Transcript from “Assessing the Accessibility of Your Workplace Technology—A TechCheck Walkthrough” The webinar was recorded on Wednesday, January 20, 2015.
The following is a transcript from “Assessing the Accessibility of Your Workplace Technology—A TechCheck Walkthrough” The webinar was recorded on Wednesday, January 20, 2015.
>>For everyone who is on the line here today, we are very glad to have you aboard.
We want to go through some logistics and a little bit of background on the PEAT project and then we will dive right in to the TechCheck including a walk-through. We are hoping that folks can actually access the tool right in their browser. And in real-time complete the questions on it. A very simple survey type tool. At the end of the hour, or maybe even under an hour, you will have completed the tool and be getting your readout results.
So, we are all on board. We have great backup from Ben Caldwell out at Pushing 7 in Madison Wisconsin. And PEAT work staff on the call as well. Want to invite you to type questions into the chat window at any time and if I do not get to them right away, we will get to them at some point either during the webinar or after it. For folks who are using captioning, it is available at the link shown there. And it also should be popping up in a live caption pod- for me that’s on the lower left of the screen.
I am Jim Tobias, a strategic partner here at PEAT. Partnership on employment and accessible technology. They made me call myself a subject matter expert. You’ll be the judge of that at the end of the webinar if not before.
As I mentioned I’m gonna talk a little bit about PEAT and tell you what our project is about. And then get into the content of the day which is about building an accessibility program at your organization, company or institution.
So PEAT is a cooperative agreement with the US Dept of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy which, many of you know, is the accessible technology and accessibility lead in the Department of Labor. I had a number of projects on employment of people with disabilities, and PEAT is one of those projects focused on accessible technology.
So, we are looking at advancing the employment of people with disabilities through the lens of accessible technology and that means encouraging the development of it by ICT companies like Microsoft, Adobe and IBM. The adoption of accessible technology by employers and others. So it’s not good enough to make the technology accessible. An employer has to buy that accessible technology and know-how to turn on the accessibility of it. And in general to promote accessible technology as a major strategy in aiding the employment of people with disabilities. We are a very pragmatic solution oriented project. We are not theory — we are not researchers. We are about getting into the guts of organizational development and we do that through strategies of collaboration and dialogue with all of our stakeholders and action orientation.
Why are we focused so much on organizational development?
Well we are about two and half years down the road of a five year project and we began with a lot of research on what are the issues in technology that are holding people back with respect to employment? And we found that technology is the easy part of it. That is, there are a lot of accessible technologies out there. There’s information about them, there are techniques about them. And there are many repositories in information resources about accessible technology. But the organizational challenges we heard time and again were the real problem. How do I convince my boss? How do I communicate with a vendor? How do I know how to implement a technology in my workplace so that accessibility is foremost? And all of those features are turned on by default?
And in that space, the organizational development space, what we have found is a lot of people saying yes, you have to build your program. But they were not giving any details on how to do that. At PEAT, — we have a mantra that says tools not report. So we do not issue white papers, we issue tools. TechCheck is the first tool we have developed. What is the problem we are trying to resolve. And again you may have experienced this, this may be your everyday life unfortunately. You fix some accessibility problem on your Internet and then, the developers go off and six months later they made some change to the website. They have added new features, changed the multimedia player. All of a sudden, the accessibility that you have worked on is gone.
You have problems with your CIO office focused on workplace software that it is high in productivity, maybe exciting and dramatic and fits in with your own device strategy but they do not often enough consider the accessibility implications. So you have an awareness and motivation battle to fight as well.
Down in the trenches, you have employees with disabilities who are having to struggle as well with requesting accessibility, and requesting accommodations, requesting, really problems that technologically have been solved but have not been — have not shown up in your workplace.
There is no consistency in addressing accessibility. There is no organizational commitment. You don’t have any authority, strategy for how you build your program. And you are stuck at an ad hoc level. That is you are fighting fires day in day out and those are very expensive things to do. And you do not really ever have any continuing high impact solutions.
So our tool is designed to help you move beyond that ad hoc stage. Is it interactive? Multiscreen? Online survey that we created and it’s aimed expressly at employers to help them understand where they are at in their technology accessibility initiative.
And that could be that they do not have such initiatives. Or they are not really aware of it. This may be one person who just got told yesterday that he was responsible for accessibility and should go figure out what to do. We run into those people.
And we are hoping to make their passage a little bit easier than it otherwise would be with a tool like this. It gives you a big view on a number of important issues. But most importantly, it’s very easy to complete. As we look through our logs, it’s taking people an average of 10 minutes to complete it. Once you are finished with that, you get a readout which gives you a rough idea across a number of topics of where you stand in developing your program and links to some other resources that will be continually developing.
