ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Capital Region native and persons with disabilities activist John Robinson, CEO of Our Ability, with collaboration with the Syracuse University iSchool and BlueGranite, Inc., has developed a chatbot to help persons with disabilities update their professional profiles to gain access to jobs that are better suited to their abilities. The Jobs Ability website launched last month. 

The process is driven by artificial intelligence. The website is a chatbot that allows users to build an employment profile. It asks questions about history and preferences, but also asks about skills and disabilities for those who are more disabled. It becomes more than just a profile; it’s the culmination of hundreds of skill questions to ensure that someone is considered as more than just a work history.

“Before the development of our chatbot, certain professional networking sites would enable you to create a button to let potential employers know that the applicant has a disability,” said John Robinson, CEO of Our Ability, “but I wanted people to be able to build their profiles based on abilities, as a pathway to employment through technology.”

According to a report by the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2019, only about 19% of persons with disabilities were employed. These statistics have only decreased since the pandemic. However, a report by Accenture found that if the number of people with disabilities in the labor force grew even just 1%, the nation’s gross domestic product could expand by as much as $25 billion. 

Being an alumnus of Syracuse University, Robinson knew that the iSchool had the same passion to execute his idea. The iSchool is home to the iConsult Collaborative at Syracuse University, an experiential learning program that deploys teams of student volunteers to provide community partners with transformative information technology. 

Art Thomas, the iSchool’s Associate Dean for Career Services and Experiential Learning and Director of the iConsult Collaborative, first met with Robinson in the summer of 2018 to plan how to engage an iConsult team in designing the technical solution for his idea.

BlueGranite, Inc. is the engine that created the digital path from Robinson’s idea to the iSchool’s technology.

This project was partially made possible with a grant from Microsoft’s AI for Good program.