AXSChat Podcast

Creating Inclusion in the Workforce Through AI

December 01, 2023 Antonio Santos, Debra Ruh, Neil Milliken talk with Jourdan Saunders
AXSChat Podcast
Creating Inclusion in the Workforce Through AI
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

How can Artificial Intelligence revolutionize job opportunities for individuals with disabilities? We're exploring this question and more with our guest, Jourdan Saunders, CEO and founder of The Resource Key. With her background in speech language pathology, passion for marketing and technology, she brings a fresh perspective to this complex discussion. We also consider the potential implications of AI on job displacement, emphasizing the need for inclusivity in job access.

We move onto the role of AI in crafting jobs specifically catered to those with disabilities. The conversation circles around the necessity for supportive measures and accommodations, the power of diverse data, and how it can help monitor and track inclusion efforts. We discuss the crucial responsibility of governments to ensure non-discrimination and accessibility in AI tools and propose an AI technology approval process, similar to what we see in app stores. 

Our discourse then leads us to the opportunities and challenges that present themselves when including people with disabilities in tech development. There's a need for wider representation in the VC community, and we discuss the importance of partnerships in effecting change. We acknowledge the strides made by major software vendors like Microsoft in creating more accessible technology. But, the need for these models to be designed with accessibility standards as default is still evident. Join us as we advocate for a future that is more inclusive and accessible.

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AXSCHAT Jourdan Saunders

NEIL:

Hello and welcome to Axschat. I'm delighted that we are welcoming back to the show, Jourdan Saunders, who we had on, just over two years ago. Jourdan is the CEO and founder of The Resource Key, which is a marketing and comms agency featuring and focusing on inclusive branding for people with disabilities, making sure they're fully included. So, Jordan welcome back. Obviously a lot has happened in the intervening two years. So, tell us a little bit more or revisit what The Resource ey is and what you're doing and then, let's dive straight into all of the exciting stuff that's happening now.

JOURDAN:

Yes. Thank you for having me and I will start with a visual description. I have brown skin. I'm wearing a black and red head scarf. I have a black sweatshirt on that says,"Friday I'm in love." And has gold shimmer to it. And today I'm in my office in black and white chair with books in the background. Thank you so much for having me. The Resource Key, yes, we are still focused on the goal and the mission is really just to ensure technology is, that is being built out is inclusive and accessible and leaves no one behind. Marketing has been the core of what the resource ey does because a lot of times there is a lot of great initiative that happen but no one knows about it. So, I think marketing and really great technology that's accessible and inclusive go hand in hand, in order for it to be able to, the information to spread and get into everyone's hands that need it and it can be able to utilise it as well. So, that would be why I still focused on marketing and with the overall mission to ensure no one is left out.

NEIL:

Excellent, thank you. And before we started recording, we were talking a lot about AI. Obviously, it's a topic of conversation for everybody and you know, a lot is happening in the world of AI, including you know, boardroom coups, revolutions, counter revolutions, Particularly with some of the big AI companies. But also, there's a lot of discussion around AI, in terms of inclusion and exclusion. And Debra, I know jokes about, you know, I know I love it but it's going to kill us. But there are a sorts of different angles which we could talk about this and I know that just before we came On Air, you know, we were talking about different types of jobs and new jobs that potentially come up as we move into the age of working with new technologies. So, people are scared, you know, that AI is going to take their jobs. But, this happens with all new technologies. So, you have job destruction but you also have what we call job displacement and replacement. So, some jobs will go, not that many actually but then you'll get some that are moved and become transformed and then you get the sort of replacement of jobs as new, completely new roles get created to deal with the technology. And I think you have been talking about some of those and how, you talk a lot in terms of marketing and conversation. Well, we are in the world of conversation AI, so maybe you would like to talk a little bit about your views on that and the opportunities we have?

