The Future of Accessible Work
For PEAT, one of the highlights of springtime is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), which takes place the third Thursday of every May. This year, we celebrated GAAD by welcoming Dr. Vivienne Conway to discuss the major trends she noticed as chair of the 2017 Web For All (W4A) Conference. This annual event showcases new accessible technology innovations and accessibility trends globally.
This year’s theme, “The Future of Accessible Work,” asked attendees to consider how accessible technology can enable people with disabilities to find and maintain meaningful employment. During her PEAT Talk, Vivienne highlighted five presentations from the conference that identified key strategies for making workplace technology accessible:
1. Fostering an Inclusive Workplace Culture
Microsoft Corporate Affairs Manager David Masters kicked off the conference with a keynote address covering strategies designed to foster a more inclusive culture at Microsoft. Other businesses can learn from Microsoft’s approach, which includes internal education and training on disability and accessibility, as well as conducting targeted recruitment of students with disabilities at universities.
2. Ensuring Equal Access in Digital Spaces
Another session detailed an initiative in the City of Cockburn, Australia to create a more accessible local government. The city’s efforts included the development of an accessible website for constituents and an accessible Intranet for staff use. Vivienne herself helped lead this effort, and she noted that their primary aim was to “make sure that their digital world reflects their physical approach to accessibility.”
3. Procuring Accessible Technology
Other presenters explored how new technologies can hold great promise for improving the employment of people with disabilities—but can also be a barrier to access when they aren’t universally designed. Crowd work is one popular outsourcing process that allows people to complete tasks from anywhere as consultants, rather than being employed by one particular entity. But when the presenters tested a popular crowd work application, they found that many of the task assignments did not meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level A. As these new innovations develop, vendors and employers must both make accessible interfaces a priority from the beginning to ensure that all workers can use them.
4. Innovating for the Future
Just one of the intriguing technology innovations shared during the conference was Gaze the Web, an open-source gaze-controlled web browser available on GitHub. Using this technology, people with disabilities who have limited hand or arm mobility can instead use eye movements to accomplish tasks online at home and at work. This browser won the Judge’s Award at the conference’s Paciello Group Challenge.
5. Bringing About Accessibility Through Teamwork
Finally, Vivienne shined a spotlight on the Accessibility Hack hosted by W3C and W4A, held at Bankwest and sponsored by PEAT. The hack challenged designers and developers to enhance the accessibility of TAO, a leading open source assessment platform used in public sector employment and educational settings. As Vivienne noted, the results from the hack will ultimately be implemented by TAO, meaning “millions...of users will be impacted by the work of that day.” At the end of the event, winners of the hack took home Xboxes, courtesy of Microsoft and the Paciello Group. The biggest win of all, though, was that 85% of the hack participants—who had little to no accessibility expertise to begin with—said they learned to make accessibility a priority in their future tech development endeavors.
On the whole, W4A empowered and energized attendees to continue their important work making the web truly accessible for all. To learn more from Vivienne about the W4A Conference and this year’s workplace-centered theme, check out the archived PEAT Talk.