To protect confidentiality of your responses, we keep no record of what you have completed in the survey. We do not keep the fact that you completed it. There are no required fields. So if there are any questions you do not want to answer, you do not have to. And the only thing we do is email you the readout of your results.
Now, we are going to bridge on over to the actual walk-through. I hope you have your browsers lit up — and we want you to go to PEATWORKS.org/techcheck. And how I am going to work this, the balance of the session is I will mosey over to the website myself. I will give you a couple of minutes of information about each of screens as we go through it.
Assuming that I can figure out how to do that. And while I am talking, you can be filling out the form. The first page is going to look a little different to you. It is going to have a blank for you to enter your email address. This is just an introductory page that goes through some of the information that I just mentioned about why techcheck and what it does and how it works and the guarantees of security and privacy.
Let’s see. I will need someone to feed me questions as they come in on the Q&A chat window if anything pops up.
Can someone from the team confirm that they will do that. I guess that could either be Ben or Catherine.
>> Sure, I can help with that, Jim.
>> Okay, great.
So I’m going to assume that you did not have any trouble entering your email address. By the way, if you do not want to complete the form in real-time, that is okay. You can follow along and get the information about techcheck and complete it later.
So this next screen, screen 2 is all about the team and leadership. We are assuming that you are in a large organization and most of the people that have completed it so far are from large companies, universities, state agencies or nonprofit organizations of a good-size. So we’re going to assume that there is a need to have a team and some formal leadership.
But if your organization is small, just think small. So when I talk about your human resources department or your public relations department, that maybe one person, it may be you doing two or three or more of those roles. So it’s really the role and content rather than having a big organization. Focusing on large organizations right now, the idea of having a team is an important part of developing a program. Whether it is a formal team with a lot of assigned hours or whether it is an informal dotted line type team. It does not really matter as long as there are people representing different areas of expertise, different responsibilities and resources within your organization. We ask questions there. Your team members, did they come from the following organizations? Human resources? Procurement? CIO office? Employee training? A whole long list. So the goal is that if you do have a team, indicate who is on that team.
Do you have the lead organization? Accessibility shows up on a number of different radar screens. Sometimes it is legal or regulatory compliance organizations. Sometimes it is in usability. Sometimes human resources. It can be all over the map. You can get an idea of what the lead organization is for you. Leadership is a key issue in developing an accessibility program. I think we have heard more consistently than in any other factor –that if you do not have executive support and executive participation, then your program will not go very far. I think you understand the internal politics of when you approach a product manager or supervisor about accessibility, the first question or thought is says who? And if it’s just you, you do not have the leverage that you need. So it is important to have somebody pretty far up there.
So moving onto the next screen which is policy and program development. Now that you have answered questions about your team, we want to know how you are approaching the issue from a policy development point of view. Do you have a business case? Do you understand the why’s and wherefore’s of accessible technology in the workplace? Part of that is laws and regulations. You may be aware that there is an awful lot going on out there. [ technical difficulty ]
Sorry for that.
That requires accessible technology in the workplace. A number of laws and regulations not only at the federal level but in some states as well.
Do you have a goal and mission statement? What are you trying to accomplish? And what is the consensus on that policy, goal and mission? Do you have any resources? And do you have a plan for using those resources? And one thing want to emphasize here is most of the people who have answered TechCheck so far are not very far advanced on these issues so if you’re feeling “gee we’re nowhere here. We don’t have a plan. I don’t have an executive champion or leader. That’s the point of TechCheck – not to make you feel that you’re not making progress. It’s to give you an idea of steps that you can take forward. So go ahead and think of a plan that you might have. Go ahead and think of an executive that you might approach to develop a program. And it’s sharing of that common experience of having accessibility and trying to struggle to have it adopted fully by an organization that makes the PEAT project worthwhile.
So the next page is gonna be going through how do you develop your program from a point of view of your staff. So somebody somewhere is gotta be an expert in the technology in order to make sure that your technology is accessible. But there’s a lot more to it than that. We know that there’s legal and regulatory insights that need to be brought to bear. There are people who are procurement experts in your CIO office who need to understand how to communicate with vendors. And we want you to feel that “hey we’re doing a little bit of training on accessibility and here are the next three things we’d like to be doing. We’d like to take our procurement staff and run them through an accessibility training program and give them access to a repository of a request for accessible technology that they can slip into request for proposals for the next time they’re in the market.
So it’s a question of small steps and identifying what are the next things that you wanna be doing to develop your staff which is obviously gonna be a key part of the success of your program.
Do we have any questions yet popped up?