JOURDAN:

Yes. So, there is, I look at the lot of different layers, you know, I can think of having as speech language pathology background, there are some colleagues that I know that have gone into it like conversation designers. So, if you're interacting with a chat bot, a lot of the chat bot is slow and the conversations that is happening had to happen by someone inputting that information of how a conversation was slow. So, a lot of speech language pathologists have shifted into that area. And that is just one example. So, I really see back you know, years ago, when I first started in the field of speech language pathology, you know, everything was very disconnected and disconnected I say, in the form of, there wasn't as much overlap as there is now. You know, speech language pathologist, someone that was in tech, was in tech. Someone that was in marketing was in marketing. Now, you know, at my business, I see a lot just going to conferences and talking to different people. Now, technology is so much a part of everyone's industry. So, it's no longer, you're in the tech field, I'm in marketing. It's all interconnected. And I think that is huge, when we are talking about systems jobs because what you said, yes, there are probably, the reality is there are going to be a lot of, with AI being so much at the forefront, there is going to be a lot of jobs leaving. But there are also new jobs that are happening and forming us as we speak. But I think the key is really just as we create pipelines for job opportunities, having that care to be able to consider the people that may not be utilising the technology or interested to be able to make sure there is pipelines as well for other opportunities, whether you're really into AI and you're able to adapt and shift and find new opportunities or whether that may not be something you're not interested in. You want to do something similar to maybe what you were doing before. So, using the technology to be able for that but also, creating these pipelines, so that no one is left out. I think this is an inflexion point. I think this is a very destructive moment we are in, to be able to build better. To be able to build fresh and use whatever word you want to use. But I think it's also we have to go with caution and care because in a rush for companies needing to be first to create or imminent something, I have to say you know a lot of times when we are in a rush do things sometimes it can be a little bit scary because that is where there may not be, you maybe implementing the same systems that left others out previously. So, I see this as a very big moment. And I feel that we can really think big in terms of how we can utilise the technology but I also see it as a moment where we need to take caution and care, when we are you know creating new systems.

DEBRA:

Well, that is I love these conversations. I would just say and I know that you and I recently had a conversation about this and I do think we need to be thoughtful. I agree we need not to rush. But the reality is people are going to rush. And I mean, I get it, it's just sort of also what humans do. But I think the one thing that is discouraging me and I know that's the wrong word to use but that's the word I'm going to use, is that I see some amazing opportunities. But I don't see people considering these opportunities in ways that I think as meaningful ways as we could and let me ground that comment. So, for example, I was talking to group the other day that helps people with intellectual disabilities in the United States, find employment and they were talking to me about these great training programmes they had done so that you know, so, my daughter Sarah, with Down Syndrome could become a dishwasher or a bagger at a grocery. And as I get these jobs, it does discourage me and I believe and I know for a fact that my daughter really has other aspirations for her career and her work life than just the standard boring easy check the box list things that we see happening now. And so, I was talking to this group and I said well, what are you thinking about when it's coming to AI and some of these opportunities and they just sort of looked at me blankly and they are like, well, we hadn't even thought about that. First of all, I'm a little discouraged that we are not looking at this opportunity to rethink everything, as you just said Jourdan. And I think of us voices need to say, wait a minute, wait a minute. But I also want to make a comment to something else you said Jourdan. I agree with but I wanted to tweak it little bit. And say that you were mentioning jobs going away and things like that. And I know we are talking a lot about your jobs going away. Actually what I think happened and I'm curious if you all agree with me. I think there was some knee jerk reactions of jobs going away and of course, companies that were conveniently laying people off, it was like, yes really we notice who you were, brands but whatever. But at the same time, I think there was a lot of knee jerk reactions that happened and brands that are regretting what they did. Getting rid of comms team, marketing team, content teams and such. I see regret happening now, because the reality is AI going to work best when we work with it as human beings. And I get that and we are watching brands say please stop being stupid because we know what you all are doing and it's just so important that we humanise these topics. And so, I just hope that more people will begin to have these types of conversations. And so, I was just wondering if, you know what your thoughts are on that as well. I don't think as many jobs will go away as we are predicting but I think some interesting ones will open up and also bottom line, by God, can we start training people with disabilities to do these jobs, which are available are marketable. So, now I need to be quiet. Okay. You go to Jordan.

JOURDAN:

