Nov 30, 2022

How technology helps remove barriers to equity in the workplace

A commitment to inclusion, diversity, and equity (ID&E) means thinking innovatively about solutions

Kentaro Doi has spent the majority of his 14 years at Medtronic in clinical research and regulatory roles but he’s especially passionate about spreading awareness about people with disabilities. That’s because he lives with retinitis pigmentosa.

Kentaro pictured with his guide dog, Yreka.
Kentaro pictured with his guide dog, Yreka.

The progressive disease has no cure and causes low vision, a narrowing of the visual field, and night blindness. “It affects quality of life,” Doi said.

A lot of people don’t know they have it until they are older, but he started experiencing symptoms at just 3 years old.

Based in Japan, the regulatory affairs specialist spends much of his time writing documents. Because his visual function is so low, he uses tools known as assistive technology.

There are assistive technologies now embedded in many tools within the Microsoft Office suite and Zoom, but there are also specialized tools that Medtronic procures for employees with disabilities.

One example is the JAWS Reader, a specialized screen reader software used by people with low or no vision.

Glare is another symptom of retinitis pigmentosa that can be challenging for office workers who need to look at a screen all day.

“Brightness hurts my eyes. Because of that, I reverse the colors on the screen,” he said. “That eases the brightness, and I don’t have to suffer much from glare.”

Breaking down barriers through technology

For Shane Creaven, it all started with fielding IT requests for the JAWS reader.

Inspired by the Awareness Benefitting Leadership and Employees about Disabilities employee resource group (ABLED ERG), Creaven began to examine the IT problems confronted by employees with disabilities.

Now, the service delivery manager is working on getting licenses to accommodate more people who need specific software for not only visual impairment, but also dyslexia and hearing impairment.

After he became involved with the ABLED ERG, a family member was diagnosed with autism.

“It made me aware on a bigger scale on how you approach dealing with people who have accessibility issues,” he said. “It can take time, but the intention is there to do the right thing. It truly is an inclusive and diverse company.”

He and Doi agree on the importance of raising awareness. 

“The more we talk about it the better the solutions we can put out there for people,” Creaven said.

Tips for an inclusive workplace

We all have a part to play when it comes to creating and maintaining inclusive workplaces. We got some tips from a handful of employees with disabilities.

  • Clear obstacles: Don’t leave boxes or other items on the floor and keep chairs pushed in
  • Use alt text: Social media, websites, and other tools like Word and PowerPoint include spots for describing an image for people who do not have the ability to see them
  • Copy and paste: Using copy/paste is a better alternative to putting a screen shot in email, but if you need to use a screen shot, make sure to also include a typed description of the image

Our unwavering commitment to inclusion, diversity, and equity (ID&E) means working toward zero barriers to opportunity. It also means promoting a culture where all employees feel they belong, are respected, and feel valued for who they are. Learn more.

December 3 is International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The theme this year is transformative solutions for inclusive development: the role of innovation in fueling an accessible and equitable world.

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