The following is a transcript from "Assessing the Accessibility of Your Workplace Technology—A TechCheck Walkthrough" The webinar was recorded on Wednesday, April 29, 2015.
The following is a transcript from "Assessing the Accessibility of Your Workplace Technology—A TechCheck Walkthrough" The webinar was recorded on Wednesday, April 29, 2015.
>> Good afternoon everybody and welcome to this online walk-through of TechCheck. A free interactive tool that helps organizations evaluate their accessible workplace technology efforts and tools to develop them further. By the end of the hour you will have submitted everything you need to receive your TechCheck readout results.
Before we begin, just a quick overview of the logistics. Captioning is available at the link shown on screen and also in the live captioning pod on the lower left of the screen. Audio is available both online and by phone using the number in the code on screen.
If you encounter technical difficulties during the event, please comment in the chat window or email firstname.lastname@example.org. And at any time today we invite you to ask questions. You can type questions into the chat window or we can also receive them by email at info@PEATworks.org or on twitter at the handle @peatworks.
And your presenter today is Jim Tobias who’s a strategic partner here at PEAT and a subject matter expert in this area. Jim has more than 35 years of experience in accessible and usable technology in both public and private sectors. Currently he heads Inclusive Technologies, a technology analysis consulting firm specializing in accessible information and communication technologies. In addition to PEAT, Jim also works with the Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure project and Raising the Floor, an international consortium on advanced usability.
>> Thanks Corinne and thanks everyone for stopping by this afternoon. As Corinne mentioned this is not just a training this is actually a walk-through of the TechCheck tool and at the end of it about half an hour from now, you will possibly have completed everything in TechCheck and process it and deliver a readout to you about your accessibility program.
So that is really what TechCheck is about. Helping you build a mature accessibility program. We will go into some details on that in a bit. But first I want to introduce PEAT to you. We are the partnership on employment and accessible technology. We’re funded by the department of labor’s office of disability employment policy. And what we are is an initiative aimed in many directions at employers, at providers of information and communication technology used in the workplace, and at people with disabilities themselves to make sure that the tools that are needed for people to succeed in the workplace are there and are accessible and we know how to use them and how to get the features that everyone needs to be as productive as they can in the workplace. We are not a theoretical organization. We are very solutions oriented and we live in a context of collaboration and dialogue and action. And we are going to try to exemplify that today.
So, if you have questions as Corinne mentioned please type them in the chat window. And if you have examples from your own experience, we really want to share those. The thing about this field of accessible workplace technology is that everyone thinks they are the only ones encountering a particular problem. You know they're having trouble finding a website developer who understands accessibility or they are having trouble convincing someone in management that accessibility is important to pay attention to.
I guarantee you every single one of you is encountering or will encounter that problem and the advantage of this collaborative dialogue is that we get to share the problems and the solutions. And we start building a community that way with that shared information. So to focus in a little bit on the purpose of TechCheck within PEAT, we are — and you probably are familiar with — many resources in accessibility that are technology oriented. There is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines there are telecommunications product guidelines and guidelines for webinars in fact. You can get a lot of great technical advice out there.
But we're focusing on something a little bit different and that is what stands behind technical excellence in accessibility? And we have identified it as organizational maturity. Our experience is that the technology is the easy part. The real challenges that people encounter are in making their policies and processes work together and work to focus on accessibility where it’s needed. People talk a lot about organizational development and there’s some very good work going on.
PEAT's job is to collect some of that good experience and good organizational development material and share it out as broadly as we can. And we do that not by writing reports that we expect everyone to read and translating into their own terms but by developing tools that people can use actually within their jobs. And TechCheck is our first example of a tool of that type.
So what’s the problem? Here you see the little box that says please tell your story in the chat window. Here is where if possible and if you have something to add we really appreciate it. And what will be doing is collecting that information and we of course will not publish it unless you give us permission to do so. And that is our policy about how content in this collaborative dialogue is managed.
So what do people encounter? Here are some examples of problems that arise. A company is working on accessibility of its Intranet and they fix a certain number of problems, but it is a large company and they have a large web development organization. And is not all about accessibility so later in time the Intranet gets redesigned maybe a new platform for the Intranet and maybe some new templates. And new accessibility problems or even the same old accessibility problems arise again. There is a great example that we heard about that someone from the chief information officer office implements a new job application platform that turns out to be highly inaccessible in that very same week an HR director attends a disability themed job fair and here's all about the new inaccessibility of their job application platform. The left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.