Yes, you brought up some really good points. I think it just limitless in terms of how we can utilise this AI. It's just a matter of the angle in which that we are approaching it. So, even you talk about like finding new jobs and opportunities. I think it's awesome. Like AI can help be able to do that. But you have to input the information. That's such a huge thing. And I'm talking specifically about like generative AI right now. So, generative AI is based off of entering comms and then you have receiving like human input images and information related to whatever you're asking it. But, that's all based off of input data. And, it's generating the information and content by using the pattern. So, what are the patterns? What is the data that we have existing? What is the information that's being inputted. Because at some point with generative AI, the prompts, you're not going to be having prompts anymore. Okay just everything is being trained. Now this is further down the line, of course. So, I think we need to be thinking about things like that. So, talking about jobs, I can think of you know, creating jobs or models or different jobs that are maybe are not like dishwasher or you know, creating other jobs and training programmes and setting up the technology to have this pipeline, as well as sustaining. You know someone can get a job that has a disability but, what about sustaining and being able to provide the support that is needed. Because a lot of times maybe someone gets the job but then you know, two months later they are not performing because, a lot of times they are not providing the accommodations needed or you know, there could be a number of different reasons. But I think that's important as well, you know creating the jobs helping to find the jobs, sustaining the jobs as well and putting things in place. So, and then measuring. I think if we look at a lot of data previously, you know, a lot of the things surrounding accessibility are so manual. But I feel like it's still going to be that way so you still need humans involved in this process and to be able to work with the technology. You know? And I think we are always going be relevant in some way because of the fact we have to work with the technology to train it. If we are not training or inputting new information that's not there, then it's just going to be like we are repeating the same patterns and excluding people with disabilities, as well as we need to be able to have measuring tools. Right, like, so when somebody goes on the job, are they being measured, in terms of not measuring in terms of performance but support, like, there is not a lot of, when you look at data, a lot of the data is based off of okay, this company is you know, searched this many websites or this company tracked maybe ten people or the sample sizes are not very diverse, you know they have may take one type of disability. So, I think that's going to be important as well to be able to measure because the other piece is like not everyone wants to self-report. So, I am just kind of looking forward. The numbers may decrease in terms of when we look at data and things of that nature because a lot of companies will base it, oh there is not that many people with disabilities or there is not this but so that is a lot of things I'm looking at how do we set up where people feel comfortable enough to be able to report it, where they are feeling supported, to be able to self-reporting where not going to feel like they are going to lose their job tomorrow because they stated they had a specific type of disability and where the numbers are going to decrease because people don't want to report or if they don't have to, let's say, if somebody has a physical disability. There are all these different things but measurement is going to be huge, I think. Because that is what companies are basing it on. They should not only base it on that but that's what is happening and there is not a lot of strong data to support a lot of different information that's happening. So, I think we can really utilise AI to be able to create some strong measurement tools and also to be able to create accountability and also, have a space where people feel that they are being heard in that they, companies are being accounted for or being held accountable, as well. So, yes. Very long-winded answer. But I think there is a lot of great opportunities and I see that as a really positive things like in terms of going forward where we can do better.

DEBRA:

I agree. There is A lot of data that's needed. But I would also say and then I'll turn it over to Neil or Antonio. But there is a lot of data. There is a lot of training that needs to be done and we all need to, I believe, join the AI conversations to be learning ourselves but also in training. So, there is a lot of data that needs to be learned. But I've a feeling the way we are using some of this data now and even some of the examples you used, Jourdan, I think it's going to be shifting quite dramatically on what we are really going to be looking about, when it comes to whether or not corporations are really meaningfully including people. So, I think there’s a lot that's going to come out of this. But Antonio, let me turn it over to you.

ANTONIO:

Over the last couple of weeks, we assisted to a large number of pledges on AI, you know, from you know, from the G7 to the UK government even to the White House, everyone is making a pledge. Everyone is coming with a charter that in some cases, you know and then, you get this on the news and people are like, wow what is going on here. And then, we had all this drama that took place at Open AI with a board firing the founder and then the founder coming back and then people claiming, oh, we need government to come up with policies, because apparently companies are not ready to take the charge and make it happen. So, it's complicated. So, what specific policies and standards can governments implement to ensure that AI tools are accessible and don't really discriminate against people with disabilities, because now everyone is jumping into AI. You talk with the startup, oh, we have this AI solution. You talk with the, you know everyone is bringing AI solution to market. So, how can we make sure that they don't discriminate?

JOURDAN:

