Transcript from "Designing for the Future: Building Accessible Technology for the Workplace." The webinar was recorded on Wednesday, September 3, 2014.
The following is a transcript from "Designing for the Future: Building Accessible Technology for the Workplace." The webinar was recorded on Wednesday, September 3, 2014.
You are listening to us through the GoToWebinar Platform and hearing the audio by voice over IP through your computers. The audio is also available on a phone line and the dial-in, information is available on your screen. We are also live captioning this webinar and there's a link in the chat window to give you information on how to connect to the captioning.
We will be accepting questions from today's audience, we look forward to getting a lot of input from you folks and a back-and-forth dialogue. You will be submitting those in the chat box on the right side of your screen, via e-mail to info@PEATworks.org or via Twitter using #PEATworks.
So with that out of the way, I want to get us into the subject at hand. We know that accessible ICT is crucial to the hiring, employment and career advancement of people with disabilities.
It's just common sense, when someone can't use the tools they need to do their job, they cannot perform to the fullest potential. All of us can play a role in solving this workplace accessibility puzzle. We see it as a relationship among three types of stakeholders: technology providers, who need to make their ICT products accessible; employers that need to focus on implementing those technologies; and people with disabilities as employees and as applicants who should know what tools will work for them in the workplace.
So it's that trio of stakeholders we are aiming to serve via PEAT which is a multi-faceted initiative working to advance the employment, retention and career advancement of people with disabilities through the development, adoption and promotion of accessible technology.
PEAT is funded by the Office of Disability Employment Policy through a grant to RESNA. It is the only entity of its kind that brings together employers, technology developers, accessibility thought leaders, disability advocates, governments, thought leaders, and people with disabilities to focus on accessible technology and employment.
We have organized PEAT into three action units, first is the PEAT policy think tank. That’s our partership’s thought leadership arms that brings together relevant partners to identify trends, formulate recommendations and collaborate on accessible workplace technology issues. For example right now, we are exploring the accessibility of online job applications. Another action unit is the PEAT network, a community that will exchange information and success stories, providing a sounding board for key stakeholders, some of whom are on this panel and some of whom are in our audience
Several organizations have already joined our network, organizations like Oracle, Ernst & Young, AT&T, Canon, Deque Systems, CTIA, and IBM. We hope you will consider joining as well.
And finally, there is peatworks.org. This soon to launch portal will feature educational articles, guest blog posts and a gateway to opportunities to collaborate and contribute to the dialogue around accessible technology in the workplace. Also featured is TechCheck, an interactive tool to help employers assess their technology accessibility practices and to explore those practices and find tools to help them develop those practices further. You can visit PEATworks.org now, and to learn how to get involved, you can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
I am excited to learn from these folks as well, one of the ways we structure the topic, from the perspective of companies and other entities that design technology. What are the business advantages, how is accessible technology providing value to your company? How is that being used strategically?
We recognize a second issue, laws and regulations, that have to be addressed, I am very curious on how the folks on the panel today are meshing those two, which some think they are a conflict, how can we bring those together in an efficient accessibility program? What are you doing along those lines?
That brings us to the point that PEAT is organized around, helping companies whether they are technology providers that use technology in the workplace, or employees, in this case we are talking about technology providers, how are you organizing your accessibility work? For instance if we are talking about technical standards, there is one way of looking at the standards as dead document laying on a page somewhere. The real value is translating them into your context of work.
So your designers and developers who know your product so well, what is it about it that applies to those products and doesn't apply, how do you make that translation happen and work in your development process. Staff training, we know is a key issue. One of the things we hear constantly from the ICT community, is that there are not enough trained experts, not enough certainty, not enough experience, so what are you doing both near-term, in terms of developing your own staff right year right now, and what are you thinking about doing long-term, in terms of developing your training programs, and consortia and other efforts in making accessibility a real profession, this brings me to the final point for me anyway, one of my personal interests in organization development. How are you structuring what looks at one level like as a purely technical job, making sure that accessibility features are built into the products, how are we structuring that organizationally, so it responds to legal and regulatory needs, to marketing needs, to the needs of executives and strategy, to the needs of technology procurement, staffing, and training needs, how do you bring it all together to make an efficient and initiative accessibility initiative? That is what I am looking forward to hearing today, continuing on a dialogue with folks on the panel and folks in the audience.
With that I will hand it over to our moderator Richard Crespin, then we will open it up to Q&A.
