEAS, Lonely Planet’s Accessible Travel Manager.