Oneisha Freeman, Digital Connectivity Manager at the Georgia Technology Authority (GTA) and Nikhil Deshpande, Chief Digital Officer for the State of Georgia, share why access to high-speed, reliable internet is critical and how you can make inclusion and accessibility a core part of your organizational culture. Oneisha and Nikhil also discuss how the Georgia Technology Authority is advancing equitable digital access for all Georgians.
Intro: [00:00:00.14] Welcome to the Workology Podcast, a podcast for the disruptive workplace leader. Join host Jessica Miller-Merrill, founder of Workology.com as she sits down and gets to the bottom of trends, tools and case studies for the business leader, HR and recruiting professional who is tired of the status quo. Now here’s Jessica with this episode of Workology.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:00:25.49] Welcome, welcome to this episode of the Workology podcast. This is part of our Future of Work series here on the Workology podcast. This episode is powered by PEAT, the Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology. PEAT works to start conversations around how emerging workplace technology trends are impacting people with disabilities. This podcast is also sponsored by Ace the HR Exam and Upskill HR. These are two courses or programs that we offer at Workology for HR Certification Prep and recertification for HR leaders. Before I introduce our guests for today, I do want to hear from you. Text the word podcast to (512) 548-3005. That’s (512) 548-3005. Ask questions. Let me know you’re listening to the podcast. Leave comments. Make suggestions for future guests, or just say “Hey.” This is my community text number and I want to hear from you. So, on today’s episode, we have two guests, so it’s a very special episode. I am joined by Oneisha Freeman and Nikhil Deshpande with the Georgia Technology Authority, or GTA. As the Digital Connectivity Manager at the GTA, Oneisha is part of the broadband team and is responsible for spearheading efforts to ensure equitable access to the internet and technology for all Georgians, regardless of their zip code or economic status. As the Chief Digital Officer for the state of Georgia, Nikhil leads the Office of Digital Services under the GTA and, under his direction, Georgia became the first state in the nation to meet needs of constituents with a range of disabilities affecting vision, hearing, motion, and cognition, making the platform Section 508 and WCAG 2.0 AA compliant. Now, let’s welcome our special guests for today. Oneisha, Nikhil, welcome to the Workology podcast.
Nikhil Deshpande: [00:02:24.89] Great to be here.
Oneisha Freeman: [00:02:26.00] Thank you. I’m so excited to be a part of this. Thank you.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:02:29.90] Of course. Well, let’s start with Oneisha. Both of you can answer this question, but we’ll start with Oneisha. Can you tell me and or us a little bit about your background and why you’ve been so passionate about digital equity, inclusion and accessibility?
Oneisha Freeman: [00:02:45.32] Absolutely. So, I came to the Georgia Technology Authority from the nonprofit sector where I worked for 16 going on 17 years, and kind of came from that nonprofit sector to the, the state government to, to really lead the lead the charge or be the, you know, be the connector really for other organizations and community members to have a voice in how do we then collectively address digital equity and inclusion through digital connectivity in our, for our state? And how do we prioritize the impacted community members that are outlined? How do we really impact everyone? Because you never know if you ever, you might find yourself in a different population at some point in time. So, you know, I just, I’m very passionate about it because it’s been a part of my life for so long. I personally went, finished my college degree online, you know, so even for me personally, I could see from early on, you know, how just having access to technology can help you overcome barriers, transform your life, transform your family. It can help support communities. But the tools are just tools. You know, to be clear, the, the, the real impact is when the people are able to fully take advantage of the tools and that those tools are available in their community. So this is my jam. That’s why I’m here doing the work. And I really feel like this is what I’m supposed to be doing at this point in time. It’s very unique in some ways, and so I feel very honored and blessed to, to be a part of what we’re, what’s going on in our state and in our country.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:04:47.49] What about you, Nikhil? Kind of talk to us about your background and how you got here and what is, what’s kind of driven that passion for you in this area.
