PEAT Talks Transcript: Embracing the Concept of "Bring Your Own Device" (BYOD)

Introduction and Logistics

 >> Good afternoon, and welcome to PEAT Talks, the virtual Speaker series from the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology. On every third Thursday of the month, PEAT Talks showcases various organizations and individuals whose work and innovation are advancing accessible technology in the workplace. My name is Christa Beal, I'm a member of the PEAT team and I will host today's topic.

Before we get started, I'm going to quickly review a few logistics. We will have time at the end of today's talk for question and answer, so please enter any questions you might have in the chat window or by emailing You can also email if you are having technical difficulties. The presentation is available for download on the webinar page and archived recording will be posted online following today's event. We will also be live tweeting today's event from @PEATworks so feel free to join us using the hashtag #PEATtalks and tweeting @access_partners.

Today, PEAT is pleased to welcome Dana Marlowe, Principal Partner and cofounder of Accessibility Partners LLC. Accessibility Partners is a full service auditing and consulting company that promotes the intersection of technology innovation and disability advocacy. Dana and her staff have audited thousands of information technology products from software, hardware, websites, mobile apps and more to promote usage by people with disabilities. Accessibility Partners promotes disability rights in every phase of technology development and consults with clients when a variety of sizes and scale to include feedback and accessible design and development.

As an accessibility subject matter expert, Dana has been featured in countless national and international industry publications and media platforms to promote inclusive technology. Dana lives with her family in the Washington DC area and keeps our calendar full of family outings, indie music concerts, road races and struggling to make her garden grow. Today Dana will talk about how to embrace the concept of Bring Your Own Device or BYOD, policies to improve accessibility in the workplace. PEAT is so excited to be featuring this topic today that we decided to continue the conversation in a Twitter chat on Wednesday, October 28 from 2 PM until 2:30 PM Eastern time. PEAT will moderate a discussion on leading accessible technology practices designed to help all workers and in advancing the employment of people with disabilities, including BYOD. You can join the conversation by following and tagging your posts with the hashtag #PEATtalks. Without further delay, I will turn things over to Dana.


>> Thank you so much,  Christa. Good afternoon, everyone. Everyone knows BYOB and I'm sorry that this online webinar is not going to be an Oktoberfest of sorts with your choice of adult beverages but here is the funny thing about choice. Whether you are bringing your own beverage or beer or Bringing Your Own Device for BYOD, the power is in your hands. Thank you, everybody, for joining us on today's webinar, and thank you to PEAT the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology for hosting what will hopefully be an exciting as Oktoberfest events. As Christa mentioned, I am Dana Marlowe with Accessibility Partners and I really excited to give you all a quick introduction  to the merits of Bring Your Own Device or BYOD and how it can increase productivity of your workplace for employees with and without disabilities.

As many of you might already know about 20% of the US population, according to 2010 U.S. Census data, has a disability. Statistics from the Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy from just last month of September showed that almost 70% of people without disabilities actively participate in the workforce compared with almost 20% with disabilities. We think with BYOD, that second number can absolutely increase. This issue is really, really personal for us. If we did not have a BYOD policy, our company simply would not exist. And I really, earnestly, mean that. BYOD has given us the freedom to expand our hiring of people with disabilities. Most importantly, it has allowed us to support them as employees as they pick and choose their own products and necessary assistive technology and general technology that is right for them. We respect their personal choice and are rewarded every day with top-notch work. It was an easy decision for me and one that has enabled us to guarantee our staff with empowerment and professionalism.

As I joked, BYOD stands for Bring Your Own Device and not bring your own dandelions, dog, or dessert as the photographs on the screen indicate. Essentially what it boils down to is a workplace policy that allows or permits employees to bring their personal technology to the office. Typically, this is technology that the individual selects themselves and they or the company buy, depending on corporate policy. These products are then used to access company information and applications. Access. That is the keyword here. BYOD promotes access to work on personal technologies. But it is also an extremely accessible solution. It is a huge boon to people with disabilities. How so? The most important element is that the user picks the technology itself. The emphasis is on the personal selection and from there, accessibility can increase.