Thank you so much Jim, that was a great way to tee up our conversation, we have a ton that we would like to get into today. As Jim said I am Richard Crespin, and I am the CEO of CollaborateUp. We specialize in accelerating collaboration on important issues like this one. That’s why I’m so honored to be here serving as your moderator today. As moderator, basically I’ll be playing traffic cop. That’s my job is to make sure that our panelists get to share their great insights with you but more than that to make sure that you get your questions answered, and your issues addressed. This is your webinar. As Jim touched on, there are a number of different ways we can take your input, we want it by e-mail, twitter, chat function within GoToWebinar. If you can and you have questions going through, please do send them by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, by twitter using the hashtag peatworks or using the chat window and we’ll get to those as quickly as we can.
Right from the beginning, to make sure we get your virtual voice in the conversation, I want to start off with a polling question. So if we could please bring up our first polling question so we can get a sense of who is here on our webinar today. We’d love to know are you a manager, senior manager, director of IT, information security, developer, programmer, accessibility specialist or other. That’s really going to help us make sure we tailor our conversation today for your needs.
As soon as those responses come in, if we could put up those results. While we’re waiting for those, I’ll tee up our first panelist, Katie Cunningham, a developer with the Cox Media Group, and the author of a great book Accessibility Handbook Making 508-Compliant Websites. But before we turn it over to Katie, can we see the results of the poll?
Perhaps we are still waiting on a few people to answer the poll. Yes, people are still working on the poll.
While we’re waiting, Katie, why don’t we go ahead and – actually we’ll wait just a second for the answers to roll in here. As I mentioned, we are going to hear from a number of folks on today’s panel. But go ahead Katie, take it away.
Panelist 1: Katie Cunningham
Hi, my name is Katie Cunningham, I am a python developer and I work at Cox Media Group, I am also the author of the Accessibility Handbook from O’Reilly Media. Next slide.
I wanted to talk a little bit about what is accessibility because sometimes people don’t understand what accessibility is. Accessibility is basically making sure that all the data and functions for an application no matter how somebody accesses it is accessible to all your users, no matter how they are accessing it. The next slide.
Accessibility is actually usability, which is what I think a lot of people get confused about. They think of accessibility as a checklist, you bring out a checklist and you check off all items, and tada you are done, your site is totally accessible. But accessibility is actually usability for a group of users who have additional needs. They want good websites, they want good clean applications, and they have a few additional needs. Next slide.
I wanted to go briefly to just who it covers. Many people when they talk to me they said oh, it’s all about blind people right and that’s all I have to worry about is screen readers. There are actually five groups that I break everybody out into. Next slide.
These are the five groups. The blind is anybody who uses a screen reader to access applications, and that includes browsers and webpages and stuff like that. The visually impaired are people who cannot have their vision, they cannot their vision corrected to 20/80, or 20/100, so we’re not talking about people with glasses who can put on glasses and see perfectly. We’re talking about people for whom perfect vision is a pipe dream, they’re never going to get there. This also includes people who are colorblind because often you use color to indicate things on your website, for example you might use it to indicate on a chart or an infogram how intense of an affect we had, how many things we had, compare this to this. If you’re colorblind, this can be problematic.
There is also hearing-impaired, which not only includes people in the deaf community, it also includes people who use hearing aids. This impacts anybody who uses the website, if it has videos or audio clips.
The physically impaired may have issues controlling motion, they might have very slow motion or they might be only able to use their computer for a limited amount of time, this includes people with conditions like arthritis.
The cognitively impaired is a group that, it might be intellectual disabilities but it might also be information processing disabilities, like dyslexia, or ADD or ADHD. Next slide.
Just to give you some numbers, these numbers are all US. A lot of people come to me and say well there’s not that many disabled people so why do I have to worry?
There are 7.9 million people in the US who have visual disabilities of some kind. 10% of all men are color blind, there are 50 million people with arthritis. In the US there is 1 million people who are completely deaf, and 36 million who are in some way hearing-impaired, and 40 million people in the US have dyslexia. If you look around and say but I don’t see that many disabled people. That's because 90% of all disabilities are invisible, you cannot tell they have a disability just by looking at them. Next slide.
