Dana Marlowe is the principal partner of Accessibility Partners, a small high-tech company that hires people with disabilities to provide IT accessibility consulting to other businesses. They hire and work with a great number of engineers and technical specialists who are blind, deaf and mobility-impaired. Rather than make assumptions or generalizations about interactions with these individuals, they embrace the differences in their workforce. They help make technology accessible for people with disabilities.
(Photo courtesy of Dana Marlowe)
What made you decide to start a company that hires people with disabilities?
As a child, I was always eager anticipating the start of summer, because that meant sleep-away camp. When I was seven, I fondly remember an encounter with a friend at camp who was deaf. I so badly wanted to strike up a conversation with my new friend, but was unable to do so. I remember being frustrated. I started learning American Sign Language that very summer, and my human rights advocacy blossomed. I became a certified sign language interpreter, and then the technology revolution really took off. Everyone had PCs, and that changed to PDAs, smartphones, tablets and more. I initially saw that gap that was needed to bridge people with disabilities to communicate online, and that was the field of accessibility. I knew that Nexus was where I wanted to go, and I wanted to promote technology usage for people of all abilities. Thus, Accessibility Partners was born. Coupled with our corporate policy of hiring people with disabilities, we have a winning business model. Currently, 85 percent of our workforce has one or more major disabilities, and I feel proud to work with such a great group of individuals.
What are the benefits of hiring people with disabilities?
There are numerous benefits to hiring people with disabilities.
- Untapped market. Because of the tragically low hiring numbers at this time for people with disabilities, hiring workers with disabilities is right now an advantage to me as there are some well-educated, brilliant minds with incredible experience out there who are looking for work.
- High retention. We’ve retained everyone we’ve hired at Accessibility Partners since 2009, and this cuts down on hiring costs and retraining.
- Loyalty. Our staff is loyal, and while that keeps them with the company, it also means they have a great work ethic and attitude. This makes Accessibility Partners a great place to come into work every day.
- Corporate differentiator. Unfortunately, people with disabilities are still dramatically under-hired in the workforce. It makes us stand out, and our clients enjoy learning more about our staff with disabilities. We use it to our advantage to show exemplary customer service and bust through negative stereotypes about people with disabilities.
- Increased Revenue. From our diverse workforce, we have an innovative set of minds who help us solve problems. By capitalizing on the buzz surrounding new designs for usability and accessibility, we’ve helped companies remediate products and dramatically increase their profits. That trickles down to us.
- But more importantly, the biggest benefit is that we are making a more accessible future of technology. I like to think that hiring people with disabilities means that no one gets left out, and this is an inclusive business model that can benefit any organization.
This article was written by Robin D. Everson for Small Business Pulse