Do you sometimes feel like your office productivity might be grinding to a halt? Gear up to some of these numbers. Tech Pro Research which covers the latest technology trends and workplaces around the world estimates that almost 3/4 of workplaces are using or adopting some sort of Bring Your Own Device policies. It is clearly pretty popular. But there is plenty of room for those numbers to grow and we are really hoping that they do. Throughout this short webinar, there are a couple of interactive moments where I would like to reach out and ask you some questions and poll the audience for some feedback. The first one, should be up on your screen. If, for whatever reason, it is not accessible, you are welcome to reach out on Twitter and provide your response on Twitter at or you can use the @Access_Partners handles on Twitter or in the chat Q&A that everyone can access through Adobe Connect. So there are multiple ways that you can chime in. So the first question that is on the screen indicates Do you have a BYOD policy at work? The radio button options are: yes. No. Thirdly, I am not sure. And forth is a no vote. If you would just take a second, I can see that the numbers are rising right now, and then I will read them out in just a moment.

>> It seems that we have some folks that are still chiming in. The votes are also welcome to be cast and shared in the chat window, if that is a more comfortable spot as well as at the @PEATworks Twitter handle. So we have, it looks like we have most folks who have chimed in. We have 18 individuals who have indicated that, yes, they do have a BYOD policy at work. We have eight people who have said no, they do not. And we have twelve people who have indicated that they are not sure. That is a total of 38 people who have chimed in. I know that we have well over 70 participants. So I see that the numbers are changing but we also have somebody who shared "there's no policy but people are free to do so. It is just not actively promoted." Thank you to Kathy for sharing back in the chat window because that is very helpful information to share.

Moving on, now that we have a feel for that, we got, especially even on this webinar, that people are using BYOD, and that is a given. But what does it look like from office to office? How does it time to workers with disabilities? That is a key question. The infographics displayed on this slide shows that currently almost 90% of employees' mobile devices are able to and do connect to corporate networks. According to a 2013 pew research survey, 45 million Americans use a mobile device for primary Internet access over other options, and I know that I for one certainly do and I'm guessing that many people on this call as well. Combine that with the reality of telework and telecommuting. While another topic for a different day, a Cisco survey shows that 3 out of 5 workers say that they do not need to be in the physical office location anymore.

In case you're feeling like this was a webinar that is turning into a bit of a math class, here are just two more statistics before we move on that you can wow people with at your next dinner party. Experts predict that one third of organizations will stop providing devices to their workers by 2016. Which, as you know, is just around the corner because I know for me, while you might be all over the globe and the US calling in, many stores all over have their holiday decorations out and New Year's is right around the corner. Also 70% of small businesses already embrace BYOD. Technology is about personal choice and not an automatic answer and cookie-cutter solution. It is time to increase accessibility.

First off, here is some good news. There are some quick perks that you get right away by implementing or even beginning to introduce a BYOD policy. Some offices past the technology cost off to their employees. This can be a huge savings for their budget. Some companies also allocate funds to subsidize or even support all of the cost of the new purchases. If you give the people what they want, naturally, they are going to be happier. This also increases employee satisfaction. Also, how long does it take to approve upgrades and install them on every system? Save your IT department a headache and have your individual employer make up their own minds and schedule. Once the dust settles and people have created their usernames with passwords, the benefits of BYOD do not stop. There is a reduced learning curve if employees retain their devices or keep opting for their same solutions and features.

Furthermore there is less of a need the future to buy additional assistive technology for employees with disabilities if their current situation works and they are happy. In fact, most of the latest devices like smartphones and tablets as many of you probably know have built-in accessibility features that are comparable or even better than expensive third-party solutions. Those other benefits are very tangible. But there are some that transcend the time and money savings. The biggest one is disability inclusion. Let me give you an example. One of our team members, I will call her Sarah, blogs and writes articles all the time and she has often felt trapped by smaller keyboards and reduced screen sizes that her coworkers used on various tablets. She is happiest with just an old-fashioned keyboard and mouse that works best for her situation. She bought herself a wired USD mouse because she cannot use the touchscreens much due to limited dexterity but now she can channel her thoughts into creative writing much faster and happier and not be bogged down by an inaccessible solution because she has the right mouse and keyboard that work for her.

