This article is contributed. See the original author and article here.
Kim Akers – CVP, MCAPS Enablement and Operations
Over the past few years, across every industry, we have seen organizations quickly adjust to challenges and pursue new business opportunities as the pandemic reshaped our world. From health care, to manufacturing, retail and beyond, organizations have had to not only focus on building their own digital capability but hiring talent with proven potential.
As more and more organizations seek to fill the nearly 150 million jobs being created by this transformation, it has become acutely clear: talent is everywhere but the opportunity is not. In fact, Covid-19 put a giant spotlight on just how many people have been overlooked for far too long—people of color, women, people with less education. People with disabilities.
It’s never been more important to ensure everyone can prove they have the tech skills to take on that new assignment, get that new job or achieve the impossible.
With this in mind, and in honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, I’m excited to share more detail on how we’re helping to reshape the certification industry to be more inclusive for people with disabilities.
For decades, “disability” has focused on mobility, vision, or hearing issues. Yet, 70 percent of disabilities don’t have visible indicators. Examples of non-apparent disabilities include:
- Learning: Includes difficulty focusing, concentrating, or understanding
- Mental health: Includes anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, and/or depression
- Neurodiversity: Includes dyslexia, seizures, autism, or other cognitive differences
I am part of that 70% and my experience with dyslexia and dysgraphia helps me have empathy for the variety of challenges faced by the disability community. Especially knowing that having a seen, or unseen, disability can have a tremendous impact on someone’s career and opportunities—especially in an Industry with years of tradition stacked against them.
Take for instance Kevin’s story.
Kevin is a sales director whose job required him to complete a certification. He was diagnosed with ADHD as a child but thought it had subsided as he grew up. The symptoms re-emerged in adulthood, impacting his life at work.
For example, Kevin spent more than 500 hours studying and preparing for a certification test. He didn’t know how to get the accommodations required for success; the process was too complex. He failed the exam several times. This had a cascade effect. Not passing meant he missed his mandatory training goal, resulting in reduced compensation, contributing to increased anxiety at work and at home.
“The more we can help people to learn on their terms, the more we can help people take the time that they need and to have the resources they need to succeed,” Kevin says, noting that he passed the exam after receiving proper accommodations.
It is painful to read stories like Kevin’s. No one should be left behind because they need additional accommodation while taking a test or anything else. Yet that’s what happens every day.
Removing barriers to success, trying new approaches
I believe it’s time to shake things up.
We have been listening, researching, and learning how to be more inclusive—this includes reviewing and updating our certification exam accommodations. And just three months ago, we rolled out the first of many exam improvements: testers no longer have to ask before moving around or looking away from the computer during a test. They must simply stay in view of the camera. That will make a big difference for many test takers.
We also know seeking an accommodation has historically been complicated and may even require the need to share sensitive, personal information. So, we’ve also made changes like:
- Making the accommodation application process simpler
- Removing the documentation requirement for most requests; and when it is required, expanding the list of acceptable documentation and reducing the burden placed on applicants
- Ensuring proctors understand how to provide accommodations
- Establishing a Microsoft Certification Accommodations HyperCare support team to support learners who need extra help (firstname.lastname@example.org)
For a complete list of accommodations requirements, please visit: Accommodations and associated documentation requirements.
Change begins within
Certifications are a proven method for employees and job candidates to stand out in an increasingly competitive industry. I’m thrilled to see the steps taken to ensure our Microsoft Certification program is accessible to all.
After all, living with a disability shouldn’t hinder opportunity. Simply put, organizations must go beyond compliance when it comes to accommodations. That includes both offering them and ensuring proctors are properly trained. I’m thrilled that Microsoft is leading the way.
Stay tuned, more changes are in the works. I can’t wait to share them with you.
Brought to you by Dr. Ware, Microsoft Office 365 Silver Partner, Charleston SC.