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How does digital adaptive technology address barriers to labour market participation for people with disabilities?

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About the project

In the spring of 2020, many companies sent their employees home to work remotely to combat the spread of COVID-19. Without forethought or planning, an entire workforce was mobilized using digital assistive/adaptive technologies to support remote working. Prior to this, these same companies had often claimed an undue hardship when asked to make these same accommodations for people with disabilities.

Over a year later, much has been learned about the use of digital assistive technology to support remote workers. More importantly, for the first time, people with disabilities can come to the same table in their search for employment. Therefore, the focus of this report was a scoping review undertaken to answer the question: How does digital adaptive technology address barriers to labour market participation for people with disabilities?

Key findings

There were three key findings:

  • The use of assistive technologies in the remote workplace is underresearched and underdeveloped.
  • Much work needs to be undertaken to really demonstrate the effectiveness and cost/benefit analysis of employers' provision of such technologies for their employees.
  • We found next to no evidence for the use of assistive technologies in the home for remote working by people with disabilities. This knowledge gap needs to be addressed.

Policy implications

There are 10 key policy implications drawn from the results of this scoping review:

  1. There is a need for specific training programs in the use of assistive technologies by people with disabilities.
  2. Organizations should explore the use of assistive technologies to further support their workforce.
  3. Evidence is still needed regarding the use of assistive technologies in the workplace and, specifically, in the home for remote working.
  4. Significant and unique barriers must be identified and addressed.
  5. Organizations need to comply with existing policies.
  6. More research is needed into the issue of unmet needs by people with disabilities.
  7. There is a need for investment in research and development into assistive technologies.
  8. Workplace assessments are required in the home setting.
  9. Further work in the classification of assistive technologies is required.
  10. Large-scale studies of digital assistive technologies are needed.

Additionally, there is a need for an inventory of digital assistive/adaptive technologies to be developed to make it easier for companies to accommodate people with disabilities. This inventory will be undertaken as the next phase of this study and will be released as a public-facing, online, accessible database in the fall of 2021.

Further information

Read the full report

Contact the researchers

Nicola Shaw, professor, Algoma University: nicola.shaw@algomau.ca

Sarah Boudreau, student research assistant: sboudreau@algomau.ca

Mohamed Issaoui, student research assistant: missaoui@algomau.ca

The views expressed in this evidence brief are those of the authors and not those of SSHRC, the Future Skills Centre or the Government of Canada.

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