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EEOC: Employers must ensure AI tools are accessible for workers with visual disabilities

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Dive Brief:

  • The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Wednesday updated its guidance on how the Americans with Disabilities Act pertains to candidates and employees with visual disabilities to highlight steps companies can take to make sure new technologies and artificial intelligence are accessible, according to a news release. 
  • The guidance specifies that employers need to provide reasonable accommodations for any decision-making tools using algorithms or AI, such as for hiring. That can include an alternative testing format that could better assess a worker’s ability to perform the job in question, the EEOC said. Companies also should share information about how the technology evaluates applicants or employees and provide instructions on how to seek an accommodation, according to the guidance. 
  • “Providing reasonable accommodations is an employer’s responsibility. Workers who have vision impairments, including limited or low vision, should be provided the resources needed to succeed. This document will provide employers the guidance to do so,” EEOC Chair Charlotte Burrows said in a statement.

Dive Insight:

The ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against job applicants and workers who have a disability — including impaired vision or hearing loss, as well as invisible disabilities like chronic fatigue, diabetes and depression — and requires them to provide reasonable accommodations. 

And federal agencies have been working to apply existing law to new and evolving technologies in the workplace. The EEOC in January similarly updated its guidance on the ADA’s coverage of workers with hearing disabilities. The revised document includes scenarios of possible discrimination when using technologies like videoconferencing software and advises employers they may need to offer a service that translates voice to text as an accommodation. 

The EEOC and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission in April explained to businesses how existing laws can apply to emerging technologies like AI. The EEOC additionally provided guidance in May on how to audit AI for discrimination.

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