We recommend allowing the user to find the best device that works for them and from there, they can do their best work. How would you measure this? Well, our answer is productivity. Your staff can purchase the most accessible option for them and pick the best out-of-the-box solution. I would be remiss if I did not include this in a PEAT presentation, you can expand hiring a people with disabilities if you support your staff with accessible options. Every week, we are bombarded with the latest and greatest gadget. I do not know about you, but there always seems to be something out on the market that I absolutely cannot live my life without. At least according to the manufacturer. I mean, did I really need that USB hub shaped like a storm trooper? So we all like to have the newest and latest and greatest stuff, but the foundations are the same. What do you truly need for your office? Now is the time to kind of sharpen in those pencils and think of the holiday technology advertisements that are coming into the inbox and mailbox for Black Friday and see what is down the pipeline before you even handpick out Halloween costumes.

There are all sorts of accessible options and many include assistive technology features. Here are some of the devices that we have seen purchased and we also purchase ourselves at Accessibility Partners, and on websites that say PEAT or the job accommodation network JAN also recommends. Products displayed on the screen and the image include PCs, laptops, smartphones, screen magnifiers and screen readers. Speech recognition software, hearing enhancement products, monitor overlays and other environmental enhancements, as well as many more. That was just a sampling. Now I would like to engage and have you guys participate in a second poll. It will be appearing up on the screen and, again, I will read out the question and the button for you to select from and you are welcome to select as many as you see fit. You are also welcome to include your answer in the Q&A chat box or at the Twitter handle  @PEATworks.  The question is, which of these following technologies do you use to stay productive at work? Please choose as many options that apply. The first is PCs, such as desktop computers, laptops, smartphones, screen magnifiers, screen readers, such as text to speech software like Freedom Scientific, jaws, or NVDA. Speech recognition software such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking or Siri. Hearing enhancement products such as Bluetooth, or monitor overlays or contrast features. Then, we have other category. Please feel free to chime in now. I will pause for a moment.

>> If you did select other, please feel free to explain in the chat window.

>> It looks like the responses are slowly finishing up. We have 23 individuals that use PCs, which is roughly 57% of total responses. Again, the numbers are changing. Absolutely, David Schwartz chimed in about what about peripherals? Lots of other devices, by all means. 35 people selected laptops, that's 85%. 31 people using smart phones. That is a little over 75%. Again, the numbers are fluctuating but you get the idea. Seven people you screen magnifiers. Four people use screen readers. 11 people use speech recognition software. Six people use hearing enhancement products. Four people use monitor overlays or other contrast features. And 13 people or 13% selected other and then the chat window, we have some great comments. Thank you, Tom, for mentioning in the other area, a white noise generator to block out distracting background sounds. Bruce Fleming shared that he uses a scanner and David Schwartz also mentions other USB peripherals such as mouse and keyboard, but certainly there is a lot out there. Christa shares that she depends on Microsoft outlook reminders. David also shares tablets are becoming more prevalent in the workplace as well. We also have answers from Kathy and Lillian, which include iPad and surface, so different tablets. Lillian shared, of course, refreshable browser displays there's lots of input and output devices so there is clearly a lot on there.

I'm going to keep moving in the interest of time. Let me just end the poll. There we go. On Twitter, thank you, Emily, for sharing that Anna Dresner, hi Anna. She shared that she uses a laptop, screen reader, browser display and smartphone. Thank you. Take it from us. This BYOD policy really works. Within our company, Accessibility Partners, we employ a lot of people with disabilities. In fact, we are very proud to say that over 85% of our workforce is comprised of people with disabilities. While we do not think of the disability, is not forefront, not top of mind for us, but this does splan many different kinds including blindness, low vision, hearing loss, mobility, dexterity issues, mental health, multiple disabilities and more.