Another all too common experience is at a working level, employees often have to go through difficult processes to request particular technologies they need and in this case an employee who uses sign language for communication and videoconferencing has to wait six weeks to get a special videoconferencing tool because there was a misunderstanding about it — the realities of network security. It's a profound disconnect between our expectation that employees be productive and yet not be able to provide them with the tools they need in order to be productive.
These examples and many others show a lack of consistency or lack of continuity and often a lack of authority. And most of all lack of a strategy. There is no overarching approach to accessible workplace technology. And the problems that arise are being solved ad hoc one at a time in firefighting mode and I think we understand from our experience and from common sense that trying to operate that way is very expensive and there's very low impact because of the lack of consistency and the lack of an overall strategy that the entire organization understands.
We developed TechCheck to help you move beyond that ad hoc situation. What TechCheck is and you'll see it in a minute — I will ask you to go to your browsers if you want to be able to complete TechCheck in real time. You will see the URL in a little bit. It's very simple online form an online tool that we created to give you the outlines of what a successful accessibility program would look like. It's broken down into a number of different screens covering different topics. Really very quick to complete this is not a huge effort.
It's not a complete census or survey of every single thing you do. It's to give you a rough picture of areas that you will need to develop and an understanding of your current status in those areas. When you complete and submit TechCheck , we analyze it and kind of score you or grade you in a very rough terms on those different topics and send it to you. I want to repeat that our policy and all of our activities are guided by very strong commitment to privacy and confidentiality. In fact, no one — there is no permanent record of you having completed TechCheck . There is no linkage between your completion of the form and any other activities linking you to PEAT or anyone else. There is no required fields, so you can breeze through on your browser and not be nagged if you haven't filled out something and the only reason we request your email is to be able to send you your readout.
So in order to walk through TechCheck we ask you to open up your browser and go to https://www.peatworks.org/techcheck and Ben has put it down in the chat window there as well. I will now move over to my browser and walk through it. It should show for you in a second.
This is the entry screen for TechCheck. It describes what the tool is very much along the lines of what I've been talking about. And how it works and our commitment to security and privacy. The only thing you have to enter here is your email down at the bottom so I will give you a second to do that. And I will move on to the next page. Just to be clear I am controlling my own browser. Obviously you are controlling your own browser.
Team and Leadership
Okay, so the first topic we look at is really the most important. It's about forming a team about accessible workplace ICT and getting good leadership for that team. As I say we are not assuming everyone is at a fully advanced and developed mode for any of these topics and these questions here are these options for the questions are just ways you can indicate where you are. Looking under the team a question, it could range from we have a formal accessibility team in our organizational chart all the way down to we do not have a team we do with accessibility as it arises. And we have a team for — this is quite a common option — we have a team for disability employment but not for workplace ICT accessibility. So any of those are the case for you just click on that radio button. If you do have a team, we like to know how broadly that team is recruited internally. Who was on the team representing different organizations that have some connection to accessible ICT workplace. And you see the list includes regulatory, legal folks and HR folks of course and technology management folks and room for with other external consultants.
Who is the lead organization? Very often in a team there will be a particular department or group that is in charge and these range all over the map as well.
Where does the leadership come from. Is there a formal leadership? Some companies have achieve accessible technology officer. Some very functional accessibility programs have an informal role especially for smaller companies that are more of the case. Whatever your situation is, just fill it out there. And get ready to move on to the next page and check if there is a question.
Policy and Program Development
Now we are on to policy and program development. I should say that you don't have to take the same steps in forming your program. You start wherever you can. Sometimes you get a policy dictated and then you have to find your team. Sometimes it works if you're building your team first and the first meeting is about let's draft a policy statement or mission statement. There is no best way of doing that your organization has its own culture and PEAT respects that. We're not trying to judge one version over another. But having some policies in place and a way to develop your accessibility program is important at some level. And the elements that you see on this page have been validated as important by companies that we have consulted with who have a successful accessibility program. Understanding the business case — why is it we should pay attention to accessibility in the workplace? What are the laws and regulations that cover our situation? What are the goals? What is the program trying to accomplish? What resources do we have including people and other resources of budget for assistive technology or for hiring consultants or something like that? And then where do we have formal policies at this point? Formal practices in place? And many companies are all over the map and many employers are all over the map here so we expect that there will be a lot of variation.
Staff Training and Awareness
Moving on to the next screen — and have staff training and awareness which is an important part of developing a program. It's very hard to only rely on external resources and not have at least a few people on board who really understand a lot about accessibility from whatever source they have learned. It's important to be able to integrate into what you are trying to accomplish in your company and especially in your HR program. Here are options for the general level of understanding about accessibility. Many different ways of providing training. Just as an example some companies encourage people on the team — go out and find the training you think is relevant and tell us about it and we will approve it and then you come back and give us a briefing about what you've learned. And that is a low investment very grassroots way of doing some staff training.
