4 ways local tech orgs are trying to make their spaces more accessible - Technical.ly Philly

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May 3, 2019 1:12 pm

4 ways local tech orgs are trying to make their spaces more accessible

We asked a handful of reps from local companies and nonprofits what accessibility in the workplace meant to them, both digitally and physically.

Vincent Palochko, HR director at Linode, speaks at Technical.ly's stakeholder meeting.

(Photo by Chris Wink)

For Brianna Wronko, CEO of Group K Diagnostics, being able to have her service dog with her at the office could literally save her life.

Luna, a nine-month-old Maltipoo trained to monitor heart conditions, starts to bark whenever the founder is about to have an episode of arrhythmia, and lets her know its time to sit down and breathe calmly.

Moving offices to a space that welcomes service animals is one adjustment the life sciences company made with accessibility in mind.

“Our last landlord was really unhelpful,” Wronko said. “Our new place has been amazing. So, just being cognizant of procedures and protocols for employees as we realize that dogs can do more than seeing-eye or guide work [is important].”

Service animal-friendly workspaces, redefined role descriptions and adapted job interview processes are some of the ways that local founders and execs said they’re adapting to ensure accessibility at their companies. Here’s what they told us at Technical.ly’s most recent stakeholder meeting:

Michelle Bauer, from Power Home Remodeling, said the Chester-based company has retooled the training of its recruiting staff to think less about a candidate’s ability to, say, lift 40 pounds, and more about where their skills align with the company’s needs.

“[Recruiters] have been trained to think about different jobs in the company that someone could be able to do,” said Bauer. “We’ve trained them to think more creatively about filling the roles and thinking about what accommodations someone might need and what we could offer, not just to meet the legal standards but to make both parties feel more comfortable.”

At Coded by Kids, Sylvester Mobley said neurodiversity came into the picture when thinking about making its program open to all kids.

“One of the things we realized is we have kids that are in the autism spectrum in the program,” said Mobley. “For us it was about having more intentional conversations with schools about the different backgrounds our kids were coming from, so we could prepare for it.”

a maltiepoo in an office

Luna the service dog at Group K Diagnostics’ office. (Courtesy photo)

Wronko also reframed one process in the company’s tech — a point-of-care microfluidics diagnostics platform — to become more accessible to people with color vision deficiencies.

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“If you’re colorblind, you legally can’t read any point-of-care diagnostics tool in a healthcare setting,” Wronko said. “Nothing, not a pregnancy test or a urine analysis.” The fix was simple: The results of the tests were sent directly to a mobile app without needing to be color coded.

Linode HR director Vinnie Palochko said the company’s interview process — typically consistent of an initial phone screening followed by an in-person talk — was recently adapted to accommodate a customer support role applicant who is Deaf.

“We set the candidate up with a video call and online chat, so we could communicate via text and also had them over in person for follow-up,” Palochko said.

Though the candidate was not selected, Palochko said the experience allowed the company to think about ways to adapt the process to candidate’s needs.

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It’s Accessibility Month of our editorial calendar. What should we cover this May? Let us know by emailing Technical.ly Managing Editor Julie Zeglen (julie@technical.ly). 

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