Dispatch from M-Enabling: A Forum for Ideas and Collaboration

The M-enabling opening plenary panel session, with several hundred people seated at round tables watching the stage.Last month, members of the PEAT team attended the M-Enabling Summit, an international gathering that brings together leaders from a range of fields connected to  the promotion and advancement of accessible mobile applications. Over a period of two days, PEAT engaged with government officials, technology experts, advocacy professionals, and representatives from public and private sector organizations to take action on many top accessible technology issues impacting employment.

M-Enabling provided the perfect venue for PEAT’s third policy roundtable, which engaged numerous key stakeholders in an important in-person dialogue with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The event was a follow-up to another PEAT-sponsored roundtable convened earlier this year at the International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference (CSUN) by Deputy Secretary of Labor Chris Lu. During the CSUN roundtable, participants prioritized raising awareness of the need for accessible technology in the workplace as the top issue of focus for supporting the employment of people with disabilities through effective accessible technology policy. Afterward, participants continued their conversations through an online ePolicyWorks dialogue by brainstorming tangible ideas on how DOL can support implementation of this goal.

A large group of participants are seated around a conference table to the right, under an M-enabling banner. To the left, a projection screen reads: "Introduction Question: What do you consider to be the greated barriers to the development and adoption of accessible technology that workers need to perform their jobs?"These events set the stage for last month’s M-Enabling roundtable, where participants evaluated the top ideas raised through the online dialogue. Jennifer Sheehy, Deputy Assistant Secretary of DOL’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, led this lively and passionate conversation, with rich and diverse opinions shared by all in attendance. The discussion brought about several key takeaways regarding the removal of barriers to accessible technology in the workplace. 

Participants emphasized the need to start at the root of the problem by providing greater education and training around technology accessibility, which will lead to stronger accessible design and development. In addition, participants discussed the need for easier procurement processes for accessible technology, so as to provide a more straightforward pathway for businesses to make their technology accessible to all employees. And of course, attendees emphasized that it is important to continue strengthening and advocating for the business case for employing people with disabilities.  

Following the roundtable, PEAT Project Director Josh Christianson participated in a panel discussion, “Enterprise Strategies for Inclusive Work Environments: Uncovering Human Capital.” Chaired by Debra Ruh, CEO of Ruh Global Communications, the session addressed the importance of providing full access and accommodations to ensure that people with disabilities thrive in the workplace. 

PEAT Project Director Josh Christianson, seated in the middle of a panel presentation with 5 other presenters, presents a slide called "Denis Boudreau PEAT Talks" depicting a chart of accessibility issues on top job hunting websitesJosh shared information about PEAT’s numerous efforts to move the ball forward on accessible workplace technology. He cited the recent PEAT Talk webinar, Building Accessible Online Recruiting and Hiring Systems, during which senior web accessibility consultant Denis Boudreau noted that the numerous websites people use to search for jobs, including the top five most popular ones, are inaccessible. “How can talent be discovered when a company’s virtual doors are closed to people with disabilities who encounter accessibility issues?” said Josh. He also noted a recent PEAT blog post by Sassy Outwater, which recounted the story of an inaccessible job application due to CAPTCHA technology. Josh explained that these types of issues are what prompted PEAT to create its newest resource, TalentWorks, a free online tool that helps employers and human resources professionals ensure their eRecruiting technologies are accessible to job seekers with disabilities.

PEAT is grateful to G3ict President and Executive Director Axel Leblois for his role in making the M-Enabling roundtable happen, and for his participation in past PEAT events. As an upcoming next step, PEAT will be leading a public online forum to continue gathering valuable insights for DOL to consider as it takes action to support the employment of people with disabilities through policies promoting accessible workplace technology. Please watch for more details about how you can participate!

The hard work and dedication of not only the roundtable participants and Josh’s fellow panelists, but of everyone in attendance at the M-Enabling Summit, is critical to advancing the adoption of accessible technology. Moving forward together, we can continue to raise awareness of the need for accessible technology in each and every workplace.