Do you believe people with cognitive impairment can contribute to a company’s bottom line and a country’s GDP? Any inclusion strategy without them has miles to go before reaching the goal. In this article, we explore how people with cognitive disabilities can be empowered to get opportunities in the workplace through eLearning.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives are key to bridging the skills gap. One cannot talk of an inclusive workplace without recruiting, accepting, and supporting colleagues with cognitive disabilities. Here are a few questions that I have encountered from different quarters.
What is meant by cognitive disability?
Cognitive disability or intellectual disability (ID) refers to impairment in intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior.
Intellectual functioning refers to the abilities such as comprehension of mathematics, visuals, or verbal speech. These abilities also include solving problems and making plans. Adaptive Behavior includes social skills, personal care, and so on. The cognitive disability might range from mild to severe.
Clinical diagnosis of cognitive disability can include autism, down syndrome, traumatic brain injury (TBI), dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyscalculia, or dementia.
A term to take cognizance of in this context is neurodiversity. It refers to diversity in cognitive capabilities and the functioning of the human brain.
Here is another very common question.
Can people with intellectual disabilities execute a task in the workplace?
The answer to this question is an affirmative yes. Across the globe, people with intellectual impairment are known to play the roles of counsellors, marketing officers, filmmakers, music composers, professors, researchers, data scientists, nursing, technicians, office assistants, chef, delivery partners, software engineers, lab engineers, and more.
Their intellectual limitations are juxtaposed with strengths such as creativity, empathy, and other capabilities. There are examples of manufacturing, software development, and supermarket operations industries that have employed people with intellectual impairment.
How do we behave with such people?
Several employees have shared these apprehensions despite their willingness to be more inclusive. There is a dearth of understanding on how to include people with intellectual disabilities in the workplace.
It has been observed that there is:
- Low awareness about intellectual disabilities in the context of the workplace
- Need for actionable company policies
- Lack of aid and other support for intellectual disabilities
- Inability or lack of will to train or skill these people
- Requirement for training the employees and management about the need to foster neurodiversity in the workplace
Therefore, the empowerment of people with intellectual impairment requires a comprehensive approach.
After perusing these frequent questions, let’s focus on how training can increase the employability of people with intellectual impairment.
Training & Neurodiversity
A positive change in the organisation’s mindset and policies with respect to neurodiversity will eventually get reflected in the corporate training. There are several aspects to it.
Firstly, the training for cognitively impaired people will make them more skilled in executing various tasks at work.
Secondly, there can be various courses for employees to increase their awareness and sensitivity in dealing with people of diverse cognitive capabilities.
The HR team can also be trained to recruit, onboard, and retain employees with intellectual disabilities.
A coordinated effort with the training fulcrum will help create job opportunities for people with cognitive disabilities. It will keep the accident rates and turnover low.
There can be online courses for awareness, sensitizing, laws and so on with respect to neurodiversity. However, that is just one aspect of it. eLearning can also provide extended learning opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities.
eLearning for Employees with Intellectual Disability
All employees need support, and those with cognitive impairment need extra care. It has been observed that it does make business sense.
A human-centric approach to learning posits that eLearning designs should be compatible with the cognitive abilities of neurodivergent people in a way that is accessible to them.
Accessible eLearning Modules
What does an accessible eLearning module for people with ID entail?
An eLearning module fulfils the need for knowledge, whether it is a basic or advanced skill. Crafting a continuous learning journey provides a motivating learning environment for those with impaired cognitive abilities. The design of motivating learning environments is guided by learning theories. Let’s look at eLearning programs’ benefits in skilling or upskilling employees with ID.
eLearning amplifies the conative aspect of learning where the learners can navigate through the content and go through various interactivity at their own pace.
They can transform their experience into knowledge. This reflects how Kolb explained his experiential learning theory. It is “the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.” The key here is the learning experience.
The eLearning modules should be designed to reduce cognitive load for neurodivergent people just as for everyone.
Interactivity, bite-sized modules, gamification, virtual reality environment etc., used in the right proportion can help to make the content accessible to these people. The elements in the course will induce in them a positive behavior of engagement and willingness to learn. This will, in turn, create a motivating, rich eLearning experience for people with cognitive disabilities. It reflects Skinner’s Behavioral Learning Theory which links the process of ‘conditioning’ to an environment of stimulus, where behavior is repeated if it is positively reinforced. Let us look at some of the features that can be reinforced to create an inspiring learning environment.
User Interface Design Features
Some user interface design features that can induce positive learning behavior in people with intellectual impairment are as follows.
Present the content in small chunks. Learners with ID have a high attention deficit and a varied speed of comprehending things. Bite-sized modules in microlearning and nanolearning can aid in the easy assimilation of knowledge, especially when there is short-term memory.
Keep a higher proportion of audio and images for neurodivergent learners. The visual, aural, read/write, kinesthetic, or VARK model gains significance here.
Use color codes to maintain consistency, the flow of the content presentation, and the deft use of colors, icons, and images.
Form links between their known experience and the new information using scenarios. Scenarios are highly effective in recalling an experience and relating it with new concepts. This is guided by the Social Cognitive Theory by Albert Bandura, which relates knowledge acquisition with social interactions and experiences.
State clear learning objectives for pre-existing needs and provide pre-instructional questions.
Reinforce positive learning behaviors, with personalized welcome, gamified elements, memory boosters, and remediation.
Include assessments that are non-judgmental and that help in the application of skills.
Incorporate learners’ suppositions, discussions, and feedback.
Provide offline and online, non-judgmental instructor feedback.
To sum it up, these salient points will help increase the usability and accessibility of eLearning for those with cognitive impairment.
Depending on the need, eLearning can be interspersed with instructor-led training to help the learners with ID. The learner should be able to interact with the interface, content, and instructor with ease.
Let’s make a beautiful world together, and we concur that it also makes business sense. Let’s design human-centric training modules for employees with various cognitive abilities. This will increase their employability and your commitment to DEI initiatives.
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