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HCI Webinar: Organizational DEI Efforts Among the Disabled Community, with John Samuel

In the latest HCI Webinar, Dr. Jonathan H. Westover talks with John Samuel about organizational DEI efforts among the disabled community. Below is a summary of the main points from their conversation! Check out the full episode and let us know what you think!


Watch the episode here:


Quick Recap


The conversation between Jonathan and John Samuel revolved around the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace, particularly within the disability community. John shared his personal experiences as a blind individual and emphasized the need for open dialogue and creating inclusive environments. Jonathan discussed the importance of recognizing coping strategies and creating safe environments. The conversation also touched on the importance of addressing digital accessibility barriers, providing disability inclusion training, and creating opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Additionally, they discussed the need for intentionality in hiring processes, the importance of self-identification, and the potential benefits of technology in improving employment rates for people with disabilities.


Disability Inclusion in Organizations


The meeting involved a conversation between Jonathan and John Samuel about organizational Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts, particularly within the disability community. John, who is the CEO and co-founder of Aber, shared his personal journey as a blind individual and his motivation to help organizations become more inclusive. Jonathan outlined the discussion's format, which included a general welcome, sharing of bios, a free-flowing dialogue, and a closing where John would share how the audience could connect with him and his work.


Disability Dialogue: Creating Inclusive Environments


John shared his personal experiences as a blind individual and emphasized the importance of open dialogue about disabilities to create an inclusive environment. Jonathan expressed interest in John's perspective and discussed the coping mechanisms people develop to deal with their challenges. They agreed on the importance of leaders recognizing these coping strategies and creating safe environments where people feel comfortable to disclose their challenges. They also discussed the potential benefits of reducing the pressure on employees by providing them with the necessary tools and support.


Disability Inclusion and Workforce Development


John shared his personal experience and insights on creating opportunities for people with disabilities, particularly those who are visually impaired. He emphasized the importance of addressing digital accessibility barriers and providing disability inclusion training to change mindsets and create a more inclusive work environment. He also mentioned that their company had launched a workforce development program in collaboration with the State of North Carolina to train individuals for tech-related careers, thereby meeting the growing demand for talent in these fields.


Neurodiversity in the Workplace: Inclusivity and Self-Reflection


Jonathan, a university professor, shared his research on neurodiversity in the workplace, emphasizing the importance of inclusivity and belonging. He highlighted that many employers claim to be open to working with neurodivergent individuals, but their systems and processes may unintentionally exclude them. He urged organizations to be more self-reflective and challenge their assumptions, suggesting that many current practices may not be necessary or beneficial for all employees. John agreed with Jonathan's points, indicating the need for intentionality and avoiding assumptions based on past practices.


Disability Inclusion: Mindset Shift and Sustainable Efforts


John and Jonathan discussed the importance of creating a safe environment for individuals with disabilities to self-identify and have their voices heard in order to improve processes and systems. John emphasized the need to shift the mindset from policies and procedures to human experiences, highlighting that accessible experiences benefit everyone. Jonathan agreed, stressing the importance of compliance culture and the need for long-term sustainable efforts. They discussed the usefulness of resources such as employee resource groups and guest speakers to foster empathy and provide necessary resources. John also underscored the importance of intentionality in hiring processes to ensure board representation reflects the diversity of clients and employees.


Disability Inclusion and Employment Trends


John and Jonathan discussed the importance of understanding and accommodating for the disability community, not just those who are born with disabilities but also caregivers and those who may acquire a disability later in life. They highlighted that disability impacts a broader range of the population than commonly thought, and that inclusive practices benefit everyone. They also touched on the issue of resistance to accommodations and the need for open dialogue about disabilities. Towards the end, they discussed trends in unemployment rates for people with disabilities and the potential for technology and intentional recruitment strategies to improve these rates.


Creating Safe Spaces and Breaking Barriers


John shared his contact details and encouraged audience members to connect with him on LinkedIn. He also expressed his enthusiasm for creating a safe space for conversations about breaking down barriers and creating a sense of belonging for all people.


Listen to the webinar here:


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