How Cloud is Creating Employment for the Blind and Disabled

Image Attribution: Flickr

It’s no secret that adults who live with a disability frequently struggle to find their place in the workforce – not because of their impairment, but frequently because of the lack of jobs that can accommodate their challenges.
Over the past several years a significant amount of money, time and resources has been dedicated to developing technologies that improve the quality of life for disabled individuals, from the ibot stair climbing wheel chair to Apple’s VoiceOver. Yet beyond improving just quality of life, finding a ‘home’ in the workplace for this demographic, where they can be accepted and thrive, has remained a challenge.
Luckily the gaining popularity of cloud-based technologies and applications is opening up new opportunities of employment for the disabled. Cloud computing can mean increased independence and a way to provide an accessible working environment for adults with a disability. Cloud services can make it possible for people to work from home by:

  • Eliminating the issue of to-and-from work transportation for those who struggle with mobility;
  • Allowing disabled individuals to take advantage of the assistive technology they’re already using at home for work tasks;
  • Synchronizing multiple devices and services so they automatically adjust to the assistive preferences pre-set by a user with a disability.

Microsoft for example has a cloud-supported feature called a ‘roaming profile’ that allows  users to access their settings regardless of which device they’re working on. This could mean that a low-vision employee would be able to work more efficiently across devices whether on a work computer, tablet or personal laptop, as long as they were signed into their profile.
With the help of another new cloud-based assistive technology, one job that is becoming readily available, specifically for visually impaired workers, is the role of a call center agent. According to the National Federation of the Blind, 63 percent of blind people in the U.S. are still unemployed, oftentimes held back by a lack of opportunity and workplace tools that can accommodate their disability.
TCN, a leading provider of cloud-based call center technology, has recently developed Platform 3 VocalVision, a call center technology platform designed specifically for blind and visually impaired call center agents. TCN optimized its software with JAWS (Job Access With Speech), a popular screen reader, to help blind call center agents perform their day-to-day tasks smoothly and productively. VocalVision is helping companies hire blind or low vision individuals and train them quickly as call center agents.
With VocalVision, visually impaired employees experience increased autonomy and efficiency and are able to better serve callers. This new addition to the TCN software has been extremely beneficial for these individuals as well as call centers. For example, one call center that has implemented the technology experienced lower employee turnover rates (among those who are visually impaired) and increased productivity of 25 percent.
According to research by Gartner, cloud-related purchases will make up the majority of new IT spends by 2016 – and it’s no wonder why. Beyond the obvious benefits the cloud brings to organizations, such as the ability to work remotely or securely store data, the potential it has to benefit and change disabled individuals’ lives is still largely untapped. As companies like TCN and Microsoft however explore how they can harness the power of the cloud, the future looks ripe with solutions and innovation.