Many thanks to AIM2Flourish, for including as in their Innovations case study as a business that hires and thrives on employees with disabilities. Read the whole interview, with a few excerpts below.
The innovation has evolved around an inclusive business culture mixed with a strong sense of advocacy. Accessibility Partners’ innovative business model of “making accommodations to meet people where they are” has allowed principal partner Dana Marlowe to build a successful high-tech company that employees a work force where 85% of employees have a major disability.
The inclusive culture of Accessibility Partners impacts both the corporation and society. Their innovative culture serves as a true corporate differentiator. People with disabilities are dramatically under-hired in the workforce. Accessibility Partners is dialing into this untapped workforce and by doing so making technology more accessible to people of all abilities.
Accessibility Partners is a small, woman-owned high-tech company that has inclusion as a core value. Accessibility Partners provides accessibility consulting services to its clients, including corporations and the federal government. They have a diverse staff of engineers and technical specialists, many of whom are mobility, visually, or hearing impaired. Accessibility Partners embraces diversity in their workforce and has built a successful business model around the core value of inclusion.
Information and communication technology (ICT) has the potential to increase access for society, however for people with disabilities ICT can create barriers. There is a digital divide that exists between ICT and people with disabilities. Accessibility Partners was born to bridge that gap and promote technology usage for people of all abilities. This coupled with a corporate policy of hiring people with disabilities has created an innovative business model.
The innovative business culture relates to the mission of “making accommodations to meet people where they are.” Accessibility Partners utilizes a telecommuting structure. Although the company is headquartered in Washington D.C., they have no physical office space and employees are located in different states across the nation. Accessibility Partners allows for a flexible work arrangement where employees can “flex” their work hours to meet their personal, individual needs. They also realize that “technology can be an equalizer for people with disabilities” so they utilize a bring your own device (BYOD) strategy. BYOD empowers employees, allowing them to work on the device they choose. This improves productivity, allowing employees to access the device they are most accustomed to.
The innovative business model has impacted Accessibility Partners by creating a loyal employee base with a very high retention rate. Accessibility Partners has retained every employee they have hired since 2009. This dramatically reduces hiring and training costs, allowing the company to become more efficient. Accessibility Partners also believes a diverse workforce increases innovation and they have a diverse set of employees that problem solve differently. They use their diversity “to assist their clients to remediate their products, making them more accessible.” This increases profits for both the client and Accessibility Partners.
Social and environmental benefit
The societal impact of this innovative business model is twofold. People with disabilities are dramatically under-hired in the workforce. Current U.S unemployment rates for people with disabilities hovers around 10.7%, which is double the unemployment rate for people without disabilities. Accessibility Partners is not only hiring and retaining people with disabilities, but they are creating a more accessible future of technology.
Secondly, Accessibility Partners impacts society by “changing attitudes towards people with disabilities.” They model an inclusive culture and use interactions between employees at Accessibility Partners and their clients to combat negative stereotypes about people with disabilities. This advocacy through interaction increases employment opportunities for people with disabilities.