Courageous Conversations is a series put together by the Triangle Diversity Equity and Inclusivity Alliance. In the conference on May 19th (Global Accessibility Awareness Day) the alliance hosted Kamille Richardson. Kamille is the founder of iSeeTechnologies, inc. Kamille has been legally blind since birth, and she has worked to be a strong voice for change and advocacy for the blind and visually impaired community. Our team was impacted by Kamille’s words, and we wanted to share our thoughts and takeaways from the conference.
Why is Accessibility Important?
Kamille spoke in her personal testimony that upon graduation from college, it was hard for her to find a place in the workforce. She talked in depth about her experience applying for jobs, getting interviews, knowing she was qualified for the position, but never receiving an offer, despite employers’ enthusiasm in emails. Kamille shared about feeling the temperature in the room dropping when she walked in with her white cane to meet the interviewer. After weeks of not having much luck with interviews, she decided to change paths and go into massage therapy. While she was great at her job and received numerous accolades, it was not what she loved doing.
This is not only Kamille’s story, but a similar story of so many people who are blind or visually impaired. Many people are overlooked by employers for jobs, regardless of their degree or skills. Creating accessibility in the workplace means creating necessary conditions so potential employees, regardless of disability status, can successfully pursue their careers of interest.
What can you do to improve accessibility in your company?
Kamille shared three important ways to improve accessibility in your company. We encourage you to reflect and think about how you can incorporate these practices.
Build Relationships in Your Area
Ask other organizations for help. Reach out to local state agencies or college disability services for potential candidates. Kamille talked about a stronger way to collaborate with other organizations. Rather than volunteering with an organization, actively partner with them. This means building connections with the resources in your area and serving side by side with them. By doing this, your business can create strong relationships with other partners in the community and work to include others in your company.]
Allow Wiggle Room in Your Policies
Kamille challenged all attendees to reflect on how company policies may affect those who are blind or visually impaired. Consider allowing remote work for employees and revisiting how existing hiring policies are prioritized.
Kamille spoke about one of the most common policies on job applications that she has encountered is the requirement to have a valid driver’s license. Kamille talked about how this can turn people away from the job if it is listed as a requirement on the application for a non-driving role, as many blind or visually impaired people may not have a valid driver’s license. As a business, you can look deeper into what policies you prioritize and how that may impact the perception of your company.
Listen Beyond the White Cane
The last point Kamille gave was to listen beyond the white cane. She encouraged everyone to move past their unconscious bias and the assumptions they may make about various people groups.
According to the Triangle DEI Alliance, unconscious bias is the stereotypes people hold outside of their own conscious awareness. Kamille spoke about how employers should use their active listening skills rather than focusing on what they see, specifically when interviewing a candidate.
As a business and as individuals, we should work to combat our unconscious bias in any situation. How can we do that? Kamille provided helpful tips on how we can take steps to combat unconscious bias in the hiring process. First, have sensitivity and awareness training for hiring managers. Next, build relationships with people with disabilities to help gain new perspectives on the hiring process as well as other internal policies.
At the end of the conversation, Kamille challenged each attendee to look at the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion statements within their companies and ensure we are honoring them in how we work and live. She also encouraged us to revisit our hiring processes, gain perspective from others, and ensure our processes and policies are inclusive in providing opportunities for all.
Thank you to the Triangle DEI Alliance of the Raleigh Chamber for hosting another successful Courageous Conversation.
To learn more about Kamille Richardson visit her website below:
For more information about unconscious bias or accessibility in the workplace, we recommend visiting:
This blog was written by: Courtney Busick