Yes, that is a hard question. You know, from my perspective, I would say that you know, I see it as there has to be like some type of, there is you know, the website accessibility guidelines but I think there has to be more in the sense of like, when I was talking about accountability. So, like, let's say for example, there is a new app to the app store, you are not, it's not just getting added immediately. There is a certain list of protocols you have to go through before you get approved to be able to get your app added. So, I think there has to be some type of approval process based you know like a standard that's being upheld in some way before it goes to market, in terms of a lot of the technology. Existing technology, it's a little bit harder right now because there are so many different moving pieces with that. But I think by implementing a best practice standard protocol that is uniform and everyone has to follow. I think that would be a way to be able to do better because, of the fact when you have a process, it's going across the board because right now everything is very like piecemeal, in terms of like, okay, well I have great colour contrast on our, you know or we have an accessibility statement but it kind of like, different pieces to like kind of buy time and I hate to use that phrase but that is what it feels like, in terms of when you're just looking at a lot of the conversations because it's like, there are so many different pieces when we talk about accessibility. And it's when you look at anything surrounding like technology building it out. All of these different pieces. As well as you have to be able to maintain it. You know, you may come up to compliance or you may have an accessible website or an accessible app. But then like, your whole development team, they get fired tomorrow. The new development that come on, do they have a strong protocol in place, where those new developers that come on are going to know where to take off. And that's where I see is a lot of happening. A lot of different moving pieces. So, yes I would see that would be one way to, that I could think of.

DEBRA:

And Jourdan, let me just make a statement because, I believe and you all can correct me if I'm wrong, but we already have all those legislations and all those standards in place. So, if any company is building any product, using AI and they're not following the laws of the land and the standards we already have in place, because AI is not new. All of this stuff is already accounted for in our legislations and standards. So, they I believe the laws of the land already state that these things have to be assembling. Maybe we need additional legislation. But I believe any of the brands, we believe and I believe the lawyers are siding with us on this. Those, you need to follow our current standards and laws which will, AI is in there. They are not going to say no, no that's different. They can't do what they did to us with the Internet. So, a lot of this. This is not new technology, this stuff you were already supposed to make this stuff accessible. I wanted to real quick come in and say, any brand that is trying to do that you're going to get in trouble so, excuse me. Neil, I don't know if you wanted to come in here, but we have laws that address this.

NEIL:

Yes, we do have laws that address the accessibility of stuff but what Jourdan was saying, was right, there is this whole move fast and break things mentality creeping back in. Because the large organisations and the large corporates are in fierce competition because we are, at that point, in a new technology cycle where everybody is wanting to be the leader in that technology, which comes around you know, once every few decades and you know, the last big one, which is not as big as AI, was really, you know around social. And on all of this stuff and before that, the big transformative one was the Internet. I think, AI is probably bigger than both, in terms of the long-term impact that it is going to have. In terms of how it transforms what we do and how we do it and so on. So, there is an awful lot up for grabs and these organisations know that. They are throwing money at it. They are wanting to do stuff fast. We now apparently have a pause but that was only because of the sort of boardroom shenanigans, if we like. But there are definitely the two different sort of viewpoints on this. One is, we just need to get it out there and play. And the other is actually you know, let's be cautious, let's design it properly. I am, you know of the opinion that this stuff is so powerful that we ought to be designing it properly. Having humans in the loop, including disabled humans in the loop, right from the beginning because the whole way that sort of conversational AI works is it puts together somethings that's plausible but it may not be true. Right? So the risk we have in terms of misinformation and then, misinforming people and the impact of that on society, is not AI, we are not going to have Skynet. It's not going to be like The Terminator. But what we may have is humans doing stuff to other humans because they believe stuff that has been created by AI or that is believable misinformation and I'm not just talking about deep fakes here but the more that AI ingests content that has been created by other AI's that has created somewhat plausible somewhat fact based but not entirely true content, the worse the problem gets. So, there is an element of need for caution in all of this stuff. And I am not necessarily seeing that. So, I see huge potential benefits in how you can use AI for specific assistive technologies, right. You know talking about the fact that if I need to compose some text right now, I can get something, I can get Chat GBT to give me a first draft. But I need to revise that first draft. I need to be the human in the loop and you know, if you don't know enough about the topic, it seems plausible and you don't edit it and it gets published on the Internet, the AI's will use that material. So, we create a system of pollution where we are essentially continuing to ingest material and reference material that is not truthful. So, I think that we need to be mindful about how we use it. Did I spout too much?

ANTONIO:

No. JOURDAN: No, no.

DEBRA:

It's true. It's true.

ANTONIO:

I would like to introduce a new topic that relates with the fact that AI and generative AI, is also making a lot of entrepreneurs to bring up new solutions, in some cases, addressing accessibility and focusing on trying to solve problems for people with disabilities without engaging with the community. You know, they say no, I can fix subtitles, I can fix Alt text. So, how can we create collaboration between technology developers, people with disabilities, to make relevant and practical AI solutions.

