And welcome to PEAT Talks. This is a virtual speaker series from the Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology. We have these talks on the third Thursday of every month, and PEAT Talk showcases various organizations and individuals whose work and innovations are advancing technology in the workplace. My name is Josh Christianson. I'm the project director for PEAT, and I will be posting today's talk.
First. we want to take care of some logistics before we get started. We will definitely have time for question and answer, so we'd love for you to interact with our guest speaker. You can use the chat box within Adobe to enter your questions, enter them in the chat window. We will track and monitor those, and we'll save time at the end for questions and answers, since we use those throughout, and we'll track those.
You can also use the chat window if you're having any technical difficulties, and we will do our best to assist you in that in resolving the issues. Some folks always ask, in case you're having any problems with Adobe Connect, you can download the presentation on PEATworks.org. And in the future, an archived recording will be posted online to send out to folks.
We'll also be live tweeting today's events from @PEATworks, our account, so feel free to join us and follow along, and you can use the hash tag, #PEATTalks. That's P-e-a-t-t-a-l-k-s, two Ts, and we can catalog the conversation there.
So, let's get started with today. We are very pleased to have Ather Sharif. Ather is the founder of EvoXLabs and currently serves as Comcast's core application — on Comcast's Core Applications Platforms Team. He is a software engineer, a freelance web developer, and consultant. He's passionate about researching web accessibility, and developing J-query tools to make the web a more accessible place, which is why we found him and why he is here today. He's going to be sharing with us his experiences and making tech-focus workplaces more inclusive, from building technology solutions to how and why EvoXLabs developed a partnership with Active Computing out of University of Washington.
This program connects students with disabilities with mentors and internships and technology. I stumbled across EvoXLabs doing some research for the hackathon, and we were very excited to track Ather down, and are very pleased to have him on our webinar today. So, without further ado, I'm going to turn it over to you, Ather, for today's presentation.
Thanks for having me. Today I'll be talking about how we have tried and are doing our bridging the gap between technology and people with disabilities through EvoXLabs. So, I'll explain what we do in a little bit, and a little bit about myself, as Josh already explained pretty much everything that I had on the slide. But just a little bit, I am a software engineer at Comcast, and besides that, I am the founding researcher at EvoXLabs, which is what we'll be discussing today.
My research interests are very much focused towards accessibility, web accessibility, and my research focuses on accessible graphs, which are about how do we present graphs to someone who has vision impairment or is blind, how we would base these graphs the way we see it. That is the focus of my research. Besides that, my research focuses on browser extension for web accessibility, more so as to how can we develop tools that do not require developers to make their websites accessible but a tool that could just convert the website — on all the websites on whatever you're doing on the browser accessible to everybody, and so there's some of the research that I have, and this is some of the work that I've been doing in the past few years with EvoXLabs, and also for my classroom program.
I graduated from Saint Vincent Mercy here in Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania, with a Master's in Computer Science, and that's where I focused on the facilities and my Graduate Thesis Program. Some of other tool stuff, I was a Google Scholar, also Geek of the Year in 2015, and that is a real thing. But that was also because of my work [inaudible] definitely told that there. I also play for the Quad Rugby team for the Philadelphia Eagles, and, yeah, that's a little bit of instruction for myself. Okay. We can move forward with discussing about EvoXLabs, the inception, why did we start EvoXLabs, and how it all began.
EvoXLabs was started in 2015, the beginning of 2015. The reason why EvoXLabs was started, because at that time, I was in graduate school, and I was doing research on web accessibility, and I figured that there was a disconnect between the industry and the research and the academia with respect to web accessibility specifically. But I thought if I was going to be successful in doing my research and actually seeing some real-life challenges, I should try to bridge that. I should try to connect that, and, hence, I found the EvoXLabs to support my research and bring that research to the industry, take from the industry and bring it back to academia and sort figure of figure out how to work together, so we are not already researching on something that is already in practice in the industry, and, also, we're not implementing something without the important research that goes on in academia. That was the reason EvoXLabs started.
