Sadly, many organizations have bought into the notion that people living with disabilities are incapable of holding down tech jobs. Even those able to acquire gainful employment are often held back by supervisors and company leaders who believe professionals with disabilities are only capable of mediocrity, at best. This is sometimes referred to as “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”
One tech titan is eager to reboot the software and technology industry, with accessibility at its core.
Cloud-based customer relationship management software company Salesforce has become a vocal advocate for greater accessibility and inclusion in the tech world. These efforts are further reinforced by the rollout of a new website for its Workforce Navigators program.
What Is the Workforce Navigators Program?
Established in 2020, Salesforce’s Workforce Navigators program envisions a professional world where we’ve finally overcome both the so-called “unemployment gap” and “digital divide” experienced by people living with disabilities.
In fact, more than 60% of working-age Americans with disabilities remain unemployed, according to a 2020 unemployment survey conducted by the National Council on Disabilities.
Similarly, a 2023 report by the Department of Justice and General Services Administration discovered that only 1 in 10 government agencies’ websites were deemed “fully accessible for Americans with disabilities, and several large federal entities were found to have 50 percent or less of their tested websites in compliance with accessibility requirements.”
To overcome these challenges, Workforce Navigators is dedicated to empowering professionals with disabilities to realize their full potential and transform their careers in the tech industry.
Workforce Navigators enables professionals with disabilities to become trailblazers.
In addition to mentorships, Workforce Navigators provides resources and training for professionals looking to become more proficient in technology, specifically the Salesforce ecosystem. Informed by the company’s “shift left” mentality, Salesforce’s software is designed (and continually redesigned) to be as accessible as possible.
Digital inclusion is not an afterthought.
New Website Offers Professionals With Disabilities New Opportunities
Salesforce has recently rolled out the new website to reflect the growing momentum behind its Workforce Navigators program.
‘The Greatest Equalizer’
The new site is headlined by a 19-minute documentary featuring Salesforce’s collaboration with the nonprofit Blind Institute of Technology (BIT), titled “The Greatest Equalizer.”
Viewers are treated to a deeper dive into their partnered efforts to bridge the unemployment gap by “empowering people who are blind and low vision to achieve successful careers in tech.”
The short film includes interviews from several blind or visually impaired (BVI) professionals discussing the impact of this partnership, including:
- Mike Hess, Founder & Executive Director of BIT
- Rebecca Leader, Salesforce Administrator
- Michael Patellis, VP of Corporate Engagement at BIT
- Kristy Schenderlein, Director of Talent at BIT
- Ertay Shashko, Salesforce Administrator
Events, Scholarships, Mentorships & More
Visitors to workforcenavigators.salesforce.com will find easy navigation to the Workforce Navigators mentorship program, scholarships for the Virtual Bootcamp, events to further engage with the community, and a partnerships page detailing organizations Salesforce collaborates with to train, certify and place professionals within its ecosystem.
It’s worth noting the scholarship and mentorship programs are currently available only in the United States and Canada.
Further resources are available to help guide professionals looking to level up their skills, as well.
How Professionals With Disabilities Benefit From Workforce Navigators
The Workforce Navigators program has been truly life changing for some professionals with disabilities. Here are just two of their stories.
Facilitating a Major Career Change
Following more than a decade of being a physical therapist, Alan Reuss was diagnosed with a genetic disease that severely impaired his vision. His vision loss became progressively worse, and after 14 years, he felt circumstances compelled him to change careers because he faced consistent discrimination when trying to get hired elsewhere.
“When my wife and I moved to Phoenix for her new job opportunity, I mentioned my disability right away,” he recalls. “And because I wasn’t familiar with the process, and how to disclose or have any training, I was just flying by the seat of my pants. All five companies I interviewed with ghosted me—they wouldn’t even return any of my calls.”
His vision loss became so dramatic he knew he could no longer conceal it.
“I really just couldn’t get by with ‘faking it’ anymore,” Reuss explains. “Even prior to moving, I would be working with a patient in a clinic, and there would be times I just didn’t see them, and I’d bump into them. This was before I was even using a cane, and I was just trying on my own to cope with it.”
So he made a switch.
Among other career development opportunities, he soon participated in training with Salesforce’s Trailhead program (a part of Workforce Navigators), a free, online training program. Now a member of the global Trailhead Community, he has since become a Salesforce Certified Administrator.
He credits his successful career change to the Salesforce program.
“When you run into a company like Salesforce, you’re super grateful that they’re working toward accessibility,” he says. “And I just appreciate them that much more.”
The Trailhead Program Is an Evergreen Resource
Although the Blind Institute of Technology concentrates on helping blind and low-vision professionals achieve gainful employment, it’s become a quasi-staffing house for all professionals with disabilities.
Kathi Duffy is a Salesforce administrator and has a bone-anchored hearing aid that she’s worn since ninth grade. Deaf in her right ear, with partial hearing loss in her left, she’s well acquainted with the specific challenges that professionals with hearing loss face in the tech world.
Her career has also benefited from participating in the Trailhead program.
“It’s all in one package,” she says, raving about the virtual program’s user experience. “You can figure out what needs to be done by looking at ‘help.’ There are also user groups. I’m personally a visual learner since I’m hearing impaired, so I like the color-coded stuff. I think that just in general it’s a very easy tool to use.”
The computer science professional is especially enthusiastic about its asynchronous qualities, including self-learning modules and evergreen resources.
“You can teach yourself,” she explains. “There are a lot of tools out there that are not quite as self-explanatory. A lot of those Trailblazer units are ‘click here’ or ‘do this.’ If you want to become an admin or a developer, there are recommended classes. You can see what path you like and don’t like before going forward.”
Duffy believes the Trailhead program has not only helped strengthen her skills across the Salesforce ecosystem, but provides easy ways to keep them honed, as well.
“I have found that when a customer asks me something, I can always go in and do a quick module that evening or get hands-on,” she says. “Coming out of college, they teach you all of that stuff, but then the application is a little bit different. Getting hands-on, or at least being in the tool, I think that’s helpful.”
Salesforce has demonstrated how deeply it values accessibility and inclusion, time and time again. And the growth of its Workforce Navigators program is just one more development in a concerted effort to remove barriers in tech for professionals with disabilities eager to contribute.
Salesforce is a founding partner of InclusionHub, a resource for digital accessibility, dedicated to helping businesses prioritize digital inclusion. You can learn more about accessibility and inclusion in the workplace by visitingSalesforce’s a11y website.