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Business Sense

Conveying "Open for Business" in the Technology Age

Clearly, ensuring your business is accessible to all potential customers and employees, including those with disabilities, makes good business sense. And in traditional "brick and mortar" environments, amenities such as curb cuts, wheelchair ramps, elevators and Braille signage play an important role in sending a disability-friendly message.

But today, most businesses have a virtual as well as physical existence. Job application processes are increasingly conducted electronically, while websites have largely replaced "Yellow Page" ads. What's more, for some small businesses, online systems are the foundation for commercial operations, allowing them to compete and succeed on a level unimaginable not long ago.

If the technical side of a business is not accessible, however, it's essentially closed to customers or potential employees with certain types of disabilities. But there are many steps that businesses — of all sizes and in all industries — can take to improve the accessibility of their technology infrastructure.

To help, the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) offers assistance with accessible technology in the workplace, as well as tips for designing accessible websites and an easy-to-use website accessibility self-assessment tool. A free service of the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), JAN also provides one-on-one consultation via phone at (800) 526-7234 or (877) 781-9403 (TTY).ODEP also offers a framework that provides guidance for businesses on how to self-assess the accessibility of their workplace technology and make plans for improvements.

The technology age has expanded the definition of accessibility beyond architecture. By learning about and taking steps to increase the accessibility of their workplace technology and online systems, businesses can communicate "open for business" to a broader segment of the population.

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