Effecting Change, Driving Growth

Posted December 22, 2011

When digital imaging giant Canon set out to manufacture a photocopier that was accessible to people with disabilities, Sean Stapelford showed them how. He created 15 pages of recommendations on accessible design for the copier, which guided the work of Canon engineers from New York to Tokyo. Today, Stapelford’s insights and input are the inspiration for many of the accessible designs across Canon’s entire office product line.

Canon was Stapelford’s client at TecAccess, a consulting firm that helps companies make their information and communications systems accessible to people with disabilities. While Stapelford played a pivotal role in making Canon’s office products accessible, his contributions also prompted Canon to partner exclusively with TecAccess on accessibility projects, driving significant revenues for his employer. He accomplished this as a lead accessibility engineer at TecAccess. He accomplished this as a quadriplegic.

Tec Access

“Our clients prefer to work with people with disabilities because they live and work with accessible technologies every day, enabling them to consistently deliver smart, actionable counsel,” says Debra Ruh, founder and CEO, TecAccess. “We knew that hiring qualified professionals with disabilities would differentiate us from our competitors who offered the same services but did not employ people with disabilities.”

Foresight is 20/20

Ruh spotted the demand for a firm like TecAccess more than 10 years ago. After 25 years in the information technology (IT) industry and having a daughter with Down Syndrome, she launched the company. The goal: to hire primarily people with disabilities who are uniquely positioned to help companies, government agencies and educational institutions create and maintain accessible technology solutions.

Today, TecAccess’ 60-plus consultants, technologists and testers provide hardware and software testing and assessment, accessibility training, policy review and IT accessibility consulting to a growing base of global clients. More than 80 percent of TecAccess employees have physical or intellectual disabilities, ranging from cerebral palsy, brain injury and bipolar disorder to diabetes, blindness and deafness. Many have raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars in client business, helping TecAccess grow sales to the tune of $2 million a year.

Whether this team is testing a keyboard to ensure that people with limited use of their hands can easily type on it – or evaluating an ATM touch screen to see if someone who is visually impaired can deposit their paycheck – it delivers significant, measurable value to both clients and TecAccess. Here’s proof.

High client retention rates: The TecAccess client retention rate is upwards of 90 percent, demonstrating high levels of client satisfaction and loyalty. This has gone a long way in building the firm’s brand equity, while driving sales revenues and reducing new business costs.

High employee retention rates: From the beginning, TecAccess has maintained an employee retention rate of more than 90 percent. The fact is, workers with disabilities tend to have longer tenure than their peers without disabilities – they are inherently a loyal group, which translates into employer loyalty. And while Ruh has seen a slight drop in the retention rate recently, she says that’s actually good news.

“Some of our employees with disabilities have been recruited by global organizations because of the unique perspectives and measurable results they bring to the table,” says Ruh. “This is a strong indicator that more and more entities – large and small, global and local – are really beginning to recognize the value that people with disabilities bring to the workplace.”

Ruh recognized that value more than a decade ago when she started TecAccess. While she may have been well ahead of the curve, smart, strategic organizations around the world are clearly beginning to catch on … and catch up.