Nikhil Deshpande: [00:04:58.65] So, my background is with user experience. And, you know, I went to school to essentially study advertising design, and that meant you create certain messages targeted for audiences. And, as I started working in advertising, I saw myself getting drawn more towards the public service announcement kind of ads where something that had a larger impact rather than just, you know, selling a product. And that’s how I really kind of, I guess, found my calling and I did my grad school in interaction design and digital design. And that’s truly where I learned the concepts of accessibility, inclusion. And then these, these really were, you know, all wrapped under the, the, I would say, the message of social justice and equality, right? I mean, back then we didn’t really, other than probably accessibility, there was no term identified as equity and inclusion in aspects of digital. So, as I worked more and more, I started working in the digital space. And, truly the first “aha” moment for me, that I realized that this really should be top priority for me as a digital practitioner, was when I saw someone interact with a few websites that we had created, someone with a disability. They were, you know, sight impaired and they were using Jaws and, and this is a, this is a special browser that is specifically used for users who cannot view websites.
Nikhil Deshpande: [00:06:42.33] And it just, it just completely, you know, blew me away, like how much we were focusing on visual design, how much we were focusing on things that looked nice. But for someone who just was not part of that world, how do they interact with, you know, these things that were important that we were creating, but we were completely forgetting that such users exist as well. And from that on, you know, like from that experience, I literally went back to the drawing board. And, anytime we were to design something, we were to develop something, we were to produce something, this was a key element to make sure that we always involved all the audiences, including, you know, constituents with certain disabilities. But also, you know, once you make that a culture across your team, across your work environment, then you don’t have to accommodate that as a special thing. And that has been my, my primary message for the last many years that I have been, you know, an advocate for web accessibility that, you know, once you just make that part of your design, part of your culture, like you don’t have to then think of it as an extra step.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:07:59.39] Well, thank you to you both. I am really excited to dive in this topic. But, before that, before we do talk more, I just want to talk about Digital Inclusion Week.
Oneisha Freeman: [00:08:10.34] Well, this is the perfect question to ask me because I am the co-chair of Digital Inclusion Week alongside the, a couple of, several other digital inclusion practitioners across the country, and we have been ramping up to Digital Inclusion Week, October 2nd through the 6th. And, as far as the state goes, one of the things that I, you know, am particularly interested in, or trying to do, is to encourage my colleagues that are in my same role in, as digital equity, you know, digital connectivity managers, digital opportunity managers, whatever their title may be in other states, because a lot of them may be new to, a lot of these roles are very new across the country. I’m trying to encourage them to, you know, first of all, support and or acknowledge the Digital Inclusion Week statewide and also those local practitioners that may, you know, are a part of our assets, our statewide assets, to make sure that they are contacting their state digital equity person or people and, and, and letting the, the broadband team in their states know that this is going on and that, and what the, you know the great work that they’re doing, because a part of our planning efforts is creating that asset map, and thinking about all of the different practitioners and potential programs that already exist in our, our states. And sometimes that’s very hard to find out. So Digital Inclusion Week is a perfect opportunity to really, you know, be our, be our own cheerleaders around the boots on the ground, community level, regional work and statewide work.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:10:03.92] Well, thank you. Thank you for sharing. I mean, part of what we’re doing here today is, is sharing resources and, and being involved. I think that online there’s always more people that we can reach or engage. Sometimes it feels like we’ve talked about a topic a lot, but really we’re only reaching a small microcosm. One of the things I did want to make sure that we talked about today was broadband equity. So I wanted to ask Oneisha about maybe some ways that broadband equity can impact community members.