It was started as an applied research firm, and that is what it is today as well. It was an applied research on the accessibility, so we started doing that, and we started researching on that accessibility, where we would ask volunteers from the community here. We have a great [inaudible] here in Philadelphia with respect to accessibility. But we would have people volunteer not just from the community here but across the nation, across the world to sort of pitch in their ideas on how can we make it better, what do we need to target, what is the problem that we're facing. So, we focused a lot on trying to find what the problem was rather than trying to find what the solution was, and that's how EvoXLabs started. A lot of things changed over the years. A lot of things became apparent to us that we need to focus more on, and we will talk about that as we move forward with this presentation.
So, some of the projects that we undertook as part of EvoXLabs lab, the first one was Project WhiteCane. The Project WhiteCane is a project that focuses on applied research on web accessibility. This research focuses on people who are blind or people who have vision impairment and how can we make tools, such as browser extensions, or such as something that does not require the developers to change the website from their site, to use that and sort of make prototypes and publish papers, and also develop prototypes and actual solutions that we can distribute to the actual user.
This is something that we started in the very beginning, and it's still very active, and something that's still going on these days as well. There has been ongoing research since the time that we started EvoXLabs. Most of it is published yet, but that's something that we're working on. And I'll talk about this later on in the presentation, how we have developed a partnership with AccessComputing to enhance this project and to make this project successful. But AccessComputing does play a very important role in making this project successful so far.
Moving forward with the second initiative that we ran was called the FAWN Initiative. It stands for Free and Accessible Websites for Nonprofits. We started this initiative with the thought in mind that we really want people to developing websites that are accessible. And what we taught was that we could target the nonprofits first, because nonprofits are some of the organizations, which generally would not have funding to do so, so we would target a nonprofit and make free and accessible websites for them and sort of create a revolution where we can convince the bigger tech giants or bigger for-profit companies to sort of learn from this, to sort of learn from the fact that nonprofits have been paying a lot of attention to making their websites accessible so the for-profits would take from it and make their websites accessible that way as well.
So, we wanted to start from the bottom and that's how we started this. This is not an active project at the moment. The reason why was because when we started this project, there was a lot of interest. The queue became too large, and we are a volunteer organization, so we work on a volunteer basis, and it was just really hard to have all the resources to make sure that this stays active at all times. So, at this point, this project is not active, because we still have that queue, but that's not to say that this is something that we won't consider. If this is something that you would be interested in, I'm happy to talk about this. I'm happy to carry on the conversation, see what resources we have, and see what we have from there. But this is not an active project at this moment.
The other project that we started off with was the SCI Video Blog. SCI stands for Spinal Cord Injury. We developed the website. It is under renovation at this moment but still also live. So, if you go to SCIvideoblog.com, you would be able to see the videos that with have there. The ideology behind this project was to sort of create a platform for people with spinal cord injuries to go and sort of watch. Somebody who has, and as you might be aware of this, that people, everybody with a spinal cord injury is very different from anybody else, even if they have the same level of injuries, and even if they have the same level of disability. That changes how much demand or things that are generalized would help them. So, we wanted to remove that barrier and provide an opportunity for people with spinal cord injuries to go on this website, search for somebody that has very similar level of injury as them and try to look for videos from those people, so you can relate better, you can learn better.
It's hard for me — I'm a quadriplegic myself. It's hard for me to go on a website like YouTube and search for videos, and all I see are videos from a paraplegic who have, generally, more hand functions than I would, and, hence, it is difficult for me to learn how to do things, given that our level of injuries or our functionality levels don't match; hence, we created this website. This website is going through a renovation as we speak, and hopefully soon we will be coming up with a better version of this very soon. But at this time, it is functional.
