Technological barriers in the workplace
It is probably never going to go away but the truth is; disabled employees
may always have to face some sort of technological barrier in the workplace.
Why is this? Because the evolution of technology is moving at a much faster
rate than the development of access technology for disabled users. This is
a chronic challenge that disabled persons will probably always have to deal
with both at home and in the workplace and it includes both hardware and
software as well as access to information. This should not come as a
shocker or shaker to anyone who has knowledge of this topic. I will focus
my attention on three types of technological barriers: Hardware, software,
and access to information.
In the case of hardware: The technological barriers may be a bit less in
that keyboards are fairly user friendly to disabled persons but when it
comes to using such things as touch screen technology and dealing with
flashing indicators on phones for example, then these problems will continue
to exist unless there are other hard coded ways to deal with them. Strides
continue to be made in this area but as I mentioned above, three steps
forward for mainstream technology computes into at best one step forward for
access or adaptive technology for the disabled. If we’re talking about the
workplace, then the hardware to consider would range from computer keyboards
to scanners, and from phones to PDAs. If I have missed out on mentioning of
any other piece of hardware, then my apologies.
In the case of software: Many of the operating systems that are used today
are for the most part accessible to persons with disabilities but the real
challenge comes when so-called add-ons are included. Disabled persons, in
particular blind and visually impaired persons, often run into problems
because of incompatibility between the mainstream software in question and
their access or adaptive software. This is mainly due to the graphical
interfaces that mainstream software is made up of and the inability of
screen reading software to decipher graphical interfaces.
An example would be: A piece of mainstream software that needs to be
installed and the installation process is made up of a graphical interface.
Another example would be when the disabled user tries to use the piece of
mainstream software itself and the software is not very user friendly
because of icons that need to be clicked on. Blind and visually impaired
users are unable to use a mouse to click. Many employees in the workplace
are often called upon to install or download software either from the
Internet or from CDs. One thing that comes to mind for me is the difficulty
that blind and visually impaired persons continue to face in environments
that require them to communicate with screens that contain a lot of
graphical information. Typically, in help desk and banking types of
Access to information: In the case of blind and visually impaired users and
the print disabled as a whole, The problem often occurs when they are unable
to access information on the Internet. Some of the primary offenders of
this situation come as a result of the following: Websites that are not
user friendly or accessible, access or adaptive software that is unable to
decipher website content that includes forms and downloads, and websites
that do not provide information in alternate formats. I will note here that
information provided in PDF format is not considered to be an alternate
To summarize: Disabled employees in the workplace will continue to face
technological barriers for as long as access or adaptive technology is
unable to keep up with evolution of mainstream technology. Technological
barriers include access to hardware, software, and access to information.
The print disabled in particular blind and visually impaired employees are
the most affected.
I’m Donna J. Jodhan your free lance writer and roving reporter wishing you a
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