We have been having candid conversations with leading industry experts for our beloved readers. Continuing this legacy, today we have another special guest in our midst.
Her name’s Debra Ruh and she’s a Global Disability Inclusion strategist, renowned keynote speaker and a published author of three amazing books.
She’s a believer in the notion that real disability is our inability to see true human potential. In that spirit, she built a multi-million-dollar firm that focuses on ICT accessibility.
Her venture focuses on Global Disability Inclusion Strategies, Digital Marketing, and Branding among many other services.
She consults with scores of large corporations and the United Nations. Debra is an internationally renowned global keynote speaker and travels the world inspiring governments and corporations to include people with disabilities in the mainstream.
Please welcome Debra Ruh, CEO and Founder – Ruh Global Impact, Podcast Host – Human Potential at Work and author of Inclusion Branding and Uncovering Hidden Human Capital.
TASKQUE: First of all, enlighten our readers where you began your professional journey? What were your biggest inspirations and motivations?
Debra: I wanted to help people and thought about being a police officer or psychiatrist. Instead, I went into mortgage banking.
I am the mother of two grown children and my oldest was a daughter born with Down syndrome. When my daughter entered middle school and we realized that many people with disabilities are not meaningfully included in the workforce.
I decided to try to change that and became an entrepreneur focused on disability inclusion and accessibility. I am also a technologist, so I got engaged in Tech4All, Tech4Good and Artificial Intelligence for Good.
TASKQUE: You passionately speak about people with disabilities. How do you think they can contribute towards the ever-increasing demands of an ultra-busy society.
DEBRA: Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) are humans like any other person. We all have abilities and disabilities. Society needs to let everyone participate in education and in the workforce.
Persons with Disabilities add great value to the workforce because they are often good problem solvers. When society is not accessible to them they have to figure out ways to innovatively solve the problems. We have seen corporations hire PwDs and be surprised at the innovations.
One corporation in Bangladesh hired people that were blind to work in their technical call centers.
They were surprised when the employees that were blind outperformed their sighted peers. They were also pleasantly surprised by the customers’ responses.
The customers did not realize the customer service technicians were blind but often asked to speak to management because they were much more empathic than the customer service representatives that were sighted. Societies must stop assuming a person is broken or no value to society just because a person has a disability.
TASKQUE: What can we, as individuals and organizations or even societies, do to promote accessibility and inclusion?
DEBRA: First get the community of persons with disabilities engaged in the conversations. PwDs are eager to join the inclusion and accessibility conversations.
They also know their needs better than people that have not walked their path. Plus, we have seen over and over again that when a corporation or organization makes their place of employment of their services/products accessible to customers with disabilities, everyone else benefits from the Universal Design.
For example, when Apple created Voice Over for their smartphone users that were blind. The younger sighted people found the tool very helpful.
Another example is closed captioning. We created closed captioning for people that are deaf and yet everyone benefits from captioning especially in crowded centers like airports, gyms or restaurants where TVs are playing, but it is too noisy to hear the sound.
TASKQUE: Would you like to mention a name or two of people of have inspired you in the industry or someone you follow in the field.
DEBRA: There are so many people that have inspired me in the field. Here are a few: Caroline Casey, Valuable 500; Neil Milliken and Antonio Santos, Atos: KR Liu, Amazon: Margaux Joffee of Verizon: Diane Lightfoot and Brendan Roach, BDF: Kate Nash, Purple Space: Billie Gregory, Paciello Group, Dr. Christopher Lee, IAAP, Axel Leblois, G3ict, Jules Johns, Delsion: Rosemary Musachio, LaMondre Pough, Richard Streitz, of Ruh Global IMPACT and so many more.
TASKQUE: Please tell our readers about your multimedia podcast channel. Please share your best experiences from any of the episodes.
DEBRA: Human Potential at Work has been on the air for over 4 years with more than 175 episodes. Some of my favorites are my guests with disabilities that are changing the world. Or corporate executives that are changing the world by including persons with disabilities in their workforce.