Oneisha Freeman: [00:10:40.00] Yes. So first is that, you know, if currently, which a percentage of, you know, every state, there’s a percentage of community members that do not have high speed, reliable internet access. And some have something, you know, but it may not be reliable. And some people have high speed, reliable internet access available. But the affordable, but when it comes to affordability or access to a device that can then connect to that internet, there is still gaps there. So, I think that, you know, when we talk about equity, it doesn’t mean everybody has the exact same thing. It’s just that everybody has what they need. Remote work is on the rise, even though I know some folks are going back into the office. I think that, you know, hybrid work environments, hybrid educational environments, hybrid training environments are still a thing, and will probably continue to be a, I think we’ve all learned that we can leverage at least a hybrid opportunity, hybrid opportunities. And so, this is available that is very limited in some communities right now because of that, potentially because of those geographic locations. And so, I think that, for our audience here on this podcast, to think about broadband access when you conceptualize remote work policies and flexible work arrangement, because part of it is unequal access, and that could inadvertently create an unfair playing field when it comes to a career advancement. Um, I do remember when we went out on our listening tour earlier this year, there were folks that were saying that, although remote work was an option for them, they couldn’t do it because of the location where their home was, was at.
Oneisha Freeman: [00:12:48.74] But, as our access improves, improves both in rural and urban communities and everything in between, those folks that previously lacked access will have improved access. And that’s going to really make a difference when it comes to how they enter the talent pool. But I cannot stress enough how, regardless of the technology, we still need people there to help to support those community members in the onboarding of our fancy technology processes. And that could include anything from, you know, something as simple as, you know, how to upload a document, for those that don’t know how to do that, to fully onboarding a remote worker and making sure that they can stay connected to the rest of the team and really understand the expectations around remote work. Because if they’ve never done it before, something that might be inherent to a person that has been doing it through the pandemic, may not be that way for them. So, you know, just some things to keep in mind around that community that, you know, employee engagement, that recruiting, that team building, that broadband access will improve the level of equity. But we still need, individual folks will still need some support in really fully coming on board to the culture and expectations around what that looks like.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:14:20.48] Thank you for that. I feel like the pandemic for me really opened my eyes to equity and access, especially when, with school, public school, and how not everybody had access to reliable internet in their home and really how our school district at the time was distributing hot spots or computers so people could be able to get access to classes and interact with teachers and their students. So, it’s small things like these, like these things that we sometimes forget about in the workplace. In your role as digital community manager in Georgia, you actively engage with people in different communities to explore and promote digital equity efforts, and you’re doing that statewide. Can you talk to us more about how you’re reaching out to these communities and how you’re exploring ways that connectivity can increase training and employment opportunities?
Oneisha Freeman: [00:15:22.81] Yes, absolutely. So, right off the bat, you know, community engagement is an essential part of, of addressing digital equity, connectivity and inclusion in our state, in every state. And so, right away, we started to reach out to, to various agencies and various organizations and associations and people throughout the state to say, we want to come to your communities, do a listening session, present what we are, you know, what we’ve already done, what we want to do, and really hear from the community about, you know, what is going on in their specific areas around connectivity. So, we went out on the road. We did about 31 different engagement meetings. The majority of those meetings were in person, recognizing that there are communities throughout the state that did not have connectivity and couldn’t necessarily go on a virtual meeting. But we also did virtual, some virtual sessions as well. And so, you know, that outreach really started with, you know, let’s, let’s meet who, you know, let’s, let’s learn about this, this initiative. Many people didn’t know, and still don’t know, the amount of funding that is being invested in broadband across our country. In Georgia alone, we recently was allocated $1.3 billion for broadband expansion. And, you know, we want to make smart investments. But, in order to do that, it’s like, you know, nothing for us without us. So we have to do that alongside the community and co-create solutions. I also did presentations for various organizations. For an example, I did a, I did a sort of listening session with our state libraries at the Georgia Accessibility Conference a couple months ago and was able to, for myself, learn more about the needs of our community and to share with those librarians who, many of them have accessible technologies within the libraries, and really, you know, learn from them what their needs were.