So, how does accessibility work? One of the ways accessibility works is you have to understand the tools the person is using, you have to think about — sorry hold on one second. You have to think about how they are accessing their computer and how they are accessing information. For example, people with physical disabilities may be bound to only using a mouse and an on-screen keyboard, there are others that cannot use a mouse, only keyboards. Can you access all information and all of the functionality of your application by just using the mouse or just using the keyboard? They may use a screen reader, a separate application that reads out websites and metadata to them. Are you making sure that that metadata exists? If it doesn't exist, they cannot get to it and your site is not accessible. Many times the way it works best if you think about it, from the beginning, I’m somebody who often gets pulled in at the end. They say okay, our site is done, please make it accessible. And my response is usually I hope you have deep pockets, because at that point I’m tearing apart things and I’m saying we have to redo these things completely. If you talk to someone who is an expert in accessibility in the beginning, we can guide it and it’s really inexpensive. Next slide.
Why do it? One of the first reasons is government regulation. Most nations have some version of the 508 Law, which is the accessibility law in the US. When I say most, I really mean most. Almost all of them have it. And many are even stricter than our 508 laws. There is also the ADA Laws. If you’re not doing a website that has any interaction with government, you may say then I don’t have to do it, however several websites have been taken to court, and they were not tried on the 508 regulation, they were tried under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The logic was, if you have a public site, that you have to make accessible because it is a public area, you have to make it accessible for wheel chairs and the blind and such, your website needs to mirror that. Now all of those cases were settled. There’s no case law. However, they are putting more pressure on extending these laws. And there are other countries that are extending these laws. Also, there’s a saying a rising tide lifts all boats. An accessible site is a better site for everyone. I know that I prefer if I have the option to see captions on videos, because I don’t always have headphones or I'm not in a place where I can plug my headphones in and watch the video, I prefer if I can just read along. It also helps me search for information on your video heavy site because now you can actually index all of the things that are said in the video and I can search for that. People who have dyslexia, tend to dislike things like, all caps and lots of motion, certain color combinations that are annoying. Most of us hate that too. The difference is that what makes for an unpleasant experience for us, makes it unusable for them. But wouldn’t you like a better experience. And almost all of these groups – if you improve the site for them, you improve it for everyone. Now I say baby boomers here, because baby boomers are a large group in the US and they are beginning to discover that even if they are able bodied now, they are slowly fitting into those other groups, their vision is going, their hearing is going, many are discovering they have arthritis and can’t use the computer as long. Their dexterity has gone done. Some of the baby boomers have discovered that they have early onset dementia or Alzheimer's. It’s not so bad that they have to go live with somebody else but they are discovering that everyday tasks like paying their bills are becoming more difficult. The baby boomers are not special they are just a very large group and they’re getting older.
That brings us to the last point. Almost all of us will need accessibility at one point, we will get older, we can get injured, I had a traumatic hand injury on my dominant hand and it threw me for a loop. Because there were no accessibility services at my college, and no advocates, I had to drop out because nobody could understand what it was like to lose your dominant hand and not be able to take notes. So you are going to get older, you are going to get injured or it will happen to someone you love. Next slide.
Is that it Katie, do you have anything else? No, that is all I have.
Awesome. Let’s go back to that polling question. So it looks like 64% of you are from other category, that is interesting, we would like to hear what your title is, if you would like to hashtag us or twitter using hashtag peatworks, send us a question, we would love to hear where you're coming from. The next biggest category there was accessibility specialists. Very interesting set of folks on today’s webinar.
Why don't we bring up our second polling question. Our next question is going to be, do you have an accessible technology initiative in your organization? A yes or a no.
While we are waiting for folks to respond to that, you can put those answers up as soon as they are ready.
Katie I want to come back to you for a second, if I am hearing you correctly, in terms of the business case, a lot of this comes down to the compliance issue, the opportunity to reach more customers and more users through a rising tide mentality. We’ve also got this silver tidal wave of baby boomers. It also comes down to that golden rule, treat others how you want to be treated. Is that correct?
Yes, you also never know when someone internal to your organization will be hired and they will have a disability. It might happen while they’re on the job or they might just be the best applicant. I worked with an excellent system administrator, who was completely blind, this was something the organization had to think about after they hired him. It would have been more helpful had they already had in place, that way of thinking. The way of thinking about people who have disabilities. They had never thought about it before. It was interesting when they brought him on, it opened their eyes on things they needed to do, they actually have a better accessibility program now because they realized how difficult it was to do certain things.
It also seems a good point you made at the top, accessibility is usability, and that if you think about it in that framework, just as another lens of usability, that certainly makes the case for why to address it earlier, and you really made an economic argument there, if you address it from the beginning – and incorporate it fundamentally in the design you will save yourself a lot of money.