TASKQUE: Tell us about AXSChat, how people can leverage it? What made you create such a channel? Who will benefit from AXSChat?
DEBRA: AXSChat is one of the world’s largest tweet chats with over 8 billion tweets. Each week we interview a guest about accessibility and disability inclusion, then the following Tuesday we chat about the interview on Twitter. Follow us by using hashtag #AXSChat. You can also see past interviews at www.AXSChat.com
TASKQUE: What piece of advice would you like to share with women working in leadership capacities?
DEBRA: Do not let anyone tell you who you are or what you can achieve. If anyone gets in your way – find a way to move past them. Women are great leaders and excellent entrepreneurs when given a chance. Women-led organizations overall perform better than their male counterparts. We get less funding, less support but still, we achieve our goals despite the obstacles put in our way.
TASKQUE: How do you see the future of working with AI? How is AI going to affect our personal and professional lives?
DEBRA: AI is going to change everything. Jobs all over the world will be impacted, part of the job functions and in some cases all of the job functions will go to AI and Robots. We will also struggle with the ethics of AI and the unconscious bias being coded into machine learning and deep learning. However, new jobs will appear and that could bring opportunities for persons with disabilities and other disenfranchised groups.
Additionally, these AI tools are a huge win for persons with disabilities and older citizens – the AI tools, apps and devices will allow people to stay more independent. The baby boomer generations want to Age in Place – these technologies will support that desire for independence.
TASKQUE: As a leader in your organization, which tools and techniques do you employ for increasing the productivity level of your resources? How do you set a benchmark for the productivity of your team and organization?
DEBRA: We use many tools and apps to stay productive and benchmark our efforts including DropBox, Monday.com, Google Apps, and many other tools. We are a small firm and so some of our efforts are still more manual than I would like, but as we grow we are finding more ways to blend technology into our efforts to support productivity and measurements. We are also quite active on social media – so we use many tools and apps to support those efforts too.
TASKQUE: Please share some thoughts about the books that you have authored? Which one would you recommend to our readers and why?
DEBRA: Thank you for asking about my books. I have written three books, Inclusion Branding (updated in 2018), Tapping Hidden Human Capital (2016) and Find Your Voice using Social Media (2013).
I would recommend “Inclusion Branding” for any organization that wants to understand how to engage with customers and support disability and digital inclusion. Also, the ideas in the book can be used for any community. Brands must engage with different communities and talk about your efforts to be better corporations.
Using my community as an example, Persons with Disabilities is good for a corporate brand. Not only will you be supporting a community that is over a billion people strong, the younger generation will also applaud your efforts because they expect Social Impact. It is available in English, Spanish, Arabic, eBook or Audio version.
If you are interested in employing Persons with Disabilities or Accessibility for all. I would recommend “Tapping into Hidden Human Capital”.
TASKQUE: What new challenges are organizations of this era facing in terms of sustainability where every month we witness a new tech popping up? What do you suggest to safeguard an organization’s interests in this scenario? What will be the best way to formulate and implement a sustainability strategy?
DEBRA: I would recommend following advice from the United Nations, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The world has decided we will all try to implement the SDGs to assure sustainability and save our world. You can learn more about implementing the SDGs at: https://www.csrwire.com/press_releases/41248-New-Guidance-for-Companies-to-Report-Their-Impact-on-the-Sustainable-Development-Goals-Or https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/partnerships/businessfor2030
TASKQUE: TaskQue is a productivity enhancement tool that helps managers in task management and boosts productivity and transparency. What do you think about the future of such productivity enhancement tools? What more should they incorporate to help us become more efficient?
DEBRA: I believe that tools like TaskQue are going to be critical to businesses moving forward. We have to create processes and reports to help our teams as effective and productive as possible. Tools that provide productivity enhancement tools are critical to our business future.