Supporting Developers with Disabilities

Reviewed by Greg Wilson / 2023-03-24
Keywords: Accessibility, Inclusion

If you don't ask people what they actually need or whether your supposedly good idea actually worked, it's all too easy for your "help" to accomplish nothing or even make things worse. That's why "Nothing about us, without us" became a rallying cry for disabled activists in the 1990s, and why it's vital to critically evaluate programs intended to help people with disabilities. This new paper looks at an effort by a Brazilian company to hire and train disabled software developers. None of the findings are particularly surprising, but that's part of why studies like this one are needed: if we never ask the question, we'll never know what we missed.

The paper closes with four recommendations that will make everyone's teaching better:

  1. Help instructors to master accessibility teaching practices.
  2. Make the materials available and organized in advance.
  3. Curate accessible programming tools.
  4. Make birds of a feather flock together (i.e., have someone from the community on the instructional team).

Isadora Cardoso-Pereira, Geraldo Gomes, Danilo Monteiro Ribeiro, Alberto de Souza, Danilo Lucena, and Gustavo Pinto. Supporting the careers of developers with disabilities: lessons from Zup Innovation. 2023. arXiv:2303.05429.

Software developers with disabilities have a hard time to join the software development market. Due to the lack of diversity that developers with disabilities could hinder innovation. In this work, we explore the Catalisa program envisioned by Zup Innovation, a Brazilian tech company, aimed to hire and train software developers with disabilities. We found that the program was able to accelerate the participants careers, although some shortcomings are still present.