On this slide, we have a small component of our team, some of our shining faces at a recent team meeting. As a result, we do operate on a telework model to encourage our staff to make the most accessible workplace set up for them. This eliminates geographic and other physical barriers. Our office is totally, everybody is remote around the United States. That works wonderfully for us and so does it BYOD policy but we also go one step further. You guessed it. We use a BYOD policy. Since we opened our doors and anytime a new employee is hired, we highly encourage them to use their own technology. We even pay for most of it. Here is our playbook. You might not be a Steelers fan like me but we all know that in this situation, accessibility is the real MVP. It is hard to corral the files of a mobile workforce, but we also use an accessible and secure filesharing and cloud storage provider that works on their individual devices. We have seen the increased engagement of our staff already, as files are uploaded, share, edited and reviewed while our employees are waiting to board planes or on a break in a conference. This is all because they have devices that work for them and that they like. It is newfound productivity time. We recommend as a safety precaution to check your security. Be sure to register their devices and have other secure systems set in place like antivirus software and other malware blockers. Why we are not an IT security specialist, this is certainly a good preventative measure. As you know, the best often is a good defense. We defend our workers against inaccessibility and rack up points upon points and save time, money, and high morale.

I will share another story from one of our key players. I would like you to meet Brian Brian is one of our accessibility specialists, and I asked him recently about his particular office set up because we live 1500 miles apart and he sent me a photograph that I am sharing with you on this screen that I will describe in a moment. I have not seen it in person but do I really even have to? He is getting his work done and it is getting done incredibly well. His manager is thrilled with all of his work output. He is a pleasure to work with. Anyways, Brian called and described his office layout as "easy for me" but did remark that this might not be applicable for others. This is a case where what works for one might not work for other people. So at his disposal, and as shared in this screen that you can see some of, a laptop computer with screen reading software, a desktop computer with voice recognition software, a tablet with contrast settings enabled, and a smart phone that has all three of these assistive features activated. They are all laid out on a desk and a side table. Brian is so creative that he is using a desktop that he built himself. He knows that hardware inside and out and built it to his specific needs. For increased visual access, he also has two monitors displayed of various sizes. I know that it kind of sounds like he works inside a Best Buy and it certainly is a unique set up that is not for everyone, but it is optimal for him and we got the best work from him as a result and he is happy.

By embracing a BYOD policy, you're pretty much getting on board with the train that has already left the station. However, trains do not move as fast as technology innovates and employees already have their own devices, whether they use it for personal or professional use. They know what works for them. Give them the power of selection and, again, you are reducing the learning curve. No need for expensive trainings or troubleshooting because your users are already your power users and they are ready to be more productive.

Naturally, I have talked about how great it BYOD is and how can help transform an organization and improve morale and increase productivity. However, like any new policy about to be implemented or even considered, there are some factors that need to be thought about. The related risks associated with BYOD are not all doom and gloom but they do need to be thought over. Some of them are: one, that the data is not secure, due to unsafe Internet connections. Another one is that devices can obviously get lost or stolen as people travel. That is a given no matter what. Some restrictions can be bypassed by using a proxy server, for example, connecting to social media while on the clock. Another one is that there is always the risk of adware, spyware, and viruses. And that there could be too many secure permissions which could make the device unusable.

Still, at the end of the day, BYOD is only going to increase. As they say in Star Trek, resistance is futile. If you embrace BYOD, and create a companywide policy, you are also by extension wholeheartedly supporting your employees. Trust them. That is my biggest tip. Have the faith that they can truly make the best decisions for their use and for their disability. Do not assume that purchasing one type of accessible technology that works for one user with a disability will work for another user although, standardized usability is something we all strive for. This is an individualized process and solution. Help them make the right choice by allowing them to test various options. We also recommend going to websites like PEAT and the Job Accommodation Network for current product recommendations, accessibility information and more because they're constantly updating their sites with new technology options and features. In fact, as the image I have on the screen, PEAT's own TechCheck is extremely helpful. Take it out for a spin after our talk and the websites of those two organizations are on the slide and are and

What's next? Overall BYOD promotes opportunity and inclusion, as you give the option of choice to your employees both with and without disabilities. The next step is to convince your other stakeholders and once they are on board, create a BYOD policy that works for your organization. I do have a final question for you. For those of you who have existing BYOD policies, were they hard to put in place? And the answers are, Yes, but I am not aware of how difficult it was to implement; No, or my workplace does not have a BYOD policy. For those of you who have existing BYOD policies, were they hard to implement? Yes? Yes, but I'm not aware of how difficult it was to implement; No. My workplace does not have a BYOD policy.

