Case Studies

Using accessible technology in the Utilize office

Richard Burton: Utilize

 

BACKGROUND

As part of our ‘People First’ vision, we want to enable people with disabilities, health conditions and impairments to enjoy a productive working life. The Government’s Disability Confident scheme helps businesses like ours to gain the skills and confidence needed to recruit, retain and develop disabled people and we’re proud to announce that we have recently gained the Disability Confident Committed accreditation, which marks the start of our work to become a fully Disability Confident Employer.

As a Disability Confident Committed Employer, we have committed to:

  • Ensure our recruitment process is inclusive and accessible
  • Communicate vacancies and offering an interview to disabled people
  • Anticipate and providing reasonable adjustments as required
  • Support any existing employee who acquires a disability or long-term health condition, enabling them to stay in work
  • Promote at least one activity that will make a difference for disabled people

 

THE CHALLENGE

As 1 in 6 of us have some form of ‘impairment’, as per the Equalities Act definition, it is highly likely that we are already working alongside someone who may wish to work differently from the rest of the team or who may benefit from additional support.

A key member of the Utilize team is Richard Burton; who happens to have dyslexia. This is a term to describe disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols. For Richard, it means that he tends to avoid situations where he needs to read and write which, as a Technical Director, can prove to be an issue when he needs to read weighty technical manuals or write reports.

Of course, Richard now has a wealth of experience to showcase his knowledge and credentials yet when starting out on his career, with a lack of GCSE’s in English and other language-based qualifications, he faced a battle to prove his knowledge and showcase his skills. This highlights an opportunity for us employers to look beyond educational qualifications and use a more skills-based recruitment process.

 

THE SOLUTION

Richard is fiercely intelligent – he is our Technical Director after all – and he has found ways to mitigate the condition so that many of his colleagues are unaware of the difficulties he faces. There is so much technology available to help people like Richard in the office environment and there are often many untapped features with commonly-used apps. Microsoft, for example, has multiple research projects looking at how their technology can be adapted and added to as a support for people with dyslexia both in the office and in schools.

One of the simplest yet useful solutions that Richard has found to help him is to access information on video rather than in the written form. By producing manuals or sharing material visually via animated or filmed format removes the need to read at all. If this is not suitable for the message you need to share, consider graphics: infographics are extremely popular for those both with and without impairments.

If you need to issue a long, written report, then break up large pieces of text with subheadings and use bullet points or numbered lists. Linked indexes help to navigate to relevant parts of the report.

Another important option is to change the background colour of the computer screen or app. Richard finds a dark background with light grey or white text makes it easier for him to read text online, whereas others may prefer a yellow or rose colour. This functionality is available within numerous apps including Word and Office 365.

When writing reports, Richard can get help with constructing sentences with text suggestions within Word that can be easily inserted as he types. Of course, the spelling and grammar checker also helps as a backup tool. Richard is supported by a colleague who is aware of his condition and who is on hand to read through the reports before they are distributed. This proactive teamwork not only helps Richard, it strengthens the bond within the team.

 

BUSINESS BENEFITS

The benefit of employing Richard is obvious; Richard is an intelligent specialist with a wealth of experience and numerous skills. He occupies an important role in our business and is integral to our success.

We believe that employing a team made up of a mix of personalities, abilities and experiences brings diversity into our business. This diversity of ideas helps to form solutions and find opportunities that may otherwise be overlooked – and let’s be honest, we’re selling our products and services into a marketplace that is full of diverse requirements.

We’ve found that making some very small changes to how we provide and share information internally has enabled Richard to be an effective member of our team and, at the same time, it has helped us to better understand how we can support others. This is invaluable for us as technologists offering our support to other disability-aware employers.

 

IN SUMMARY

Finding it difficult to read and write is not a barrier to working in the modern workplace and by using the functionality that is already built into apps, everyone can work more effectively. Sometimes this is a need and, for others, it’s a personal preference to how we want to work. Yes, there is additional technology you may want to deploy – such as speech dictation software – but the benefits far outweigh any cost of purchase.

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