“Bring Your Own Device” and Accessibility
BYOD stands for "Bring Your Own Device," and it's an increasingly popular policy and practice in many of today's workplaces. BYOD offers some accessibility advantages for both employers and technology users—but there are also some unique challenges. Here are some of the questions we're hearing and some resources from PEAT Networkers to assist you in learning more about BYOD as it relates to improving the availability of accessible technology at work.
What is BYOD?
BYOD in the workplace is exactly what it sounds like—permitting employees to bring their own mobile devices (laptops, tablets, and smart phones) to work and to then use those devices to access privileged company information and applications.
Under a BYOD policy, your own smartphone or tablet acts as your workstation. BYOD is possible because today's mobile platforms support a wide range of applications used in the workplace. Some are mobile versions of familiar desktop software, while others are cloud-based alternatives that fit changing employer technology strategies. Hardware accessories such as full-size keyboards and large display adapters can turn small mobile devices into office desktop equivalents that are well-suited for day-to-day use.
How Do BYOD Policies Intersect With Accessibility?
BYOD policies can be very helpful to employees with disabilities who are already satisfied and familiar with the accessible devices they already own. They prevent the need for the employee to learn how to operate new workplace technology—and, in some cases, retrofit it with accessibility features. For example, if someone who is blind uses a particular tablet at home that has a built-in screen reader, allowing that person to use his or her own device at work benefits the employee and employer alike. The worker doesn't have to learn to operate a new, employer-provided desktop system that may require the purchase and integration of a separate screen reader.
That said, employers should not think of BYOD as a comprehensive solution to technology accessibility. Not all employees own their own accessible devices, and certain assistive technologies only work on desktop computers. As a result, many employers and employees will still need to work together to ensure the accessibility of in-house technology to ensure that all staff can do their jobs effectively.
What Are Potential Drawbacks to BYOD?
The most often-cited challenges to BYOD are security, support, and privacy:
Employers will need to consider the security implications of numerous devices accessing their data wirelessly. In addition, they must contend with significant data security risks if an employee's device is lost or stolen, or if the employee leaves the company.
Employers who have BYOD policies must decide how to handle support issues. Should support for personal devices be the responsibility of the individual employee, or will the employer's help desk serve all employees, including those who bring devices from home?
BYOD also affects privacy, as many employees express concerns about keeping their own personal data secure on devices they use for work.
What Are Some Keys to a Successful BYOD Experience?
Employers interested in implementing BYOD are encouraged to create a written policy that outlines which devices are permitted under the policy, required security settings, personal uses that are permitted on the device, applications that are supported, and more. Furthermore, this policy should contain explicit details related to accessibility considerations and how employees who bring their own devices will receive technical support.
For guidance on creating effective policies, check out the following resources:
Streamline Business Operations with a BYOD Policy explores how a BYOD policy can boost employee productivity and solve ICT challenges, especially those related to the accessibility needs of employees with disabilities.
7 Tips for Establishing a Successful BYOD Strategy offers tips to help employers address device security, ICT service, application use, and other key components of an effective BYOD policy.
Learn BYOD Policy Best Practices From Templates outlines policy templates and best practices to use as starting points for creating your own policy.
BYOD Policy Template explores the nuts and bolts of writing a BYOD policy.
What Do You Think of BYOD?
Several members of the PEAT Network have experience with BYOD practices, and two of them offer guidance on the topic. Have a look at the resources below:
- BYOD: Bring Your Own Device: IBM, a PEAT Networker, offers this webpage and corresponding white paper on the pros and cons of BYOD policies.
- Survey on Employee and IT Department Attitudes and Actions on BYOD: This 2013 report by PEAT Networker, CTIA, shares the results of a survey of 250 IT professionals and 1,000 full-time employed mobile device users that compared attitudes about BYOD and security.