By: Jonathan Kaufman
This post is a reprint of the original article, posted at Forbes.com
Part Two: Compassionate Design
Professor Bess Williamson in her book Accessible America: A History Of Disability and Design wrote that “Design is a hopeful practice, one that looks to improve the current state of things and connect to functionality with a human, creative, sensitive touch.” To truly grasp the value, complexity, and magnitude that universal design is playing during this pandemic we must look beyond the technological marvels and see the ethical reality that is refining the culture of work and offering a new vision for the future. While technology provides the tools for various professionals to continue to work, from doctors to psychotherapists using telehealth, to numerous companies from marketing firms, to financial services through remote work platforms, this raises new questions around the future of work and how management must approach corporate strategy beyond the pandemic and see the crisis as a way to articulate concepts to reinvent our understanding of a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive workforce for the 21st Century.
Why is the Power of Compassion Important to Business?
The definition of being compassionate is simply defined as the ability to show kindness as well as being caring and sympathetic to others. In the Business of Empathy, compassion is an essential ingredient in the overall principle, yet from the perspective of growth, businesses often don’t recognize the intrinsic value that compassion can play as a tactic for corporate strategy. If we take Universal Design, for example, its very foundation is based on the idea of a promise to meet the needs of disabled users while also appealing to a broader audience. While one may not see this as a sign of compassion, it provides a lens into not only a way to serve a minority group, but also a linkage to enhance the lives of a broader audience that can have a direct impact on organizations at large. The role of compassion in the Business of Empathy allows companies to take a second look at the broader employee pool and explore options that they may not have first engaged in. During the coronavirus, pandemic companies are now being forced to embrace technology in innovative ways and explore potential new business opportunities for both present and future that will be critical for their success. Being able to think through diversity and inclusion strategies, using compassion as a tool, will be fundamental to investigating new ways to think about hiring, retention of employees, and potential pools of underserved workers.
What the COVID-19 Crisis Can Teach Organizations About Disability and Work
The need to hire persons with disabilities has been critical for decades, from government to businesses, both large and small. However, in the era of the coronavirus pandemic, social distancing and life in quarantine have become the norm. Millions of people are reliant on technology to be the conduit to the world of work. Organizations must realize that, for the most part, it is adaptative tools that are essential for our daily lives. For persons with disabilities, this is a familiar situation that they have already been accustomed to. Despite the fact there is still work to be done to make technology fully accessible, tremendous progress has been made from companies such as Microsoft, Apple, and others, to create parity. As remote work is an essential component in the new norm, organizations need to revamp their hiring models and see this not only as essential, but key to their corporate culture. By embracing an element of compassion, companies can regard their disability program as a direct value add that correlates with leveraging persons with disabilities as a tool, to galvanize design as a way to explore alternative outcomes and question products or work styles as they are or will be. The ability to push the “what if” methodology is a game-changer in that it can help organizations explore future scenarios of both environmental and technological change. As we see in this present moment, these lessons are critical for any organization to contend with. Once again, this crisis provides another practical reasoning of the inherent value of persons with disabilities in the world of work.
Jonathan Kaufman was born with Cerebral Palsy which has had a profound impact on my personal, academic and professional life. As a former Policy Advisor to the White House on Diversity and Disability, an engaging professional speaker, anthropologist, psychotherapist, executive coach and policy architect my unique background has allowed me to consult in a variety of capacities with Fortune 500 and 1000 companies, government agencies and non for profits helping them articulate new strategies to enhance their organization.