A recent study conducted by Jefferson Frank found that disabled tech professionals face significant challenges in pursuit of certifications.
The research highlighted the barriers that disabled individuals encounter in the tech industry, emphasising the urgent need for greater accessibility and inclusivity.
According to the study, 63% of disabled tech professionals reported starting but not finishing their certifications, compared to 41% among their non-disabled peers.
Disabled tech professionals cited a lack of time as the primary reason for not completing certifications, attributed to the additional time required for accessibility features.
These findings come when the disability employment gap among working-age disabled individuals in the UK has reached its highest point in five years, signalling a concerning trend of limited opportunities and barriers faced by disabled professionals.
The lack of diversity in the tech industry has been a prominent topic of discussion, with a growing focus on gender disparities. However, this research underscores the need to expand the conversation to include disability access and inclusion in the sector. By amplifying the experiences of disabled tech professionals, the study aims to bring fresh statistics into the discourse and encourage proactive measures to address these disparities.
Caroline Fox, Jefferson Frank Global EDI Strategy Lead, commented on the significant disparity highlighted by the study, emphasising the pressing need for disability access and equity in the tech industry.
She pointed out that “the most common detail that disabled tech professionals shared with us in our research was that not having enough time was the decisive factor in being unable to complete a certification.
“We need to be thinking about the fact that accessibility features can take longer, or that if a platform isn’t providing accessibility features, it can necessarily take someone longer to navigate it – and they may require more breaks, for example.”
Rob Koch, an AWS Hero and Founder of Deaf in the Cloud, highlighted the importance of accessibility implementation in platforms. He said: “One good example is the AWS channel on Twitch. AWS has provided rotating sign language interpreters during live broadcasts, which is a huge step in the right direction!
“On the flip side, Twitch still doesn’t have the live captioning that YouTube or broadcast TV has. Accessibility, arguably, can be hard to provide initially. However, once it is in place, everything becomes easy because there are resources, know-how, great people and tools to make it all happen.”
To accommodate different disabilities and learning styles, Fox emphasised providing various formats and access methods to ensure wider accessibility. Recognising that each disability and individual’s needs are unique, she stressed the importance of fostering open lines of communication and allowing disabled professionals to drive the conversation about their specific requirements.
At the organisational level, Fox urged businesses to provide a platform for disabled tech professionals to request adjustments instead of offering a predetermined set of accommodations. Additionally, she recommended utilising the Government’s Access to Work program in the UK, which offers financial and practical support for businesses, including assessments and expert assistance.
The research conducted by Jefferson Frank, based on data from their latest Careers & Hiring Guides, sheds light on the challenges faced by disabled tech professionals in obtaining certifications.
The study serves as a call to action for the tech industry to prioritise accessibility, inclusion, and proactive measures to bridge the gap and provide equal opportunities for disabled professionals. By embracing diversity and fostering an inclusive environment, the tech industry can harness the talents and skills of disabled individuals, ensuring a more equitable and innovative future for all.