EO Cincinnati Blog
NexGen | Software Solution Leads to Jobs for Disabled
Monday, March 9, 2015
ARTICLE ORIGINALLY PRINTED HERE
Bosma Enterprises provides employment training for blind or visually impaired people, but the Indianapolis nonprofit couldn't hire such individuals for some jobs involving computers because of software limitations. Cincinnati firm NexGen Consultants found a solution to that problem, and it could lead to more jobs for blind people at all sorts of companies.
"Their problem was they had all these different software systems, and none of them talked to each other," said Matt Mountain, president of NexGen. "They also weren't 508 compliant, a (federal government) standard by which blind people can use the software, so they couldn't hire blind people."
NexGen used Salesforce.com, which is 508 compliant, to plug in more than a dozen different applications. They included financials, inventory and HR modules. All of the programs run from a central computer interface, which allows information to be shared between departments. Workers can access the system by using a screen reader called JAWS (Job Access With Speech), which can translate text to speech or Braille.
Salesforce.com is a global cloud computing company based in San Francisco, and NexGen partners with it to implement software solutions.
"They plug in like going to iTunes and downloading an app to your iPhone," Mountain said. "It is a software platform that runs in the cloud. You don't install anything on your systems. All you need is an Internet connection. You don't need a data center, and you don't need to worry about backing it up."
The apps "have to be configured based on the business," Mountain said. "You're not writing a lot of custom code like a traditional software product. We've got a bunch of business analysts listening (to the client) and adapting the software. Instead of hiring programmers, we hire business analysts."
Two NexGen employees worked on the Bosma project full time for 18 months. NexGen provided a discount because the agency is nonprofit.
"They had a vision of what they wanted to do," Mountain said of Bosma. "We worked with them to help around the requirements and cost justifications. This was a massive undertaking.
"Bosma could have done this project smaller and started with just putting up financials and then adding on warehouses and distribution," Mountain said. "They did it all at once."
Now, as positions open up at the agency that once went only to sighted people, Bosma is able to fill them by hiring blind people, Mountain said.
Bosma was so pleased it made a video to demonstrate how the software solution, called VisionForce, benefited the agency.
"We are starting to get a ton of traction with other agencies that serve the blind" and want to install VisionForce, Mountain said. "Bosma is demonstrating this application to other (National Industries for the Blind) organizations across the country. They are interested in implementing something very similar.
"But the message also very much resonates with (other companies)," Mountain said. "So people like Procter & Gamble and Kroger can now hire blind people, too.
"The unemployment rate for blind people is 70 percent," Mountain said. "They want to work, but they can't get jobs."
VisionForce could help change that, and the demand could be huge, Mountain said. But he isn't worried about competition.
"This is such a niche," Mountain said. "We understand this space now. Two years ago, we were rookies. Now, there's no competition for us."
NexGen is considering what software solutions it might be able to provide to help people with other types of disabilities obtain employment. "We're really excited about solving that problem," Mountain said.