But companies at the far end of the dimension have developed very sophisticated training materials of their own that may be deal with their own products or their own environment including interviews with executives about how important it is to have accessibility reflected in the workplace. There's a lot of variation here and a lot of openness to innovation and sharing that in your communities of practice.
Some of that training is generic. It's about accessibility in general but some of it is aimed at specific roles. So people in HR need to learn some specific tasks and expertise. Obviously people in technology need to know how to manage let's say a payroll form authoring tools about the form is accessible to people. That's a very specific piece of training that you would not want to give to everyone. You want to give to someone in the CIO office. Procurement is a key part of this. Go into some detail later. Obviously if you are buying most of your workplace technology, you need to be able to communicate it to vendors so they understand what you are asking for and you can have a dialogue with them about the accessibility of the products they offer. Specialized training winds up being important but again it is very customized to each individual employer situation.
Assessing and Improving Accessibility
The next topic we look at is assessing and improving accessibility. This is a key step and for many people it's a little daunting. What we are basically asking you to do here is first identify all of the technologies that are in use in the workplace and just making that list can be quite difficult. I know that many enterprises have moved to a bring your own device policy and that lets people bring in their mobile devices and use them as part of their package for workplace productivity. How do you go about identifying all the technologies in use if everyone has their own device and their own software? And then you get the range of technologies in use in today's workplace and the websites online document storage, collaborative platforms, word processing, spreadsheets, database management, telecommunications. It can be quite a complicated list. We're not asking you — and certainly not asking you to send us this list. We are more trying to find out what have you done so far? And very often if you look at the third radio button I would say that's a very very common response. We have prioritized a few key technologies to address from an accessibility standpoint. This might have been result of a concern that an employee has had or some other way that a particular website is very often kind of target of recognition that maybe it is not as accessible as it could be. And that is fine. We know it's going to be many ways of arriving at an agenda for fixing problems that you find in the workplace.
And there's a question about accessibility standards which are an important part of this process. We have to understand what is it like when it's broken? What does it look like when it's fixed? What are the features? What are the kinds of solutions out there? And very often they are found within standards resources. And then where are we in evaluating our technologies? How much attention do you give this? Have you ever done any kind of review of what is out there? Or are you more in reactive mode?
Moving on to the next screen — specific technologies. Here is where we dive down a bit into the detail and we have a limited set of technology categories — software and web, content and media, indication and networks, ICT hardware, that's the computers and phones and things like that. And then especially job application process. And the administrative systems like benefits management. For all of those categories were simply asking how much do you know about the accessibility and where they are kind of at. Are you confident they are accessible? Do you think they are mostly accessible but you're aware of some barriers? Or you don't know how accessible they are? That is an indication of where you are in the process of creating your own agenda for improving accessibility.
Procuring Accessible Technologies
The next page is the procurement section. As I mentioned before, most employers are using all of their workplace technologies provided by vendors. And these could be commercial off-the-shelf products like Microsoft Word that you buy a license for everyone there. Or it could be some product like an intranet or benefits management package that is somewhat standardized but largely customized for your situation. And that could be being customized by an external consultant or system integrator or it could be your own CIO or technology management folks who are doing that customization.
In that process, this is where you have we think a tremendous amount not only of leverage but of clarity in your role. So instead of feeling that you are responsible for every single barrier that might appear in your workplace, this is a safe issue where you can really point the finger at someone else and require or request them to do a better job about accessibility.
So it relieves a little bit of the burden and puts it in a sense where it belongs the vendor of the technology or some external consultant firm needs to learn what your vision of accessibility is and how they can manage what they're delivering to you to meet those requirements for you. And trust me they are hearing about this message from other customers. You are not going to be the only one asking about accessibility.
On this page you have opportunities to talk about how you are currently addressing accessibility in procurement. You look around and do research when you are in the market about accessibility? There is a form you may be familiar with copy voluntary product accessibility template. That some vendors use to describe their products and accessibility terms. Do you request those? Do you analyze those? Do you request additional accessibility information such as testing results or assistive technology compatibility and workarounds? And what do you do with the information that you gather? Do you feel confident about making decisions using it? Do you rely on vendors? Do you rely on employees? is your own staff capable of understanding? It's a way of showing how much on top of the procurement process you are.
