Employment, Disabilities, and the Role of Technology

By Jim Fruchterman, posted on

Expanding employment success for people with disabilities

People with disabilities need and deserve better employment opportunities. The business case makes it clear that inclusive hiring makes financial sense, as well as being the right thing to do. Benetech has just released a major new report, Expanding Employment Success for People with Disabilities, discussing the barriers and opportunities specifically posed by technology products in increasing employment of this community.

Two men with white canes are walking down the street

We were able to pull together a picture of a dynamic human capital management tech ecosystem that is now a fundamental part of today’s hiring process—with one study claiming that 72% of applicants are rejected by technology before a human being ever sees their resumé. Our major findings include:

  • Artificial intelligence tools are a quickly growing piece of the employment process and are almost certainly biased against people with disabilities. On the positive side, we found numerous opportunities where AI could be a boon to people with disabilities.
  • Accessibility continues to be a major issue that also presents numerous barriers to recruiting, hiring, and a productive work environment.
  • The current lack of data about all of the relevant issues (including but not restricted to individuals’ reluctance to identify as a person with a disability) is a major factor limiting opportunities for improvements.
  • Employers continue to see people with disabilities primarily through a compliance lens. There is an opportunity to leverage the current Diversity & Inclusion movement that focuses on recruiting more women and minorities to include people with disabilities in their vision of a more inclusive workforce.

It is disappointing that technology still presents significant barriers to employment for people with disabilities, barriers that should be and could be removed with reasonable efforts. However, we are excited about the opportunities we identified for using tech to enhance the employment success of this valuable community.

We’d like to thank the Poses Family Foundation for their financial support in conducting this project, as well as key people in the employment field who generously agreed to talk with us. These included people with disabilities, experts (many of whom were also people with disabilities), employers, recruiters, technology vendors, and researchers.

Learn about Benetech’s work with the Ford Foundation and UCLA World Policy Analysis Center on inclusive education and employment policies for people with disabilities.