By embracing voice technology, organizations can improve diversity and inclusion practices for employees, customers, and other organizational stakeholders.
More than one billion people around the world have an impairment that impacts their ability to access or read the web. One in 25 are blind or visually impaired, one in ten have dyslexia, and millions more are seniors. Some enterprise companies have been sued for not following guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title III, which focuses on making applications and websites more accessible to more people. Voice technology can help.
Accessibility issue plagues the majority of organizations, as it turns out. A recent study found that a staggering 98% of more than one million homepages for large and small companies failed to meet recommended requirements of website accessibility for disabled people.
As the world rapidly becomes more connected, businesses and governments need to become inclusive. It’s an important initiative to make information and opportunities available for those of all abilities. Moreover, organizations risk losing prospective employees and customers or damaging brand reputations if they don’t consider digital accessibility. But where should we look for ways to get started on the journey?
See also: Conversational AI: The Road to Recovery from the Pandemic
Enter voice technology
Digital transformation has moved many aspects of our world online and delivered innovations in many other ways, too. For example, natural language processing (NLP), a branch of artificial intelligence that helps computers understand the spoken word, has evolved considerably in recent years.
Take Google Home, a consumer product known for using speech recognition technology. Google Home was able to reduce error rates from 23% in 2013 down to 8% just two years later in 2015. These types of accuracy improvements are seen across the board as voice technology continues to learn, adapt, and improve.
The technology to support digital voice interactions is here, and consumer adoption is effusive. 31% of smartphone users use voice search at least once per week, and 20% of all mobile queries are now made through voice-activated searches. With more and more people choosing voice due to ease of use, organizations must transform to meet users where they are, becoming more accessible in the process.
For the more than one billion people worldwide with an impairment impacting their ability to read or access the web, using voice technology for digital interaction and accessing information isn’t a matter of preference. It’s the technology that is inclusive and levels the playing field for them: allowing access to the same information, opportunities, and resources as everyone else.
Think about the process of obtaining a simple piece of information, such as, what will the weather be like for the week? Not everyone can tap an app icon on a smartphone to view the temperature for Monday through Friday. But by using voice assistants like Google Home, this type of information is suddenly available using the power of voice. Now, users can ask, “Hey Google, what’s the weather like this week?” and they have obtained their answer.
This access to information should go mainstream. It’s easy to understand in the context of applying for a job. Frequently, applicants apply through online portals. Without alternative options, such as leveraging a voice application, organizations are automatically excluding those with disabilities from their hiring practices. This isn’t just a hypothetical situation. The data backs it up. This year, the Department of Labor released a report highlighting the disparity between the employment of people with and without disability:
- The unemployment rate for persons with a disability was 12.6% in 2020
- For persons without a disability, the unemployment rate was 7.9% in 2020
- Across all age groups and educational levels, persons with disabilities were much less likely to be employed than those without disabilities
Whether it is applying for a job or searching a menu to place an order at the local pizzeria, finding ways to make information and opportunities accessible to all is imperative.
Thanks to voice technology, the way we access information has changed for good. It’s now time to leverage technical innovations to be inclusive of all. By embracing voice, organizations can improve diversity and inclusion practices for employees, customers, and all other types of organizational stakeholders. For those living with a disability, voice technology is making the digital world accessible.