Next screen is about implementing accessibility. Now you have bought or have developed the most accessible information technology you're going to use in the workplace. It might seem obvious that those in might seem as if the problem is solved at this point. But in fact implementing accessibility can sometimes be as challenging as finding and accessible product. An example of this is in a telecom system there might be many accessibility features for deaf people to use phone system or blind people to use the phone even though there is information displayed on the screen of the phone. And there are ways of turning those accessibility features on that may sometimes be buried down in the administrative manual for the phone system. The same thing is true of your productivity software or mobile devices and computers.
There's a lot of accessibility built into them but it takes a little bit of expertise to turn them on. In addition, most products and even products that are considered to be highly accessible, generally cannot apply effectively to every possible user out there. This is when assistive technology comes into the picture. We are defined assistive technology as additional technology used generally in concert with mainstream technology to provide that last mile of accessibility. So this would be something like a screen reader if the computer and the software do not include an embedded screen reader, typically a user would get a third-party screen reader and install it and make sure that it is operational and compatible with the hardware and software and with the tasks that they have to perform on the job. So managing the assistive technology side of accessibility can be a challenging part of the package as well. So here is some relatively simple questions about that.
The next screen is about measuring the progress of your accessibility program itself. This is a higher level abstract function but it is very important to do. Once you've established the program, you want to be able to track how successful it is. And I think our finding is that most companies, even ones that have good accessibility programs, don't do as much as they would like in terms of measuring the progress they are making. And they’re rapidly coming up with great ways of measuring that. Here is the page for identifying what you are doing and what you want to be doing to measure and report on your accessibility tools so just some examples here. Number of people who have received staff training on accessibility. Remediation plans from providers who you've purchased not quite fully accessible technologies and you’ve made a deal with them that you're going to fix a feature X by date Y and you want to be able to manage that both in terms of making sure the remediation happens but also in terms of measuring it as a successful step in moving your own program forward.
The last screen is just a thank you and a final comment. We received comments here about the tech check tool and about specific challenges that an employer filling it out is encountering. And as I said before it could be ranging from an administrative issue or an issue getting management by in, the business case, everyone wants nice hard numbers or how many people are we talking about? What are the productivity challenges? What are the areas of support we can get safer assistive technology? We try to handle those questions but again it's within the context of privacy and confidentiality. I guess with that, Ben I will stop here and if you can bring us back to the slides.
Here is the read out that you will receive after you complete your TechCheck. And you see it for all of the topic areas that we indicated you get basically a beginner, intermediate, or advanced ranking. As I said you don't have to take this — is not a sanction in its obvious enough going to be shared with anyone. It's just a way for you to get an idea of where you might want to spend a little time emphasizing and growing the program that you have. Again, we see employers having filled out TechCheck all over the map on all of these topics. This is an area that right now is under tremendous growth and development. The raw technology side of accessibility has done a great amount of work in the last 10-20 years especially in the last five years or so.
Once the recognition of the organizational side and the needs to mature there as well become more widely recognized and more widely understood, we are seeing that area develop as well. So you are getting in on the ground floor. Again I want to invite you to share your information with us about your situation. PEAT wants to be a resource not just as ourselves but as a way of introducing you to others who were in the same situation who have the same problems and maybe some of whom have been able to figure out some solutions that they are willing to share.
Questions and Summary
So to wrap it up and if you do have questions now is a great time to think them out and type them into the chat window. TechCheck we think is a really good way to find within your organization your natural allies on accessibility. So building that team is really — finding the people who care about it- wherever they are in your enterprise from HR technology to legal and regulatory — it's also a great time to reach up into the executive suite and find people who will sponsor a formal accessibility program. We think there is some great ways that every single enterprise we've been in touch with has some early wins, some things that are easy to do and inexpensive to do and sometimes very dramatic that builds the argument for a more thorough approach to accessibility.
And it's a way to reach outside your organization to other people in the same boat be they in HR or in legal and regulatory or whatever organization they’re from. So the growth right now in this field continues to be in technology but I would say more rapidly right now is the recognition that organizational maturation is the name of the game. Once you are trying to get beyond an ad hoc solution, that's when you start showing really effective change and very efficient change as well.
This is our final slide to ask for questions and say thank you. I'm not seeing any questions show up in the chat box. We’re not under any obligation to stay here. I've met my goal of having gone through TechCheck in about 30 minutes or less. I think some folks certainly are happy to have you exploring the tools some more and if you do manage to complete the form, we're going to pile some additional resources on it to make sure that you get your read outs as quickly as possible. If you do have other questions for us about TechCheck or anything else, we invite you to come and visit the tool or send us questions to info@PEATworks.org. I will be here for a little while longer. If you’re finishing up with the two or have questions I'm happy to answer them in the chat window.