JOURDAN:

Yes, that is a big one. I saw that a lot of recent conferences I went to and yes, I definitely think, yes, I think it's a very challenging question to answer because I know, I'm like, it's easy, like why didn't you just collaborate and reach out and have even, you know if people with different disabilities wants to be a part of the team. Like hiring them in roles to be able to, you know, if they want to be in that leadership role to help with developing and then also, you know being able to help develop technology. So, I do think it's just more, yes, collaboration, more streamlining too, in terms of having like, there is a lot of, I feel like information and there is a lot of different resources and there is a lot of different groups. And sometimes I think, you know, I'll flip to the other side. I think that its people don't know how to be able to integrate or like where to start in terms of when they are collaborating or when they are trying to find user testers. I know that sounds like, well how can you, that's not possible but I think when it comes to a lot of times, I see if companies do reach out, they are reaching out to only maybe what one type of user group. So maybe like, reaching out to maybe individuals that are white or maybe if someone has a certain type of if someone is a wheelchair user or something like that. So, I think it really just it really has to, a lot of times, I think it's going to take like reaching out to some of these organisations and saying, because I even think of Google or in the speech to text, now, they are collaborating with like I think it's called Google Comm, I think they changed it but they are collaborating with people with different kind of speech patterns to help with the speech. So, understanding a lot of the technology because to your point, it is it's like captions automated captions Alt text, but it's not included for anyone with different disability. It's just like we can do this for the Podcast or we can do this for business case. But I see really great opportunities too in like emergency planning in terms of with AI. I see great opportunities of employment and hiring. And I mean, there is a lot of I feel, like big opportunities. I even see teams being able to hire to be able to input the information surrounding accessibility into the large language model. So, that we have like the information in because you know, there is not like that is what we were saying, there is not any of the data when you ask certain questions. It's like it's not the general. It's based off of like one conversation or if they have to if I'm asking through a prompt it knows that I'm passionate about accessibility. They are going to include that in my answer. Whereas if I talk nothing about accessibility, it's not going to say anything about it. So, I think it's just like really being able to collaborate to, I think work together bringing everyone together to be able to provide resources.

ANTONIO:

So, on a reason why I ask that is also to do with the fact that some people in some parts of the world they can really be good at mastering and getting funds from investors, okay. And we know that in the VC world there is a huge lack of diversity about who gets the funding. So, how can we turn this around where people with disabilities have more opportunities within the VC community to build solutions that they need for their community. How can we, I know that nobody, we are not going to able to find a solution here. But at least, I think it's an important discussion that needs to happen.

JOURDAN:

Yes, definitely, coming together. Like collaborating and then partnering. I definitely think that is like, going to be a huge thing is coming together partnering and encouraging because a lot of times we are in one space then we, I think we just building like a little bit more aggressive, I think. We are already aggressive I think now. But I don't mean like, run people over or anything like that. But coming together and pushing, like pushing more and the kind of yes, collectively coming together and collaborating.

NEIL:

So, I think we definitely need to make our voices heard. I do take some solace in the fact that large software vendors you know, like Microsoft there are plenty of others as well but are starting to use AI in such a way that if you want to create a document, it ends up accessible, more accessible by default because it's doing things like creating structure and headings and all of this kind of stuff. But I think that I watched a really great demo about six months ago, as part of a Podcast I was participating in, by Crystal Preston Waters, who was using different large language models to create websites and using different prompts to create the websites and she was having to go to a great level of detail saying, acting as an accessibility coding developer that is wishing to create a website with CSS and JavaScript to conformist level AA, create me a web page with a form on it, rather than create me a webpage with a form on it and it being accessible by default. So, we need to get that point where these models should not be creating stuff that is inaccessible because the standards are known and the people that are making these things can reference these standards and they can point to them. It actually wouldn't take much to point to clear reference material in design, to enable people without the knowledge of how to prompt and what to prompt for, to use these tools to create accessible things instead of perpetuating inaccessibility. So, look, I want to thank you for coming back and joining us, especially given that we have been doing this over Thanksgiving period. So, thank you, give you thanks and we also need to give thanks for our sponsors and supporters Amazon and My Cleartext for helping keep us On Air and keeping us fresh and keeping us captioned. So, looking forward to you being part of the conversation again on social media. So, thank you Jourdan.

JOURDAN:

Thank you for having me.

AI and Job Opportunities in the Future
Ensuring AI Accessibility and Non-Discrimination
Collaboration and Accessibility in Technology
Thanking Participants and Sponsors