Improving accessibility in the workplace

By Tony Maguire, Regional Director for Australia & New Zealand at D2L
Friday, 03 November, 2023

Improving accessibility in the workplace

Increasing numbers of people with accessibility challenges are now able to access careers that would have been difficult or impossible for them in the past. This has been propelled by two specific shifts that have helped to increase accessibility in many industries, namely the widespread availability of e-learning and the ability to work remotely.

The number of people accessing e-learning in various forms increased substantially over the past few years, which is driving more profound changes in organisational culture. According to Oxford College, since its launch in 2000, the worldwide market for online learning has grown by more than 900%. According to estimates by Prosperity, the number of people who take an online course will rise to as many as 57 million people by 2027.

Australians living with disability and accessibility challenges face the steepest barriers to accessing education and obtaining quality jobs, a pool of talent that should be embraced thanks to today’s hybrid and virtual working environments. E-learning offerings have significantly decreased the barriers to education that would have kept many people out of professional careers in previous decades.

Why is diversity important in the workplace?

As diversity and inclusivity have explicitly entered the organisational consciousness, effective decision-makers are increasingly realising and valuing the benefits of creating more representative teams and workforces.

In a competitive job market, fostering diverse cultures and teams makes organisations more appealing to potential employees. This involves implementing formal strategies to attract a broader range of talent, which is becoming increasingly common. The rising popularity of e-learning is also significantly impacting workplace diversity.

Inclusive design for e-learning technology

According to a report by the Centre for Inclusive Design, only 17% of Australians living with a disability will complete a bachelor-level qualification or above, compared to 30% without a disability. According to this report, inclusive design can translate into an additional 228,000 tertiary qualifications earned in Australia, increasing employment and salaries by $4.5 billion annually.

The Centre for Inclusive Design’s report further highlighted that five million Australians cannot access products and services because of poor design. Yet, they possess over $40 billion in annual disposable income. This number includes people living with a disability and seniors; however, millions of Australians are also vulnerable to exclusion due to location, gender, ethnicity or financial status.

Dr Manisha Amin, CEO of the Centre for Inclusive Design, explained, “Design that considers the full range of human diversity concerning ability, language, culture, gender, age and other forms of human difference means more people are included. Inclusively designed products and services with edge users in mind can reach and benefit up to four times the intended audience and enable organisations to increase their revenue by growing the size of their target markets.”

Becoming an inclusive learning organisation

Inclusive learning is a vital component of a modern workplace culture, offering clear economic benefits. An inclusive learning organisation leverages its workforce’s diverse experiences to foster creativity and innovation, driving towards organisational goals.

This approach involves promoting inclusively designed programs that tap into the unique proficiencies and abilities of diverse teams across various roles and work settings, ultimately enhancing productivity and performance. It differentiates the organisation from its competitors by capitalising on the benefits of multiple perspectives.

Incorporating inclusive learning into the organisational culture is essential to break free from stagnant practices that hinder growth. Such organisations typically maintain knowledge management structures for creating, retaining and transferring knowledge. Modern learning technologies like learning management systems (LMS) streamline these processes.

Moreover, technology enables adaptive learning to accommodate individual differences. In an inclusive learning organisation, learning is personalised to match each member’s unique needs and learning style. This includes providing video-based resources and delivering learning content in bite-sized chunks in ‘just-in-time’ fashion. As a result, an inclusive learning organisation fosters a modern learning culture that’s accessible to all.

The takeaway

E-learning is helping employers improve accessibility opportunities in the workplace by decreasing the barriers to entering the workforce and making a more diverse workforce a reality for more people with accessibility challenges.

The true benefit of implementing accessible e-learning is that organisations can harness diversity in their workplace to achieve their organisational goals and realise business success.

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