In the interest of time I'm going to get through this and you're welcome, of course to put that in the chat window. Right now, we have three people or 16% who said, yes, they have a BYOD policy that was hard to implement. Eight people said they are not aware of how difficult it was to implement, that is 42 percent of the respondents, two people said no and seven people said my workplace does not have a BYOD policy or 35% of the responses and so that is about 20 responses. I am going to end that poll.
Remember, having a solution that an individual employee has developed with your approval allows for increased productivity and connectivity. By using BYOD and making informed decisions and procedures, you can make sure that your employees have more accessible technology with assistive features. Trust that they will make the right choice for the disability and save money in the process by reducing retrofits, accommodations, trainings, and upgrades. Plus be on the cutting-edge. More organizations are offering BYOD so why not yours? It is a key differentiator and can be attractive perk if you are in the process of hiring. Also, appeal to a new demographic, savvy users of technology with and without disabilities.

Thank you all so much for attending or if you are viewing this after the fact, thank you, for listening into this webinar. My contact information is on the slide. You are all welcome to reach out to me. My email address is or visit us at our website, for more information and I also have the telephone number, Facebook, and Twitter handles available on this slide. The accessible PowerPoint slide deck that we just went through was also available on PEAT website as Christa shared or you can drop me an email.  Finally, here are some of the resources that I quoted, some data from these pages on this slide. I am not going to read them out loud but they can also be used for further information and fact-finding. I want to thank you so much for attending. I am happy to entertain any questions as well. I do not know, Christa, as far as the time is concerned, but certainly you are welcome to reach out after the webinar has concluded and give me a buzz or drop me a line. Thank you got.

>>. Thank you.  I think that we will hang out for a couple of minutes because we have gotten some good questions so for those of you that can stick with us, we will be online for a few more minutes. The question was answered in the chat but I want to pose it for you again What is your accessible filesharing tool?

>> As far as the accessible filesharing, we have used some different ones through the years. It just depends. We have used one called Jungle Disk. It certainly depends on the needs. We have also used Dropbox. And Sooner. The three that we have used.

>> All right. Great. The next question is, do all employees use their own security protocol or is there one that you suggested to cover multiple devices?

>> I am sorry. I was also reading through the questions. Do all use their own security protocol or is one suggested? So we use our own. It is certainly, again, every company might do, might have different policies. But we use our own.

>> All right. Great. This one might be particularly relevant for those of us were working in the government space. If you are bringing your own device, how do you suggest protecting your device from being taken if there is a request under the Freedom of Information Act?

>> That is an excellent question. Not one that I know the answer to off the top of my head. I think that it is a great question and certainly I am here in DC so I do hear about FOIA all of the time. But one that I do not have the answer to. I can certainly look that up and I would be more than happy to get back to you but I do not want to give you an answer that I'm thinking of that might be wrong.

>> All right. Great. We definitely want to follow up on that one because I think that is relevant for a lot of us. The last question that we got is, what device or accommodations you recommend for consumers who are colorblind and need to be able to identify colors at their place of employment?

>> So certainly, and I think, thank you, Shayna, text alternatives that are adhering to US Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 or the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines from the W3C, World Wide Web Consortium, WCAG, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, 2.0. And certainly, there are color analyzers, and other technology plugins.


>> All right. Great. Since we are running a few minutes over, I think we will go ahead and wrap up. Please do not forget to join us for the follow-up Twitter chat on October 28 at 2 PM  Eastern talked using the #PEATTalks. If you have any residual questions, it'd be great to post them during that discussion. Additionally please be sure to join us for the next month PEAT Talks on Thursday, November 19, 2 PM Eastern time. We will be welcoming  Ted Drake, principal engineer at Intuit, who will be discussing Biz Ability, a community driven resource for business owners with disabilities and entrepreneurs to find the accessible tools that they need to build and run their businesses effectively. You can find at the registration link on or look for an email from PEAT later today. I would like to give a special thanks to Dana for speaking with us and to all of you that took the time to join us. Enjoy the rest of your afternoon.