The Data Briefing: Create an App for Employees with Disabilities

Three gray and white icons for visual impairment.

Have you worked with an employee with a disability? Are you an employee with a disability? Then, you know the unique challenges of the average workplace that able-bodied colleagues may never experience. Workplace challenges could be overcome with accommodations such as larger computer monitor displays, wheelchair-accessible office furniture or a voice reader. In some cases, a mobile app is a solution to a workplace challenge.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. In honor of this month and the fact that the federal government is the largest employer of people with disabilites in the U.S., I examined the data resources on Data.gov. According to a quick search, there are 452 datasets related to the term “disability”. Most of the datasets deal with the processing of disability claims. However, I did find three intriguing examples of federal government data on accessibility for people with disabilities.

The first example is the General Services Administration’s (GSA) Section508.gov. There used to be BuyAccessible.gov, but it appears that site has been folded into Section508.gov. It provides guidance on compliance with Section 508 of the of the Rehabilitation Act by providing information on how to procure accessible products and services. There is also a section for vendors, advising them on how to sell accessible IT.

The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) list of modified vehicle providers is the second federal dataset. Users can download a Comma-Separated-Values (CSV) text file that they can import into a spreadsheet. The data contains the contact information for businesses that will modify vehicles for disabled access.

The third example is the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Accessibility Clearinghouse. This well-designed website lists telecommunication devices appropriate for specific disabilities such as vision issues or hearing issues. Unlike the other two examples, the FCC Accessibility Clearinghouse offers an API (application programming interface) for developers. Just register for an API key and developers can begin using the Clearinghouse data in their mobile apps.

I also chose these three examples to pitch a call to action for developers. In my last column, I surveyed the 300-plus federal government mobile apps. Although some apps could aid those with disabilities, there was not one mobile app that focused on them, let alone employees with disabilities. In recognition of DigitalGov’s theme for October, Mobile Moments, I want to urge the developer community to build apps using federal government data from the three above examples. Alternatively, developers could find appropriate government datasets to help employees with disabilities find federal jobs, receive relevant training or perform common work tasks more effectively. For inspiration, look to this list of 45 Powerful Mobile Apps for those with Disabilities.

Employees with disabilities want to work, and there are many examples of people with disabilities who have made amazing contributions to the world. President Franklin Roosevelt. Dr. Stephen Hawkings. Helen Keller. President Abraham Lincoln. A mobile app is a relatively small investment to make in helping employees with disabilities contribute their talents and knowledge, especially when those with disabilities are capable of such profound good for the workplace and American society.(The article, “45 Powerful Mobile Apps for those with Disabilities,” is used only for illustrative purposes and does not imply an endorsement of the content or organization that published the content by the federal government or any of the federal government agencies.) Each week, The Data Briefing showcases the latest federal data news and trends. _Dr. William Brantley is the Training Administrator for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)’s Global Intellectual Property Academy. You can find out more about his personal work in open data, analytics, and related topics at BillBrantley.com. All opinions are his own and do not reflect the opinions of the USPTO or GSA._

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