Law Technology Today is a leading resource in legal technology. Whenever I wonder what’s going on outside the tech part, however, I check out the latest issue of Law Practice Today. Its July issue is focused on diversity, a topic that has been brewing for a while, and took center stage in July with the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage.
One particular post that caught my attention was about inclusion without litigation. Author Joshua Paulin discusses hiring his wife, Ana, who “would seem to be an obvious choice to help run a busy immigration office. She speaks several languages and displays an amazing and comforting depth of cultural sensitivity to often-nervous potential clients.” The kicker? She’s blind. Completely blind, as Paulin puts it, which reminded me of a post on Law Technology Today about law office technology for everyone. While Lainey Feingold’s post for us points to flaws, oversights, and a general lack of understanding of disabilities when it comes to things like digital signatures, Paulin contributes to the conversations with a brilliant, astute observation:
When making accommodations, ask what the person needs; as you might imagine, they’ve given some thought to this and they know what works best for them. It needn’t always be an expensive accommodation, either—we have a dedicated Portuguese phone line due to our large Brazilian clientele, so when I asked Ana how she wanted to handle the separate lines, she immediately suggested the (what should have been) obvious solution of distinct ringtones.
Ask vendors, as Feingold does, and help them understand how to improve their products. Ask, as Paulin does, to know how people intimately familiar with their disability prefer to get work done. It’s easy to forget that, though the disability may be new to us, it is not necessarily new to the person. They may have been living with it all their life, and are thus familiar with how to adapt to situations—what works, what doesn’t, and whether there might be a technological aid (like the iPhone or JAWS® for Windows).
A simple yet overlooked approach that costs you nothing: just ask!