We also have guest walk hosts to sort of be digital, and for people who want to wade on some of the stuff. This is something that's been going on for a while. I know that there are some other websites, as it was just mentioned in the chat as well. Facingdisability.com is another great website. SPINALpedia is also another great website for such purposes, but we definitely would like to collaborate with any similar websites so we're not recreating or reinventing the wheel. We just want to collaborate with people and want to make sure that what we have out there is collaborated with other efforts and is not something that — it's separated from the other organizations who are doing similar stuff.
Moving on to the next project, we started this project last year. It's called The Accessible World Conference. This is one of the conferences that was funded by AccessComputing. We have people from entire North America come and talk in that conference. The really cool part about this conference was that it was based on the idea of universal design. Having said that, what really happened in this conference is that we had the same audience but speakers from various different backgrounds. So, generally, you would go to a conference which would be focused on a particular content. For example, if you go to a conference which is about accessible technologies, you would hear from a lot of technologists, but the audience would also be people who would understand what they are trying to say.
What we try to do here was that we tried to bring in people from various different backgrounds. Six different backgrounds, to be precise. Those were people from health care, technology, education, policy, recreation, and then we brought them together under one roof and had the same audience listen to them. The trick was — the challenge was that the presenters had to present it in a way that would be understood by the layman. And so, a person who is from the healthcare industry could very well understand what the person from the technology field is trying to say, and sort of take it back to their own field and implement that. So, we wanted to make it more universally designed, and that is how the conference was shaped.
We had a good set of speakers, and we had about 35 speakers, 36 speakers from all around the country, and we had representation from AccessComputing as well. It was funded by AccessComputing, and it was a great conference. This is something that we would want to do again, perhaps next year, and if this is something that you would like to collaborate on to make this happen, I'm happy to talk further. I'm happy to continue this conversation on a broader scale.
The next project that we have — and this is sort of our quartet — is EvoHaX Hackathon. EvoHaX doesn't really stand for anything, but it is a Hackathon that focuses on accessible and assistive technologies. Every year we have done it as a part of Philly Tech Week, which is a week full of technology events here in Philadelphia. So, every year we organize this as a part of Philly tech week. This year we organized our fourth annual Hackathon. The Hackathons are focused on a particular theme. Every year it's a different theme. We started off, the first team was accessibility, and then it was sustainability and accessibility, and this year we came back to accessibility. Some of the very cool projects that have come out of it have been taken over by some of the larger organizations.
The idea behind this hackathon, how this makes it a little different, is that — first of all, let me make it clear that hackathons are not something that's illegal, even though the word "hack" is in there. It is something that the civic community, a community of developers and students and professionals would come together. It's a weekend long event. It's 24 to 48 hours long. People with skills who are developers or are students who want to develop something would come together and work on a solution on any given issue. In our case it is the accessibility issue.
So, the way it works is we have subject matter experts. These are people with disabilities. We bring them onboard. They join the team of the developers. We also bring in medical professionals, which could be from any field. They could be nurses. They could be physical therapists. They could be occupational therapists. They could be recreational therapist. They could be speech therapists. We bring them all onboard and make them sit on one table. We assign them teams, and each team is expected to work with the subject matter expert and develop something for that person specifically.
But also, just because that table might have a — for example, subject matter is drawing, and the physical therapist has worked with somebody with a spinal court injury, now this brings a little bit of universal design on the table, and a little bit of diversity on the table, because now what you're trying to develop is not just for a blind person, it's also for a person with a spinal cord injury. That amalgamation of different ideas and diversity on the table makes the product very universally designed. So, if you're developing something, you're not just developing it for a blind person. You're developing it, keeping in mind people with other acts as well. This is something that we highly focus on.
This is also a project that's been funded by AccessComputing over all these years. Every year this is made possible by the funding from AccessComputing. I'll talk more about partnership there, but this happens every year. We wrapped up our fourth Annual Hackathon. Some the solutions and the paths that we've had out of it have been — are now being used at least by the subject matter experts that it was designed for, but also on broader scales in other organization. For example, one year we had Pebble sponsored the event, and we took some of the hardware from Pebble.