Absolutely. I am much cheaper but if you hire me at the beginning.
Oftentimes that the case. If we know what we’re doing at the beginning, we can save ourselves a lot of money and effort.
Thank you Katie, I want to move on to our next panelist, Dennis Amorosano who is the vice president and general manager of the marketing division at Canon USA. If we can bring up Dennis’s slides. Dennis over to you.
Panelist 2: Dennis Amorosano
Thank you Richard. It’s a pleasure for us to be over here from Canon and certainly very happy to participate in today’s WebEx. This is an area that has been a focus to us for quite some time. Not only in terms of technology development but also in terms of the activities we drive in regards to employment of folks within the PWD community. Just to give you some background on Canon and why this is so important to us, if we can go to my next slide, you will find Canon is an organization that has a corporate philosophy that we call KYOSEI which is defined as living and working for the common good. This really drives us in terms of the way in which we develop products and technology and well as the ways in which we operate within the communities where we have presence around the world. And certainly its true in terms of how our technologies are utilized by folks who are able bodied as well as folks who have various types of disabilities. We as a company want to insure that the user experience associated with our products and technologies is no different regardless of whether or not an individual has a certain physical challenges, in terms of their use of the technology itself.
We found by focusing in this area, that obviously, it has provided us as an organization to build technology that in many ways becomes more usable by all users in the marketplace, who are interfacing with our products, and it has allowed us in many ways to act as a leader in terms of building technology and programs, that can support PWB community. I think Katie framed the topic so well. In terms of accessibility it is a much broader issue than just folks who may today have physical challenges there. This is an issue that affects the workforce in general, in particular as the workforce ages, one point Katie had referenced is so true, as all of us get older it is very likely at some point in our lifetime, we will face different types of challenges in terms of interfacing with technology. This becomes critically important not only supporting the PWD community but supporting people who may have no challenges at this point in time. Next slide please.
As I mentioned, Canon is an organization – we have a long history here.
This is not something we just focused on recently, Canon as an organization because we were founded by a medical doctor, we’ve always had core focus on health, and health related issues, over time we focused on how can we build and develop technology that can be utilized by people in the world, that will improve their overall quality of life. We have a couple of examples here, you can see the Canon communicator as well as the Canon OPCON, both technologies that were ideally suited to helping personnel who had visual impairments and help those individuals more easily communicate as compared to the tools that were available at the time, these early efforts, quite frankly, have been followed by a continued history of development and innovation that crosses the full Canon product portfolio. Some of those innovations and capabilities all I will share with you in just few minutes.
As I mentioned, building technology by itself is only one part of the equation for us in Canon, we also have driven significant programs in terms of employing personnel with different types of disabilities, in a number of Canon facilities the most notable of which, are the efforts we have driven at our factory in Virginia that we call CBI, where we have had a long-standing practice of employing persons with disabilities in various types of job roles and assignments. So again, this has been an area of focus for us as a company that span from not only technology development but also the way in which we work to drive gainful employment for persons afflicted with various types of disabilities. The next slide please.
There are a number of ways we are addressing the market place, and approaching accessibility in general, and Katie certainly reviewed a lot of these in her discussion in building more websites, Canon is focused on those areas as well. A lot of our effort starts with the various research and development activities that we drive, and the money that we invest in those areas. As I mentioned earlier, Canon is trying to build our technology such that we can create an enjoyable user experience regardless of whether the technology happens to be consumer oriented in nature, or office technology oriented in nature. By developing the technology to enhance user experience, in doing so, with the PWD community in mind, we are actually able to develop an experience that supports not just the needs of folks with disabilities but also improve the experience for personnel who don’t.
So the activity and the investment we make here has long reaching implications for Canon as a company and ultimately provides us the ability to deliver to our customers a much more enhanced user experience as compared to if we only developed in support of the general office user community.
You’ll also find that Canon as an organization has major investments that we continue to make in terms of human factors design, in addition to the testing we do in connection with new technology development, this plays a role in terms of ensuring that the user interface, technology that we design, and the access related activities around the technology, our well thought out again in connection with folks who are fully able bodied as well as folks who have various types of impairment within the PWD community itself. Next slide please.
We are also pleased to be a part of a number of associations, and drive a number of activities in the marketplace, these associations and the activities that you see referenced here, I think they are great examples of how Canon is taking a leadership position in this particular space and quite frankly they represent opportunities for us to get a consistent level of feedback from the marketplace, that we use to ultimately build technology that is directly suited to addressing some of the accessibility challenges that are being faced by users in the marketplace today.
