Sometimes in my life, I’ve noticed that the simplest experience offers the most profound lesson. I recently went grocery shopping over the New Year’s holiday, and like many people I used the self-checkout machine. I was wearing my wrist braces from my physical therapist, which caused me a bit of trouble scanning my items to purchase. I became frustrated and began to think about how this machine took away a job that was normally done much more efficiently by a human. Despite my frustration, the technology in self-checkout machines are advancing more and more each year.
Amazon now has its own brand of grocery store in Washington state. It boasts there are no actual cashiers, and the only requirements are that you have an Amazon account and a smart phone with the Amazon Go app installed. The advertisement for Amazon’s new program accentuates the positives about there being no line to wait in when checking out. The problem I have is that many people with disabilities have jobs in grocery stores that are now being taken by machines and computers. Amazon and other companies might accidentally remove the need for a lot of jobs as they continue to improve artificial intelligence. I’m sure someday that a computer will be a lot more efficient at stocking a shelf than a human with a disability would be. Even though machines are probably much more effective, I wouldn’t mind exhibiting some patience towards a person with a disability, if it meant protecting a job and the subsequent access to the community that the job provides.
I know that a lot of people are having similar issues with technology taking away their jobs. It was a big determinant in the 2016 campaign, and some might say that was the main issue which compelled them to vote for their candidate. I think it’s going to be harder for people with certain disabilities to adjust to the changing job market, as it might take longer to become trained in certain areas. I’m not saying that we should proceed without technology, as there’s no way to stop it from advancing.
I wanted to use the rest of this blog to highlight a few companies that have a good reputation towards employing workers with disabilities, that way we can keep them in mind as model job providers entrenched in a workforce that continually innovates itself.
One company that is very close to my heart is my alma mater, Guilford College. They employed a cafeteria worker named Ruthie Brown, who had worked there for 34 years during my tenure there. She became very attached to me. She used to want to help my PCAs take my coat off, which is a task we never trained her to do. She also insisted every day that I have ice cream, and I had to explain every day that I didn’t want any. These daily interactions were some of my most memorable experiences at Guilford, even if she did treat me like a little kid.
Another company I want to mention is Walgreens. They have seemed to embrace people with disabilities not only out of goodwill, but due to the realization that they are considered a proven asset. They have taken strident measures to include, educate, and train a diverse workforce through their REDI programs. REDI stands for Retail Employees with Disabilities Initiative and “is a program that creates partnerships between stores and local disability resources to provide job skills training for people with disabilities.” Another positive aspect of Walgreens’ activity in this area is that they are committed in encouraging other businesses to follow suit and have pledged to fill 20 percent of their distribution jobs with people with disabilities.
The last company I would like to mention is Starbucks. For two years in a row, they garnered a perfect score of 100% on the Disability Equality Index (DEI) survey. The DEI is a collaboration of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and the US Business Leadership Network (USBLN). It is governed by a “diverse group of business leaders, policy experts, and disability advocates” which maintain that “the DEI is a national, transparent, annual benchmarking tool that offers businesses an opportunity to receive an objective score, on a scale of zero (0) to 100, on their disability inclusion policies and practices.” Starbucks claims to have disability inclusion as one of its core foundation values. In 2015, they created a program called the Starbucks Inclusion Academy in their largest distribution center in Carson Valley, Nevada. This paid, on-the-job training has proven to yield a high retention and attendance rate, and has improved the morale among employees throughout the plant.
It’s true I depend on technology every day, and I clearly benefit from its many advances over the years. I just want to make sure that we learn from the three organizations I mentioned, and not to leave people with disabilities out of the loop.
That’s how I roll into the future……..
- Posted by Bryan Dooley
- On February 1, 2017
- 0 Comments