Pebble is a company that makes smartwatches, and, hence, we developed a solution that was taken over by Pebble, so their watches would target people with Alexia. And this was an interesting project that came out of these hackathons. Besides that, last year our hackathon winners developed a scanner that you could put on your finger, so it would read the test that way, and so you were able to understand what the text is. And that was one of the greatest projects that I've seen come out of the hackathon.
This is something that we would like to send to you. And some of the work that PEAT has been doing has been really great as well. What we would like to do is we would like to collaborate with other people, with like-minded folks, to sort of grow this hackathon a little bit more, and have it in different cities, have it in different communities just so we can start developing solutions and get people more educated and more involved, people who are in the industry, in the programming and development industry, and technology field. This is something that we're actively working on, and, again, I'll all ears about ideas and collaborations if you've got something you would like to talk about.
Moving forward, the last project that we going on is Aditum. Aditum is the Latin word for access. This is sort of like a secret project, but I will talk about it. This is a project that provides access and on various different levels. What it is about is, it's about taking the data from the nonprofit organizations and make it available for anybody to access it. And that data, providing that data and making that data public to people helps us in developing better analytics and developing better solutions to understanding.
So, for example, if you were to take certain data from a certain organization, that might not be sufficient to come to a conclusion or develop something. So, our idea is to get as much data as possible from various different organizations across the world and sort of make it an open-source solution so we can make that data available to anybody in the world who is doing something with respect to social impact who could use this data and sort of create tools and solutions that could help us understand the issues better. This is something that we're working on, and again, this is something that is made possible, indirectly, by AccessComputing. And I think this is our next slide, so I'll talk a little bit more about our partnership with AccessComputing.
AccessComputing is a great organization. I have been a part of it since I was in grad school. AccessComputing is one of the largest frameworks — not frameworks, it's one of the largest communities of students with disabilities in the STEM field, as per me, and I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation that came out of it. I would definitely recommend joining that, if that's possible, and this is something — AccessComputing has helped us in many different ways.
It is helpful in two ways primarily. It has funded most of our projects. The Hackathon happens because of AccessComputing. The conference happened because of AccessComputing. Those are some of micro programs that we have gotten from AccessComputing, and if you have a project that falls into their criteria, I would definitely recommend applying for their funding.
The other thing AccessComputing has helped us with is to provide us interns. The way we have been working on our projects is to hire interns. AccessComputing provides us funding to hire interns who have a disability and are pursuing a career in the STEM, and that allows us to hire them, and also pay them, which also something that comes from AccessComputing. This gives us a lot of good stuff. One of the things, it helps us finish our projects in a way that we are able to get some more resources, get some people working on our projects.
The second, and the most important thing for me, what it does is it allows people and students with disabilities who are pursuing a career in the STEM field get real industry experience, but also to build up a confidence that they can contribute to projects such as the project that we've been working. The projects that we have been working on have a national scope. So, for them to contribute and start their careers with such smaller internships where they're focused on a solution that is actually be used by someone else, and to contribute to that and to feel confident enough to go out there and apply for real jobs and have that thing on their resume is, I think, fabulous, which is only made possible through AccessComputing. So, a huge thanks — if there is anybody from AccessComputing, a huge thanks for making this possible.
But this is something that we have enjoyed and benefited from thoroughly, and I think if you represent am organization where you can benefit from it as well, I would definitely recommend reaching out to AccessComputing and seeing how you could collaborate with them. And of course, in any way that's possible, but AccessComputing, if there is any way we you can make your project happen, I would definitely that you [inaudible].