The input that we have been able to receive from our relationships and activities with the associations mentioned here, these are things that we are driving directly into our research and development process, in many cases have really spawned some of the specific technology offerings, that we bring to the market today, many of which are specifically designed to address various types of challenges that are faced by users in general offices, and of course users of our consumer technology as well.
In addition as an organization we are focused on how can we help promote the development of standards in the marketplace. Clearly Katie mentioned the role of regulation, and the law as one driving factor in terms of development of technology, that is more suited to meeting the needs of folks with disabilities. That is only one factor. Clearly the more we can do to promote standards in this area and encourage manufacturers like ourselves, to build their own capabilities, the better we think we can serve, then again not just users with various disabilities, but the population that uses technology at large. The next slide please.
We have been very fortunate to be recognized for a number of activities we have driven in the marketplace. As you can see here, these are just a few of the recognitions that we’ve received in the market. Some of the work we’ve done in terms of folks with sight impairments have received recognition from by the American foundation of the blind, and the like, as I mentioned earlier, the work we have done in particular at our facility in Virginia in employing personnel with disabilities has been a model on how organizations can do the same and has garnered us some nice recognition from the state of Virginia in particular. These are things we are very proud of at Canon and certainly we look to continue to the drive the corporate philosophy and embody successful activities in connection with that philosophy. Next slide please.
As I mentioned, there is a number of different types of technologies that we bring to market. I thought it would be helpful to share a few of these here in connection with our primary office equipment product line. Many of the folks on the call may be familiar with Canon’s ImageRUNNER multi function products , which we find employed in various offices throughout the United States and the world. This technology has really benefited quite frankly from a fair amount of development activity in and around accessibility. We have a number of capabilities we offer in connection with our ImageRUNNER products that make these technologies highly easy to use for folks with disabilities and folks who don’t. That being said again, as a company we are trying to foster an environment where users can have a highly positive experience using our technology, and can perform their work task without having to understand the complexity of the technology itself. Our accessible design and are technical capabilities we offering combination of these products, as well as others in the Canon product line, they are great examples of how we are putting that into practice. The impact that these technologies are having, ensuring that the entire workforce within a customer of Canon’s is capable of fully leveraging our product offerings to fulfill their job requirements. Next slide please.
If you are interested in other activities that Canon is driving and involved in around the accessibility initiatives within our organization, you can find a great amount of information on various Canon websites, some of which is outlined here. For example, if you are interested in some of the things we are doing in technology standpoint, we have a universal design guide initiative, that talks about some of the major design initiatives we are driving within the PWD community. We also are focusing on accessibility issues beyond technology itself which you will be able to find accessibility info you see here. Finally of course a lot of our effort is driven through the federal government sales division, which has a significant amount of information in terms of the activities we are driving in support of the Section 508 regulations, not to mention the overall accessibility community itself. Again it is our pleasure as an organization to be involved in this area, to work with the partnership on employment and accessible technology. To share with all of you on the call some of the things that we think are of importance in terms of supporting PWD community, and why those things are certainly not only of benefit to the end users of our technology but hopefully can act an example for other organizations to follow in their own accessibility initiatives. So thank you for that and let me turn it back to Richard.
Thank you Dennis, that was terrific. I’m remiss if I don’t return to our last polling question, where we asked if you have an accessibility technology initiative in your organization. The vast majority, well over 80%, said you did. Before you move on to the last panelists, I do want to pull up one more polling question, it will touch on whether or not your company sells to the federal government. Please answer yes, no, or not applicable.
Dennis, I want to come back to you well while we wait for those answers. You mentioned the importance of standards, and I know Canon belongs to a number of standard setting bodies. Can you touch a little bit on how you see standards helping to drive innovation or create opportunity in this area for other manufacturers including Canon?
Sure. Standards certainly help organizations like ours, and other manufacturers at least develop to a base level of capability, that would be of benefit to end users in the marketplace. From that standpoint, having them emerge around accessibility without question would be significant value to users in the marketplace who do have existing disabilities, or who may ultimately develop them during their working careers. From that perspective we are in favor of seeing some level of standards being developed in the marketplace. Whether that happens through regulation, or it happens through different groups agreeing to those standards, that would be fine.