Okay, I’m gonna go onto the next page. Assessing and improving accessibility. This is kind of a challenging part of the development of your project because if you’re a large organization – just creating a list of all the workplace technologies that you’ve used can be kind of a big list if you think about not just the intranet that your company has but also the phone system and your public-facing internet site and your twitter account and the mobile devices that you’re supporting, when you have people working out in the field who are communicating back and forth with the office. There’s an awful lot out there. And in a perfect world, we’d be able to evaluate the accessibility of each and every one of those technologies but we know that that’s not gonna be practical so again it’s just getting a start of understanding what is the scope of accessibility in your workplace. Part of that is understanding what accessibility standards are out there that you might want to adopt for identifying and assessing your own technologies. And there are lot of standards out there that have some consensus and coherence and it’s important to understand where we’re at with that and where your organization wants to be at the end of the day.
Then there are a lot of techniques for evaluating your technologies and if you look at this set of questions, there’s really a wide range. There are some organizations that have their own internal testing resources at the far and advanced developed end of the spectrum. On the other end, there are companies that are just barely aware of the issue and they’re very reliant on their vendors to tell them about accessibility. And there are organizations that all points along that continuum. So give us an idea of where you’re at with that. And I should also say that for each and every one of these questions, as we identify where you folks are at, we’re gonna be developing more resources that help you move along. So I mentioned before, a repository of boiler plate text that can be slipped into a request for proposal so that your own procurement folks don’t have to invent it. They can take and adopt any set of texts that we might be putting together into a repository. In order for us to know what to do, know what to build, know what resources to add to the PEAT site, we’re guided by responses to TechCheck and other collaborations we have with folks that are out there.
Okay. The next screen goes into a little more detail. Here, we find also that companies and other employers are all over the map as far as their understanding of how accessible their own technologies already are. So this is a number of categories of technologies and asks simple questions about how accessible you think they are. We are not trying to get a completed accessibility assessment form here. Just a rough idea of your understanding. It’s kind of like a navigational chart. We are not looking for a lot of details. We are just looking for how far along are you in understanding the issues your technologies might have.
Okay. Next page is really a key page as far as having impact. The important thing to remember about accessible technologies in the workplace is if you are an employer, you are legally responsible for the accessibility of the technologies in the workplace.
But, only your vendors can affect the accessibility of those technologies. When you are buying a word processing program, social media, content management system, spreadsheet software, you are essentially in a dialogue with the vendor of that technology working on the issue of accessibility.
And your responsibility is really to request it, insist on it, or demand it and communicate about it. So it’s really kind of an easy job in a way. You will not be held responsible for the software that someone else developed. On the other hand, the vendors need to know — it is a signal from the market. Vendors need to know that accessibility counts when their customers are considering purchases.
So, it’s a key part of the process. It is a technique or set of skills that is pretty easy to develop because it really is all about requesting information about accessibility and then evaluating that information. There is an awful lot of information about how to do this, how to scan the market for accessible technologies, what a V pad is, a voluntary product accessibility template. And what kind of additional accessibility information you might request. Like, I read the VPAT, but we need to know specifically what is the compatibility of your product with a specific screen reader? And if the compatibility is not perfect, have you identified any workarounds for it? Again, the responsibility is yours, but the impact comes from the vendor. And the deal is sealed in the communication between you and the vendor about it.
>> We do have one question. It’s about all workplace technologies. Aliana James asks — it often seems that there is no overview by a central department who knows what technologies are in place. How would you answer the question if that were the case?
>> That’s a kind of a workplace technology census. If someone were empowered to go and do a census of all of the technologies in a workplace, you would find a very long list.
It’s not very easy to then go and assess the accessibility of each and every one of those. There will always be prioritization. You may have an employee who has mentioned a specific barrier that they’re encountering or a workaround that really lowers their productivity. The next time around, you want to get a more accessible version of that product. Or you want to see if there’s a current fix available from that vendor. On the other hand, if there is a brand-new product just going out into the market for the first time, that is a great place to add accessibility to the procurement process. It could be something you already have or something that you are going out to market for.
We, as PEAT, are not a regulatory body and the Department of Labor is not acting as a regulator here but we are trying to give good advice to people to get a handle on where they’re at by understanding what is going on in that comprehensive list of technologies. And what if any of those items are hot button items that already have accessibility question marks about them. I think that is a skill that has to be developed. But looking at it from a program development point of view, it seems to be a natural one that a new manager of an accessibility program would go to his or her management and say the first thing we have to do is find out what are we using? And what are people using in the workplace where they might be in countering these kinds of problems so that we can prioritize and understand the scope of the work that we have before us.
I hope that is responsive.