Moving forward with some of the services that we've been offering also, that we started over a time period that is some off accessibility testing and consultation, which involves major digital products. And, for us, this comes from the research that we have done so far. So, as we continue to do our research, we use this research in testing, which is a little different from all the other organizations. But we use that with our interns and our resources so they can learn how to do accessibility testing as well, so we teach that to our interns while we 'working on such projects. We provide the services also.
Then, the next thing we do is, besides testing and consultation, we also develop solutions, which are websites, and that's solutions are portals or content management systems or customer relationships and things like that, which are accessible. So, if that is something that you care about, I'm happy to continue this conversation offsite, off this talk.
What's next for us? It's basically what's next for most people in the same field, in the same domain; that is, we would like to collaborate with like minded folks and organizations. We definitely do not to reinvent the wheel. If this is something that you've already worked on, if this is something that you have ideas, we don't want to reinvent them, but we want to learn from you, and we want to sort of collaborate with you in developing the product or the project that you've been working on so far. If there is something that we have been working on so far, and you would like to collaborate, we always welcome that. Everything that we develop is pretty much open source, so with put the code out there. We put our efforts out there. So, everything for us is all about collaboration, so if you are representing an organization who would like to collaborate, please, please, please do reach out to me.
The second thing is, obviously, enhancing web accessibility awareness. We really, really want people to learn about accessibility. It's one of those things that I've come across over time period. It's not that people do not care about accessibility, it's just that they don't know, and, hence, we want to create an awareness at hackathons and conferences and things like that, putting it out there so people can sort of say something like, oh, well, this is something that I never thought of. This is really important. Maybe the next time I'll do something I will incorporate that in my project or things that I've always thought of. That's something that we want to create and that's our goal, that's our mission from all the projects that we have done so far.
And third, and, of course, this is the most important thing for me, that is to make this world a more accessible place. Whether that means it's web accessible or whether that's means in the physical realm, I just want to be a more accessible place, and if there's something I can do in making that happen, personally, as well as from EvoXLabs' perspective, I will do it, and that's precisely why you watch this today, and I'm sure we can all work together to make that happen even better.
So, this is it from my side. I will take any more questions. This presentation, as Corrie mentioned, that she will be assembling. As you go in the chat, there's the link to the presentation. This link will also be available on my website. It is not available at this point, but if you check in later today, you will be able to see it in the presentation's section of my website. But if you have any questions or ideas or if you want to collaborate and things like that, please do reach out to me. My e-mail is on the slide, as you can see, that's Ather, and that's my first name, and dot Sharif, that's my last name, @evoxlabs.org. If I go back to slide, I'm happy to answer any questions if there's any.
Thank you Ather, and we much appreciate it. And we'll try to post that URL in the chat box for folks. So, that will be shared and our slides as well, so from Adobe Connect you can get the slides from our website. But thank you for going over the overview of all the cool stuff you're doing it a EvoXLabs. I encourage people to write in questions that you may have, share resources that are relevant. I saw someone doing that earlier, sharing another site that focuses on video.
We had a question around are there any events planned in the D.C. area? And I know — I think because I had a call with Ather earlier this morning about collaborating on hackathons, EvoXLabs does not have any planned in the D.C. area in the near future, more conferences. But, still, I would say to people out there, there are definitely various types of hackathons and makeathons that go on around D.C. There aren't any that I'm aware of exclusively focused on accessibility that are coming up.
There is a conference coming up before long, focused on accessibility testing, and we will probably promote that on our PEATworks website as far as one of the events. I believe it is in September/October. But we usually would post kind of local D.C.-area accessibility events there on PEATworks.org, so you can check on that, so no problem. But otherwise, other people have questions, please use the chat box.
I've got a few that came up, and I was curious, before I go too much further, actually, a question Ather, is I remember when you spoke this morning, you said your team won an award at the Web4All Conference a couple years ago, and I wonder if you could highlight that research and just remind me what that accessibility project was.
