The story that most stuck with me from Enterprise Connect 2022 came out of our Enterprise Summit, a keynote panel made up of representatives from enterprise user organizations. Gary LaSasso, senior director of global IT at Amicus Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company, shared a story about a remote-working colleague with Duchenne muscular dystrophy who kept his audio muted throughout calls out of self-consciousness over the background sound of his ventilator.
LaSasso noted that this employee's colleagues weren't concerned about the noise, but the employee's reluctance nonetheless caused him to be less involved than he could have been. When Amicus's IT team learned about the situation, they were able to provide the employee with background noise suppression—not yet a standard feature at the time—and he was able to participate more fully.
"It made his experience so much better," LaSasso said, adding that the employee "literally said, ‘[it] changed my life.'"
At Enterprise Connect, we believe that every enterprise IT organization is in a position to make a similar difference in the lives of its employees with disabilities. We also think that a dedicated focus on accessibility through communications technology can open up opportunities for enterprises to hire more people with disabilities and make these employees' experience better than anyone might have thought possible. That's why we're going to put a focus on accessibility at Enterprise Connect 2023 (EC23).
For a good introduction to the issues around disability and communications technology, check out this No Jitter post by Claudio Luis Vera, a disability consultant who is also the guiding force for EC23's programming in this area. "Most disabled people would agree that it's not the medical condition that disables you," Vera writes. "It's that the world isn't designed to work with your body or abilities. If there's a mismatch between your abilities and the task at hand, that's where the disability arises."
Vera goes on to write that we don't lack assistive technologies (ATs) that aim to mitigate disability barriers: "Instead, it's that the systems, the websites, the apps, and the content we build don't play nicely with existing AT."