This screen is the implementing accessibility screen with two parts. One is a mainstream part. That is what we hear from the ICT vendors out there is “hey our product is accessible, that customer did not understand how to turn on the accessibility feature.” We hear that a lot. We know case studies about this. We want to make sure that if you have gone ahead and made the right purchase, that the employees are getting the benefit of all of that accessibility. And that is not necessarily an easy thing either. For example, accessibility is not always well documented. The system administrator who is responsible for this new server-based unified messaging system, accessibility maybe way down on their list of features to focus on. So we have to figure out how to improve the documentation, how to make it more visible, how to get the HR folks including the employee engaged in a technology implementation process so that there is a completed communication cycle going on there as well.
The second part of this page is about assistive technology. We take a very strong but flexible stance on assistive technology.
We are in favor of built-in accessibility wherever possible. It’s growing. That world of mainstream accessibility is growing fast.
Operating systems are adding screen readers. Mobile devices have built-in accessibility features that were undreamed of even only a few years ago. And that trend will continue. But, we know that given the individual nature of disability and the individual nature of an employee in a particular workplace trying to complete a particular task that mainstream accessibility will not always get us there. So we will rely on assistive technology and we’re gonna encourage it’s used at that last mile in the accessibility equation. And that’s a problem for some employers as well. It is unclear how employees request assistive technology. It is unclear how assistive technology gets selected, paid for. Is there a centralized fund or is it something that has to come out of the employees local organization. Different companies and institutions run it different ways. We are just putting it here in TechCheck to make sure that folks are aware of it as an important part of the equation.
We are pretty much done. We have two more screens. One is very key in the final analysis of getting a mature program together. And that is, how do you measure and report on your accessibility program? This is an area where very few organizations have come back with a very advanced view. It is always the last thing that people are doing when they are moving from an ad hoc stage of fighting fire and barely getting recognition of accessibility, slipping accessibility language into an RFP, they feel the last thing they need to focus on is that long-term planning, measurement process. But it really is key if you think about it. You cannot keep a program alive until you can measure how successful you have been, figure out where things are going well, where things need improvement. I know this can be a major thing so in training, you could just be measuring the number of people taking any training on accessibility. That is at one end of the continuum. On the other end, you have a fully developed training curriculum. You are grading people. People are getting scores. Their job performance is being evaluated based on their contribution to the accessibility work. That is, whatever piece of their job, that is.
It is a complex situation, high-level management issue. But it is key in the sustainability of accessibility.
At the end of the form, we are just looking for some comments, final thoughts on the form. As well as final thoughts about your process and questions that you have, things that can help us improve TechCheck, resources that you’d like to see, anything you want to tell us. We see ourselves as a very open and collaborative project. We want to hear from people. We want to hear a lot of detail. We love it when they say what it was that was great. We love it even more if they say what was great and I personally love it the most when I hear this stunk or this should have been better and this is how you should have done it. That is when you get a really rich dialogue going about where to go next. And that is true for PEAT and your program as well.
That’s it from the side of the TechCheck form. I hope I made the case for you that it is a valuable tool for you to use. Something that you can do in your current project. Something that can make sense to you. Something you can use to help build your program by showing management that everyone is in the same boat. We are all trying to figure out how to improve our accessibility without becoming a huge overgrown project. With that, I will turn it back over to the folks who have organized us and see if there are any more Q&A. I see there is a follow-up.
How do you gather the information about what technologies you use if it lives in multiple departments?
We know from a state government perspective, it’s huge. Even a small state government is huge and diverse. People who do the parks and environmental protection for the state are very different from the folks who do labor and education. And they have very different technology infrastructures. So, it is something that really has to respond to local conditions. In one case, just to give you a specific answer, we encouraged people from different departments to get together and create a list of what they use. Just find things that they use in common. We found an organization on another project where 2 state agencies were going into the market for the same product and one had accessibility information in the RFP or requirement for information in the RFP and the other didn’t. And the other just added it on. That was instructive to the vendor. Because even vendors of good faith, if accessibility is not a main issue for them and they do not see a competitive advantage for the product, they tend to push back a little and say well, you are the only one asking for accessibility. In this case, it was 2 agencies in the same state government who both wound up asking for accessibility in the same way. That is something that a sales representative at a vendor company takes to his or her management and say I think the accessibility stuff is starting to pick up steam. We need to focus a bit more. I hope that was responsive. If there are any more questions, please type them into the box.
Okay. That is it. This was great. I hope you got as much out of it as I did. I know that may sound funny. But we ran through this in about 37 minutes. I think that is a good benchmark for us in how to communicate about TechCheck with a walk-through. We had about 20 or 25 participants. We will see how many of you have completed the form. Some of you are midway. We will see if this is a good way to deliver the information. We are trying out different ways of getting across all of the things that PEAT is producing. And any feedback from you is extremely useful. If you don’t have any questions, feel free to drop off. We will stick around until no one is left.