Oneisha Freeman:[00:17:46.13] The outreach itself has been vast and it’s ongoing. So, I want to say this is ongoing. And so we are on our, we are in the midst right now of planning additional engagement events. And these events are really what I’m calling, this is a solutions tour, right? We did our listening tour. So now we’re on our solutions tour, which will start in a few weeks. And as a part of that, we’ll be going back out into many of those same communities and really sharing the data that we collected along the way. Oneisha Freeman: And then also, let’s talk a little bit about the gaps that have been uncovered and hear directly from the community about the solutions that they would like to see available in their community. And this is all to help to both inform our digital equity plan and inform those local stakeholder leaders on ways that their communities, you know, can address any needs within their community. So, I’m very excited about how that has gone. As a part of that is also to, to look at workforce. So workforce has been also a very big part of this conversation, in twofold. One way workforce has been involved is the, the, how the internet service providers and our education, educational institutions, where there’s a workforce education institution that’s a nonprofit or a technical college or a university, and the different job opportunities that will be a part of broadband expansion, from fiber optic technicians and there’s a myriad of others that I can’t think of the titles right now, but, you know, all the jobs that come with that, even work-from-home jobs and customer service and customer support. So, you know, part of that workforce conversation was around that. And there is some training that needs to be developed because obviously these jobs are underway and so we want to make sure that that’s a part of our conversation when we’re teaching digital literacy, when we’re talking about expectations for skill sets, and we’re building that within the curriculum and training that, you know, young folk coming out of college and in high school will have. But even folks that are being upskilled and skilled up, skilled or trained in their everyday jobs, you know, again, that kind of goes back to setting expectations around communications and things like that. And then, you know, thinking about the future of work. Technology is moving so, so fast that, you know, it’s hard to even imagine what the jobs of the future will be like. So we also are thinking and considering, you know, and having conversations around what are the specific skill sets that people need to have for the jobs of, you know, that that are going to be in 2030 and, and 2040.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:20:49.23] It’s interesting to, to get your insights into how you’re getting the information and the data and the feedback and then your plan and strategy to distribute that information back out, like the conversation piece, because it’s an area that I think HR leaders, workplaces can do a lot better with as well. Maybe they can learn a thing or two from all the work that you’re doing in those areas too.
Oneisha Freeman: [00:21:15.10] Thank you.
Break: [00:21:15.94] Let’s take a reset here. This is Jessica Miller-Merrill and you are listening to the Workology podcast sponsored by Ace the HR Exam and Upskill HR. Today we are talking with Oneisha Freeman and Nikhil Deshpande with the Georgia Technology Authority or GTA. This podcast is part of our Future of Work series in partnership with PEAT, the Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology. Now before we get back to the interview, I do want to hear from you. Text the word podcast to (512) 548-3005. You can ask me questions, leave comments and make suggestions for future guests. This is my community text number and I want to hear from you.
Break: [00:21:56.65] The Workology podcast Future of Work Series is supported by PEAT, the Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology. PEAT’s initiative is to foster collaboration and action around accessible technology in the workplace. PEAT is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, ODEP. Learn more about PEAT at PEATworks.org. That’s PEATworks.org.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:22:25.01] I want to direct this over to Nikhil. What are some key initiatives that you have in place to make state government information and services digitally available? Also, things that may be usable and accessible to all people, including those with disabilities?
Nikhil Deshpande: [00:22:41.37] Yeah. So, I think at this point, making something digitally available is, you know, at the crux of the existence for any service, right? Especially as, as, you know, we were talking earlier. After the pandemic, digital government pretty much has become government, because people were, you know, required to engage with whichever level government that they were engaging with be it the federal, state or local, but, you know, through digital channels. So, at this point, if something does not have a digital access to a certain service, I mean, you know, it is, it is a big issue right there. Um, so in that perspective, you know, the key initiatives that we always had was that we, we always had digital as part of our plan, as part of our agenda. Like there shouldn’t be any service without having the digital channels available for constituents to access that service. But, specifically something that I have been part of, and this was a little before the pandemic started, um, a few years ago, what we did, we, essentially we, as a state, serve our constituents in form of service delivery in two ways. One is we provide them informational services and we provide them transactional services, right? So, a lot of times the informational services are a precursor to the transactional services, that they are equipped with the right information, the right documents, to be able to transact with the state, to be able to seek whatever services that they are looking for. So, these services being served by different agencies, we, we went around and we made sure that all of these services and the agency information has a certain level of consistency. For this, we went around the state, you know, just like Oneisha was mentioning, we did a listening tour, in that sense of how do constituents actually interact with the state? Like what do they expect, what do they face as form of barriers or, you know, what are the overall expectations when it comes to their digital transaction with the state? And what we found out was that those expectations were pretty high. And if, if the state doesn’t do that, if we don’t meet that level, you know, obviously we are just, you know, shining a light at a huge gap. So why do that? Right? So, once we had all this information collected, we synthesized it to, to create an informational platform which was accessible, you know, to the level of, we complied to Section 508 at the federal standards. But then we also, you know, made sure that it met the WCAG 2.0 AA standards. And now, you know, we have complied to the WCAG 2.1 AA standards. You know, because most of our transactions with our constituents happens at the Web level.
Nikhil Deshpande: [00:26:27.51] We have anywhere between 75 to 80, 80% of our interactions with constituents happening on the websites. So, we have to make sure that we, we serve our information, we serve our services in a way that are accessible, usable, and for the entire population. Then that, that definitely involves our constituents with, with any form of disabilities. Having this put in place, we made sure that, from a technology perspective, we were at a good point to make sure that we just add information to this particular web platform. And what this web platform does is, it allows state agencies to power their websites using this, this particular system. It’s called GovHub. And the whole idea is that, instead of having a disconnected series of websites spread across different organizations, maintained by folks with different level of skill sets, we, we, we bring it all together. We have a same, very similar user experience offered through a way of websites that don’t look exactly the same, but they look similar enough that you can tell they’re all from the same family. And it just lowers the burden on constituents to be able to just go somewhere and look for the information they’re looking for rather than having to relearn, oh, I’m on department X And if I were to go to Department Y, you know, they start all over again. So, that reduces the barrier to be able to quickly look for information that they’re looking for, but also from a maturity perspective that, that really bolsters the state’s digital maturity posture. And we can, we can safely say that, yes, we are out of the box, we are compliant with certain accessibility requirements. But also, you know, one of the key initiatives that we have put in place, as the Georgia Technology Authority, is that we are working on making sure we have accessibility baked in our procurement.
Nikhil Deshpande: [00:28:07.75] So, we are, right from the point that say we are looking for a service provider to offer their services to build one of our agencies something, they have to make sure that they have to be accessibility compliant to the state standards. And of course we, you know, will be doing our audits to make sure that our digital properties are accessible. But then also there’s a big aspect of training. So we have, within the Georgia Technology Authority, a Center of Excellence, and one of the pillars of that Center of Excellence is accessibility. And we offer training to state agencies and their personnel to, to basically, you know, get them educated, get them trained and aware about accessibility best practices, even right from document management having our services accessible to all citizens. It just promotes transparency, civic engagement, you know, insurance, ensures that any level of our population is able to engage in use of our services, right? So we have certain pieces that we, we make sure that, while we have these other programs available for our vendors, for our state agencies, there should be an ongoing effort to make sure that we look at the metrics to see how, how, how we are doing, basically, right? So we have a state level dashboard. We call it the Georgia Analytics Program or the GAP program. As you know, most governments love their acronyms. But what we, what we do have there is a GAP score. And every agency aims towards getting a higher score because they are assessed based on certain criteria.
Nikhil Deshpande: [00:30:01.33] The reason it’s called the Georgia Analytics Program is because that’s how it started. We really wanted to make all the analytics public so that, you know, we, we really have that transparency in showing, you know, what traffic is hitting us, what people are looking for. But, as the program evolved more into quality assurance, making sure that we can actually quantify quality assurance and accessibility, and also in, you know, machine readiness of our digital properties, that program grew a lot more. So, if the listeners want to just go and see what I’m talking about, they could just go to a browser and put Analytics.Georgia.gov, Georgia spelled out, and, you know, they’ll be able to see this dashboard that I’m talking about. We have created a collaboration between the Georgia Technology Authority, the State ADA Coordinator’s Office and Georgia Tech’s Center for Inclusive Design and Innovation, or CIDI as they call it. Um, this particular collaboration supports any of like, you know, the state agencies with, with information communication technology when it comes to accessibility or promoting equal and timely access, be it back-end employee access or front-facing constituent access. This program has been put in place, I want to say, at least for like 7 or 8 years now. So, you know, like I said, you know, this particular initiative is really key. We, we take it very seriously within the state of Georgia, and we want to make sure that we do our best to make sure to, we, we serve our entire population regardless of disabilities.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:31:51.97] Wonderful. And I hope that people are inspired by all the work that you’re doing and the team is doing and the state of Georgia in this area. Last question for both of you. I feel like we’ve kind of danced around the topic a little bit, around digital inclusion and accessibility focused on an area of universal design. So, I wanted to ask about how you feel like universal design for accessibility, whether it’s broadband, broadband technologies and digital content can benefit everyone. Why is this important? Oneisha?
Oneisha Freeman: [00:32:32.85] Yeah. Thank you for bringing up this topic. I know that Nikhil is going to be able to go into this probably more in depth, but you know, we are trying to, especially right now, look at the different aspects of our digital ecosystem and we want to make sure that it is more user friendly. We want to make sure it’s efficient. We want to make sure that it’s equitable for everyone. And so, when I think about how this impacts the community members, and particularly how folks in the audience, HR professionals might, you know, find this relevant is kind of, first and foremost is kind of like, you know, just the ease of use. You know, when, when content is designed for accessibility in particular, it just becomes easier for everyone to navigate. And I think this isn’t just beneficial to people with disabilities, but it also helps like anybody that’s using that particular platform. So, if an organization has onboarded a, you know, learning management system, a marketing, you know, a data collection system or anything like that, how or HR system, how they look at accessible design, I think will just speed up the adoption rate of that particular platform. And, you know, I think people are paying big bucks for, for these different solutions. And so, you want to make sure that, you know, your target users can actually use them.
Oneisha Freeman: [00:34:22.10] And so, you know, thinking about ease of use, I think is just a key piece. And the other, and, and to that same point, it helps to like increase the reach when digital content and online content is accessible, you just effectively like widen your reach for being able to get to, to more folks. And so, if it’s a job posting and they are, and that particular job posting is accessible to a larger and more diverse audience, then you increase that talent pool simply by, you know, ensuring that that content is accessible. And I think about, told the story before about my Dad, who has diabetes for an, this is just an example, he has diabetes and he was, you know, 4 or 5 years ago, he, you know, had to wear glasses. But, at this point today, he’s losing his eyesight almost, you know, completely. And so, you know, his doctors are asking him to do things online. His, his you know, just how he gets from his apartment to the doctor, there’s lots of technology that he has to interact with to get on the bus and to, to get to the doctor’s office and to check in. It’s like all these technologies he has to interact with along the way and he’s losing his sight. So he’s not, you know, he’s gradually trying to get, come up to speed and get used to his new reality.
Oneisha Freeman: [00:36:05.72] And I needed, I got him a computer with a big screen because I wanted him to have this big screen. And I showed him some of the accessible apps, the accessible technologies that were on the, the, it was an iMac, so on the iMac that I got him. And so I set it all up and, and then before he left, before, before I was leaving and once I thought I had it all set up and he was, you know, looking at the keyboard and he’s like, I can’t see any of the letters on the keyboard because a Mac keyboard is like a white and gray. And so he couldn’t see any of the letters or the numbers on the keyboard. So after I did all that, you know, it was a start, you know, an immediate reminder that this physical tool, you know, still wasn’t going to be fully accessible to him because the way that specific keyboard is designed wouldn’t, you know, just didn’t work for the disability that he has. And so, I had to go and, you know, purchase him a, a new keyboard so that he can access the technology. So, you know, just think, thinking about those types of things in our spaces when we’re setting up computer labs, when we’re asking people to go and take a training or a assessment as a part of maybe their onboarding or trying to get a particular position and just, you know, considering things that we are putting in place could potentially be a barrier depending on the persons, depending on the person.
