Benetech loves working with communities that are getting behind a Big Hairy Audacious Goal [BHAG in management-speak]. When there is critical mass behind an audacious goal, our job at Benetech is to figure out how the software and data savvy of Silicon Valley can support that movement.
Our latest project is working with the Workplace Initiative [https://workplaceinitiative.org/], which brings together major employers, disability organizations, donors and government agencies to achieve an exciting goal:
We want to increase the number of people with disabilities hired by a factor of ten!
The best solution for so many social problems is opportunity. The vast majority of people with disabilities would rather work than depend on government programs to survive. The business case for hiring people with disabilities is strong, and demonstrated by many bold employers who have made the commitment to an inclusive, diverse workforce. In turn, they have seen lower absenteeism, less turnover and reduced rates of accidents, all of which translate very well to the bottom line.
However, the barriers to employment are many. Employers who want to proactively increase their diversity with more employees with disabilities have a hard time finding enough candidates. Widespread cultural norms do not change overnight. But, there are roadmaps. People with disabilities are not the only group that has been implicitly and explicitly discriminated against in the workplace. We have the pioneering examples of efforts to increase access to employment for women, people of color, and LGBT individuals. The Workplace Initiative, along with other disability empowerment activists are committed to a broad strategy to change the workplace and make it a much more hospitable environment for the aspirations of people with disabilities to help drive equality in employment.
Benetech’s focus in this project is identifying the ways technology can both enhance opportunities for and put up barriers to employment of people with disabilities. We are talking to major employers about how they use software systems to recruit, on-board, and retain an inclusive workforce that includes people with disabilities. We’re talking to the major vendors of human capital management platforms that so many companies use to manage their workforce. Our outreach includes many of the leading specialty tech firms that are creating solutions around outreach, recruiting, interviewing, and screening.
Our goal is to help the Workplace Initiative and similarly inspired employers understand what they should be expecting from their tech vendors as they drive their disability employment initiatives forward. It’s already crystal clear that much of this technology inadvertently discriminates against people with disabilities, and part of our role is to draw attention to these issues so that they can be addressed. It’s quite reminiscent to me of the early work we helped do on the accessibility of websites. We have to ensure that software is a force for social good.
Benetech plays a unique role as a bridge between the tech and social good communities. By speaking the language of both, we can help business be more successful while achieving critical social commitments such as equal employment opportunity for people with disabilities!