Absolutely. That was an award that we won. That was an award that we won as part of my graduate research at that time, that was about graphs. It was about how do we make graphs accessible to people who are blind. Images is one thing. We can describe that as an alternative text. And some of the bigger organizations — Facebook is doing absolutely amazing in sort of providing and describing images that we don't get to put alternate text on. But with respect to graphs, how would you be able to understand, and especially with a dynamic graph, where it changes over time period, how would you understand what does that really mean?
So, we developed a solution that would help a blind person, or anybody with a screen reader, understand the graph better. So, we had a small tool that would read the graph out to you in a paragraph format, in a text format that makes more sense. For example, a graph could be 10,000 points.
The way Google does it, the Google graph, they would put a table instead of the graph with all the data points, so if there were 10,000 data points, then a screen reader user would have to go through 10,000 elements in a table. And so, what we did was we started summarizing those, and we started providing — we started analyzing the data and sort of provide a summary of what the graph is, and that was also customizable. So, if you wanted a certain information you could customize it through your browser extension, which would allow you to read the graph, which would allow you to extract particular information from a graph, whatever you were looking for. That is the project — that was research that won the award at the Web4All Conference 2015, which was in Florence, I believe.
Very cool. Thank you. And it actually got me thinking when you were talking about your secret project that we revealed a little bit about getting data out there, that's kind of related. You know, increasingly people at work need to look at graphs, or graphs are common in the workplace, and now with the increasing use of an ability to crunch numbers and produce large sets of data, people are making them visually appealing. There's more and more data analytics that gets used, and I wondered, just off the top of your head, if you could talk about challenges or advances in kind of data analytics and how people might be able to make sure they can access or use those within their own workplace, especially since that you're sharing some of that data via the nonprofit work.
Yeah. Sorry. Yes, that is correct. This is a partial goal for us. What we really want to do out of that project is to make sure that we are providing — the idea comes from this, that let me go back to civic hacking, redefining that. Civic hacking basically means any community who wants to develop something for the community, any set of developers who would want to develop something for the community, but they'd need data. So, what we want to do here with this project is to provide them with as much data as possible and have it available at any given point in time, so if, one day, somebody gets motivated to — and that happens a lot with part of the community, and still not directly related to your question, but we have a really good civic hacking community D.C., so that is also something that we can push forward.
I'm a part of an organization called as a code for America. So, every city has their — so, for example, in Philadelphia it's called Code for Philly. In D.C. it's called a Code for D.C. And that organization is a bunch of civic hackers who basically develop something for the community. So, what we want to do with this project is we want to make the data available, and especially, like, some of the really hard work that the nonprofits have done in this area, we want to take their data and make it public and make it available for those hackers to use it to develop something for the community, like as Josh already said, data analytics or data analysis or graphs or some sort of infographics. It could be in multiple ways, and could be multiple graphs as well, to sort of present that. And while they're doing that, we would also push forward to making that information more accessible.
The first challenge is to make the data available. So, once we have done that, then if anybody is using that data to develop something, then the next challenge comes into make sure that that is accessible, and, obviously, as you said, that most of the data analysis is present through graphs. So, we would want to push the other solution that we're work on, the research, to make sure that that is also accessible. And that's sort of the roadmap that we have here.
Cool. Thank you. Another question I had was regarding the basic best practices that any organization could follow to make tech-focused workplaces more inclusive to people with disabilities. I know you and your interns have some insight on that, and while all of your work isn't focused on it, I wonder if you could share what your thoughts are, best practices for making the workplace inclusive.
Absolutely. This is a talk that I've given in multiple places. I list five things, and it just doesn't apply to the tech industry, but any organization basically. If you were to make your organization and the community that you have more accessible, then there are a few things that you definitely need to consider, and that first thing is you definitely need to employ more people with disabilities. Now, here's the thing about that, most people see that as a diversity goal. I don't not. Most people think that if they can hire people with disabilities or people with color for that matter also, and that contributes the diversity of the team, that would be great. I think that is great in certain ways, but I also think that diversity for the sake of diversity means absolutely nothing; hence, we need to see why are we employing people with disabilities.
A few years ago, SAP, which is a really large tech giant, made a commitment and started hiring people with autism. They made a commitment that they would hire 500 people with autism. Now they did that because they realized the importance that the people with autism bring to the table; that is testing of their products. They realized that people with autism are one of the best testers when it comes to universal design of any given product; hence, SAP made that commitment. And if you Google it, you will find those articles. I'm happy to share those articles as well. Then Microsoft did the same thing later on.
So, it's important to understand that if you are going to hire people with disabilities, then why are you going to do that? I think this is very important for us to understand. And I think this is very important for me to my next point, is that organizations need to educate themselves. If you're a tech organization and you're doing something along the lines of accessibility, then definitely workshops that would help you do accessibility testing and accessibility development better, but if you're an organization that does not focus on that, just pure education on what accessibility is, how that is important and what could that bring to the table, besides the obvious, is really, really important. And combining those two things together, I think that does make the workplace very inclusive, because it has to come from within. It has to come from changing the mindset and not enforcing it. Enforcing is a good way to start, but eventually we would like to see everybody having that mindset, so it's a surprise, coming out of the closet.
Besides that, I would also say that organized hackathons. Hackathons are a great way in many different ways. If you're a company that develops products, then hackathons could help bring insight from other people outside, such as one that's Pebble developed. Pebble gave us their free watches, and we used those watches to develop solutions. And while we were doing that, we recognized how Pebble was not accessible. And the solutions that came out of our hackathon were actually taken back to implement, to make their products more accessible, and that is why more and more organizations, as we move forward, are organizing hackathons and makeathons and signathons. There are all sorts of thons out there, but hackathons is something that I believe that organizations should do. Similarly, for community initiatives, that's also something that goes along well with it.
I see a question. There were two companies; SAP was the first one. The second one was Microsoft. Though those are two companies that did commit to hiring people with autism.
Moving forward, I think a couple of other things is, always test your solutions and ideas for accessibility. I think that kind of aligns with being educated, your team having the mindset to welcome accessibility into the ideas that are solutions. Think more universally than just the product and the audience that you are specifically targeting. Like, for example, I would always get that question. If I do not offer any services for blind people, then why do I need to make my website accessible?
The answer to that question is, well, one, because it's important; second, because at one point in time it will become legal; and, third, it's the right thing to do, but most importantly if your website is not accessible or your product is not accessible, search engines such as Google, Bing, or any other search engine basically works exact same way a blind person does, or a screen reading does. If you're not making your website accessible, these search engines would never be able to use your website, so it's the same way. It's the same thing.
Hence, making your website or your product accessible is not just something that you should do in order — with the question that, well, I don't offer any services. It goes beyond that. It goes more into the universal design. It serves a much greater purpose than just making it accessible just because that is something that is important to do. It certainly must be a focus. So, I think those are some of the things that an organization could use in order to make themselves more inclusive and more accessible.
Thank you. There are a couple questions there. Someone asked about which company hired 500 individuals with autism? No. Is that it? And then the second one, which I think you said was SAP? I just wanted to be clear that that was the answer.
And the second one is about — go ahead.
I was just saying that this is the company that hired individuals with autism, 500 individuals with autism was SAP. But, also, Microsoft made a commitment of hiring 300 people with autism later on, in 2013, I would say.
Yeah. We've had them on to discuss their hiring program, specifically around autism. It's archived in one of the training events — in one of our webinar archives. Great.
So, there was another question that asked about if there was a website that your graph reading tool is on. I don't think there is. You talked about that being an award that you all got at the Web4All Conference. But is there somewhere someone could access that kind of graph reading tool that you were doing research on?
