Frequently Asked Questions - Common Questions We're Hearing from Technology Providers

Q: I'm a technology provider who wants to ensure the products we develop are accessible. How do I get started?

A:

Many technology providers begin by forming a team dedicated to accessibility, and then leveraging that team to build a formal accessible technology initiative. Related activities include documenting a business case that outlines the benefits of "building accessible;" appointing a corporate accessible technology leader; incorporating accessibility milestones into research and development programming; and building a robust accessibility testing function. The following resources can assist you in these efforts:

Q: As a technology provider, what are my responsibilities relative to accessible technology?

A:

PEAT encourages technology providers to make the workplace technology they build accessible to the widest range of customers possible. This means manufacturing accessible, interoperable, and (when possible) universally-designed products for your customers that meet or exceed accepted accessibility standards (i.e., Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and/or the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.)

But this responsibility also extends to your own workplace. In order to be an inclusive employer, your company should ensure that all of its own employees can access the technology currently in place, from your computers, to online applications, to company-issued smartphones. For more information, see the question “Are there any laws related to accessible technology that apply to my organization?” above.

Q: Why should technology providers care about ICT accessibility?

A:

Manufacturing accessible workplace technology is a wise business practice that can deliver numerous bottom line benefits. To that end, wise technology providers are learning that:  

  • Accessible technology improves productivity and reduces costs. 
  • You can profit by building and marketing universally designed products.
  • It's less expensive to "build it right the first time." 
  • Accessible products can be more cost-effective and strategically valuable than AT-compatible products.
  • More and more customers are paying attention to accessibility.
  • Providing accessible ICT helps mitigate legal risk.
  • Accessibility knowledge can improve customer relations.
  • Accessibility can lead to innovation

Developing an Accessibility Business Case for Technology Providers outlines these reasons in detail and can help you develop your accessible technology strategy.

Q: Are there any laws related to accessible technology that apply to my organization as a technology provider?

A:

Possibly. Certain laws and regulations apply to certain technology providers.

Technology providers that sell products to the federal government need to ensure their products meet the accessibility guidelines outlined in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. This regulation requires that when federal departments or agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology, they must ensure it is accessible to and usable by people with disabilities.

Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 applies to manufacturers of telecommunications equipment or customer premises equipment (CPE), and mandates that the equipment and services they provide are “designed, developed, and fabricated to be accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, if readily achievable.”

Further, the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) has been the source of several new regulations aimed at telecommunications technology providers.

To learn more about these regulations and whether they apply to you, read Accessible Technology and the Law.

Q: How do I build an internal ICT accessibility program for my own company /employees?

A:

Technology providers' accessibility responsibilities apply not only to the products they sell, but also to the products they provide to their own employees. PEAT can help with this, since much of our content is geared toward employers in any and all industries who want to ensure that the technology in their workplace is accessible to all employees and prospective employees. Visit our Employers page to access these resources.

Q: Where can I find people with disabilities to assist us in our user testing efforts?

A:

Including people with disabilities in your user testing processes is an excellent way to not only ensure the accessibility of your products, but also gain direct feedback on how well they work for a particular market segment.

Some companies look within to find testers—in other words, they ask their own internal colleagues with disabilities to participate in usability testing. To locate these individuals, you can ask your human resources (HR) department about employees who have self-identified as having a disability, and ask for assistance in recruiting test subjects. Similarly, your company may have a diversity and inclusion Employee Resource Group (ERG) that can point you in the right direction.

Formal product testing programs are likely to require outside assistance. Some companies partner with the local chapters of nonprofit disability associations to recruit their testing subjects. Others contract with companies that specialize in this brand of user testing. An Internet search using the keywords "product testers with disabilities" or "disability usability testing" is likely to help you find resources in your local area that can help. Testing Your Products for Accessibility is another helpful resource.

Q: Are there any professional organizations or industry certifications related to ICT accessibility?

A:

A newly formed industry association, the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP), has begun exploring the issue of certification.

In the meantime, you can build your knowledge base by following accessibility thought leaders and exploring educational programs, conferences, and user groups focused on accessible technology both in the workplace and in general. Some of these include: