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As a senior vice president and information technology manager at Wells Fargo, I frequently received the question, "Can the company buy me a...?" Managers and team members always seemed to want the latest and greatest gadget, software application, or piece of hardware. My answer was always, "How will it make you more productive, and how will it fit into our environment?" Most of the time, the requester had no answer to these questions, so we didn't pursue things any further.

I’m excited to be writing this introductory blog post officially announcing the launch of PEATworks.org, an interactive online resource focused on accessible technology in the workplace. This new web portal is the result of work done over the past year by the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT), a multi-faceted initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy to promote the employment of people with disabilities through the development and adoption of accessible technology.

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) is a national grassroots disability rights organization run by and for people with autism that works to improve public understanding of people with autism, including perceptions related to employment. ASAN also provides insight and expertise into the importance of accessible technology to people with autism and cognitive disabilities in general.

PEAT recently spoke with Julia Bascom, ASAN’s director of programs, about the organization's work in this area.

Headquartered in Melville, New York, Canon U.S.A., Inc. is a leading provider of consumer, business-to-business, and industrial digital imaging solutions. In addition to cameras and visual equipment, Canon produces a wide range of office solutions including copiers, scanners, printers, and software. To learn more about the company’s commitment to providing accessible products and services for the workplace, PEAT recently spoke with Paul Albano, a senior product manager at Canon U.S.A's Business Imaging Solutions Group.

AT&T Inc. is a premier communications holding company. Its subsidiaries and affiliates—AT&T operating companies—are the providers of AT&T services in the United States and internationally. With a powerful array of network resources, AT&T is a leading provider of wireless, Wi-Fi, high-speed broadband, voice and cloud-based services. PEAT recently spoke with AT&T's Diane Rodriguez about the company's commitment to providing accessible products and services.

If you're an employer—in any industry—who is getting ready to issue a solicitation for technology products or support, or to talk to specific vendors about what they can offer, a little background research can help you identify the accessibility barriers and solutions for the products you are seeking. What you discover can then be incorporated into the procurement process, starting with your written requirements.

Even if you're new to the world of accessible technology, you've probably heard terms tossed around that relate to accessibility standards and regulations - like "508 compliant," "WCAG 2.0," and more. This article will demystify some of the technical standards that apply to accessibility and explain how they differ from laws and regulations. 

The key to success is to address accessibility from the start, by incorporating it into the procurement process, and then making sure to evaluate what technology providers promise and deliver. Because procurements processes differ from company to company, there is no one right way to do this. In his book, Strategic IT Accessibility: Enabling the Organization, IT accessibility expert Jeff Kline outlines 10 steps for determining where and when accessibility can be infused.

BYOD stands for "Bring Your Own Device," and it's an increasingly popular policy and practice in many of today's workplaces. BYOD offers some accessibility advantages for both employers and technology users—but there are also some unique challenges.

Once an organization—whether a tech provider or an employer in any industry seeking to create a more disability-inclusive workplace—has initiated an accessibility initiative, how will it know if it’s making progress? As with all corporate initiatives, goals must be established and mechanisms put in place to track progress—the results of which must then be reported to management on an ongoing basis.

Oracle's Peter Wallack recently spoke with PEAT about his company's expressed commitment to developing and promoting accessible technology, particularly as it relates to employment.

As a technology provider, or a company's internal technology developer, you should understand how accessible your products are. The key is a good testing process. Such a process, including accurate and comprehensive reporting on testing results, can improve communication with employees, customers, and other end users about your company's commitment to accessibility and foster a culture of continuous improvement.

If you're a technology provider, an established accessibility initiative will help ensure that the information and communications technology (ICT) you build and implement is accessible to all workers, job candidates, and customers. To be sustainable, however, your initiative should be guided by formal policies that have both clout and clarity. 

When it comes to building technology products, it pays to incorporate accessibility right from the start—on multiple levels. To help your organization realize the many benefits of accessible design, here are PEAT's top tips for factoring accessibility into the entire product development lifecycle.

One of the first steps in improving accessibility in the workplace is getting a clear idea of what ICT is being used, and whether it has any accessibility barriers.