Oneisha Freeman: [00:37:43.71] And one last point I’ll make to this is about being age inclusive. Because to my point about my dad, you know, he’s getting older and the workforce in general is just aging and, you know, the way people started their career and where they are now, you know, may take some patience on the side of the person hiring or supporting that person, whether it’s at a doctor’s office or, you know, at a job opportunity and just, you know, being given a little bit of grace to folks in, that’s coming into the workforce. Maybe they’re returning to the workforce. They come to the workforce with a lot of, of skills and knowledge and, and different things that that may not be inherent to someone else. So, just kind of want to put that out there that, you know, the digital platforms, we want them to remain accessible and we want to make sure that things are designed and considered, that people are, are considered when we onboard new technologies and when we design platforms and create processes where technology is sort of integrated within that process.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:39:08.56] Fantastic. What about you, Nikhil? Any thoughts on the benefits of universal design for accessibility with some of the technology that we’ve talked about today?
Nikhil Deshpande: [00:39:19.46] I think accessibility, having the accessibility aspect in creating a world that is universally used is key because as you know Oneisha was really talking about her Dad going through these changes and I feel like, you know, that’s something true for all of us, right? We are all temporarily able-bodied at this point, right? We never know at what point we can kind of slowly move into a certain accessibility group or a disability group, either temporarily or permanently, because we are all aging and we are all getting towards, you know, having our eyesight needing the level of corrections or hearing or whatever it is that, so we are all, we’re all really temporarily abled and, and having accessibility and the things that we work on is so critical because like we are building towards a more accessible future. You know, there are so many different ways that we can make things work. It takes effort. It is, it is not the easy way out, but it, you know, helps each and every one. And I do feel like, you know, if, if anyone listening, and one thing that they have to take away, is that addressing accessibility, addressing inclusion in the early phases of creating anything is a time saver, is a cost saver, as opposed to then trying to retrofit it into something that is already built. So, you know, I think all I can say, that other than having the inclusivity, improved user experience, adaptability aspect of having accessibility into our projects and our designs, I think we are just making sure that, other than legal compliance, we are just, we are just making this world, you know, future ready for our generation when we age and we have to use the exact, exact same services.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:41:21.25] Well, thank you both for your insights today and, and resources and, and just knowledge. It’s really a pleasure. I’m going to link to your guys’s LinkedIn profiles on the show notes along with some other resources. So thank you again for taking time to chat with us on the Workology podcast.
Oneisha Freeman: [00:41:41.74] Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for, for having us. We appreciate the, the platform to share. And I would just want to say just, you know, anyone ever want to reach out to me, I used to design programs. So, if you’ve got some thoughts around digital inclusion program or some ideas you want to run by somebody, I’m happy to be a listening ear for anyone who, who might need the help or support.
Nikhil Deshpande: [00:42:09.22] Same thing. I really appreciate being here and sharing my thoughts. If anyone wants to reach out, you know they can look me up on LinkedIn. Um, happy to have a deeper conversation, and thank you again for this platform. It was really great to share our stories.
Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:42:25.81] Absolutely. Thank you again.
Closing: [00:42:27.73] It is so important for employers to support our communities in a variety of ways. This helps them be successful, and it’s especially important to ensure that all of our recruiting and hiring processes from application to onboarding is accessible, and that our employees have access to broadband and other digital technology. Accessibility is important for all people, but especially those with disabilities, and there is a lot of intersectionality with regards to income, and that broadband accessibility is a huge part of that. I love the work that the Georgia Technical Authority programs are doing. These services are a great example of how this can work for private employers. I really appreciate Oneisha and Nikhil’s insights here and expertise on this important episode of the Workology podcast, which is powered by PEAT, the Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology. Before we go, I do want to hear from you. I want your insights, feedback and opinions. Text the word podcast to (512) 548-3005. That’s (512) 548-3005. Ask questions, leave comments and make suggestions for future guests. This is my community text number and I want to hear from you. Thank you, I especially thank you for listening in to the Workology podcast today. It is sponsored by two programs that we offer here at Workology Upskill HR and Ace the HR exam. Look to us for your HR certification and recertification training needs. Have a great day and I’ll see you soon.