If that was needed, I could provide that. Right now, what we're working on is to make that graph — it was call a "evo graph." So, if you go on YouTube, search "evo graph." I'll put a link shortly as well. You will see how it works. What we're working on at this time is to make it open source, and we're just organizing and restructuring the code a little bit so we can put it out there for anybody to see it and use it and modify it and contribute back. That's something that we are working on, so it's not live as of yet. But I can definitely send a link, which I am just pulling up, to show how that really works.
I will get that in.
People have heard your willingness to share and collaborate, and I can attest to that, having reached out to you on a cold call. So, I would encourage people that are interested in working with EvoXLabs, or if there's anything in particular that Ather talked about today, to reach out.
The last question I have — thank you for pasting that link in there. Last question — and if any folks have any other questions, go ahead and type them in — is really about the internship program you talked about with AccessComputing. And I wonder if you could speak a little bit more about what students with disabilities who participate in that kind of training internship can expect to learn or get out of that experience. What do they leave with having come to EvoXLabs?
Yeah, so I think I touched a little bit on it a while ago, explaining it. Some of the things that a student with a disability in the STEM field can learn from an internship is; one, they can get some industry experience on some of the projects that we've been working on so they learn how to program, they learn how to code.
When we do the internships, we don't necessarily look for any particular skill level when we hire the interns. For us, it doesn't matter. For us, what matters is that whatever they come with we want them to leave us with something much more than that. So, if they come to us with not knowing how to do basic computer things, our goal is for them to leave us knowing all that. We also ask them what their goal is and things like that. But, generally, that's our goal. We don't hire them based on their skill level. Our goal for them is to learn, get the experience, learn something new, and our goal is for them to not stay with us but go out in the world and be amazing programmers or be amazing at what they do. And if we can assist in doing that, that's what our goal is.
Besides that, they get to — people that we've with worked with in the past have definitely given us feedback that they are now more confident in applying to jobs than they were before, not just because now they have a new thing appearing on their resume, but, also, they feel good about it. That they feel like they thought that their disability would always come in the way for them to work in an organization or for them to actually do something. But having been with us and having worked on an actual project and seeing that their project, their contributions were valued and are being used by a lot of people makes them feel that if they can do that, then they can definitely, definitely, and absolutely go out in the world and work for a bigger organization and contribute there. So that gives them a piece of mind that gives them confidence that otherwise would — if such programs like this didn't exist, if AccessComputing didn't provide this, I think this would be a very difficult task to accomplish. Does that answer your question, Josh?
Gees, I was on mute. Pardon me. Sorry. It does answer my question. Sorry everyone. I was on mute, giving accolades to Ather and his team, part of the closed caption threw me off. Anyway, I was going to say, yes, it answers my question. I look forward to learning more about it, and hopefully collaborating with you on some of it. And I was saying I would encourage others to do so as well.
You talked a lot about different projects and services that you're doing, and I would encourage folks to be in touch with him if they can learn more, want to be involved with EvoXLabs, which is doing lots of stuff and growing, so it's really exciting to see there. Hopefully we have a PEAT Talk, some later event, where we're talking about our own collaboration, because I would love to support some of the stuff EvoXLabs is doing, but really want to thank you for your time and the work you do, and, yeah, look forward to further conversations. For the rest of our — yeah, thank you.
For the rest of folks on the line, I just want to plug that we have another PEAT Talk next month. It's going to be September 21st, at 2:00 p.m., and we're goes to be talking about Ted Gies and Jay Nemchik from Elsevier. Ted and Jay will discuss their experience, responding to hundreds of customers on request for VPATs, Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates, and it's going to be a discussion of their significance of VPATs, best practices for handling requests. And I think it will be very informative for people that are looking, especially to buy technology that's accessible, to sell technology that's accessible, and really be able to get the software into the workplace that people need to do their job. So, please join us for that. Otherwise, a thank you again to Ather. We will post this webinar on the archive. Apologies for my muted time, but very much appreciate you being on the line. Thanks so much to everybody, and have a great rest of the day.