IT Infrastructure Can Help Workers With Disabilities: Gartner

Several factors will boost the number of organizations initiating technology-related projects to enable disabled employees.

On March 24, new guidelines under Section 503 of the amended Rehabilitation Act of 1973 go into effect in the United States, requiring federal contractors and subcontractors to take more ambitious affirmative action to hire people with disabilities.

The new rules mean that by 2015, 50 percent of organizations will have technology projects under way to support the enablement of disabled employees, according to a report from IT research firm Gartner.

As the new rules take effect, application and Web development staffs should review how mobile and desktop applications can be optimized for accessibility to open positions to disabled candidates.

Gartner predicts the number of organizations that have technology projects to support the enablement of disabled people in the workplace will increase.

Going forward, several factors will boost the number of organizations initiating technology-related projects to enable disabled employees. More government regulations, lower-cost IT solutions, public pressure and customer demand are four key factors to drive an increase in these types of projects.

"Now is the time for IT leaders to meet with human resources counterparts and review these new rules," Andrew Johnson, managing vice president at Gartner, said in a statement. "Then consider the bigger picture of how an overlooked talent pool can contribute to longer-term workforce planning. Even if an organization doesn't do business with the U.S. federal government and has no employees with special needs, a fresh review of assistive technologies may uncover new ways to help boost productivity for every employee."

There are similar global regulations impacting companies to boost the hiring of people with special needs or disabilities, and a total of 158 countries or regional integration organizations have signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol.

For example, assistive technology products and services will allow IT managers to deliver more productive endpoint solutions. Smartphones and tablets, for instance, have been a huge leap forward by delivering personalized accessibility solutions at very low costs.

"The HR aspect is best managed by internal legal or HR or external service providers that know the full details and government reporting policies," Johnson continued. "However, while internal HR staffs may be versed in labor law, they may not be fully aware of the scope and scale of the impact on IT infrastructure. IT will need to work with HR to help determine which assistive technologies can reduce barriers for special-needs candidates and review an internal communication plan that is sensitive to the special-needs employee."

Gartner also recommended that assistive technology options are reviewed on an ongoing basis so that IT can react quickly to changing needs.