Standards help us from a manufacturing standpoint, it allows us to lessen the development costs we have associated with certain technologies, we can build to a common denominator across our technology platforms. As opposed to for example, having to react to different changes in the marketplace, and a different set of requirements, having a baseline we could develop to, would provide us with economies to scale in terms of R&D and development. For those reasons we are very much in favor but ultimately the biggest winner in terms of standards development is the PWD community itself and today there aren’t a significant amount of standards that exist in the marketplace around accessibility so to the extent that can happen, the user community would be the biggest beneficiary.
Wonderful, thanks Dennis.
We have our poll answer there. It looks like the majority of you, selling to the federal government is not applicable. 22% say no and 13% of you said yes. I do understand some folks are having trouble with the poll, you can respond in the chat window and we will capture those responses for the record, so feel free to go back and respond to the prior polls or this one now, in the chat window and we will capture those.
Now I would like to turn to our attention to our third and final presenter Laurie Ellington. Laurie is a manager of State Government Affairs at CTIA-The Wireless Association. Welcome Laurie.
Panelist 3: Laurie Ellington
Thank you Richard. First let me take this opportunity to thank you PEAT for having me and to thank everybody who is participating in the webinar today. Over the past few years CTIA has really ramped up its accessibility outreach efforts and we’re excited to be exploring synergies in the wireless ecosystem and assist with technology in the workplace. Next slide please.
For those of you who are not familiar with CTIA, we are a trade association representing all sectors of wireless communications. Our membership is made up of companies of all sizes and comprises the wireless ecosystem. For example, our carrier members include the four largest carriers: Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile. We also have regional carriers. I started as manager of State Government Affairs where I manage CTIA’s accessibility outreach initiate and I support efforts on accessibility. Next slide please.
For the wireless landscape, I am trying to think of it as this wireless revolution, we all know someone with the cell phone, and they rely on the cell phone, and probably have two at this point. So there are a lot of wireless subscriber connections in the US – 322 million to be exact. Wireless products and services are essential communication tools for everyone, including people with disabilities and seniors.
As many of us now wireless for everything from healthcare to education, to transportation, to energy, CTIA and our members believe all consumers should be able to take advantage of innovative wireless products and services. Next slide.
Breaking down barriers to accessibility. CTIA recognizes the challenges that many people with disabilities face in everyday life, including employment. We see many of opportunities in wireless for everyone including people with disabilities. So what is wireless accessibility and what does it mean at CTIA? Wireless accessibility means that all consumers can take advantage of the opportunities that wireless offers. I think this aligns pretty well with Katie’s statement that she made earlier when she aligned accessibility with usability. We know that people with disabilities share the same inclinations toward cell phones, and Internet usage as does the general population. We also know people with disabilities have unique needs. For example people with hearing limitations, increasingly rely on wireless tech-based communications so many of our carrier members offer text only or data only plans for people with hearing limitations who don’t use those voice services as much.
Our member companies, both carrier and manufacturers carry a wide variety of products to meet needs. Just as it is important to consider the impact of universal design on our physical world, we should also consider the impact of universal design in the online world. This is the thinking that CTIA and our member companies strive for. The next slide please.
How does CTIA meet this goal? Following the passage of the 21st century communications and video accessibility act, the FCC challenged the telecommunications industry to educate consumers about opportunities our wireless devices and services offer people with disabilities. CTIA accepted that challenge and we have lead an effort with our member companies to work with consumer advocates, the FCC and work with our member companies to update our website which is AccessWireless.org. Today AccessWireless has won awards from the FCC, the Hearing Loss Association of America and the FCC and many of the advocacy groups that we work with have recognized our efforts and this is something we are very proud of.
CTIA has created the accessibility outreach initiative, which I mentioned earlier, the initiative is a resource to assist our member companies in engaging the accessibility community. But more than that, this initiative is an opportunity for member companies, and the accessibility community to build relationships and to learn from one another and to work towards a common goal. We began this initiative in 2011, and in that time we have held in person meetings, webinars much like this one, on a variety of policy topics. Next slide please.
Thank you. This is a screenshot of the AccessWireless homepage, which I encourage you to visit when you have a moment. Our home page features a video from our new president and CEO Meredith Atwell Baker. This demonstrates that our commitment to this issue comes from the very top.
Key features of access wireless.org, I will not go through all of them, but some of the key features include the find a phone tool, to search for accessible wireless handsets. This tool is managed by the mobile manufacture reforms of global accessibility reporting initiative. Another cool feature is our hearing aid compatibility training videos. We also have links available to our individual member companies’ accessibility pages.
One recent addition to AccessWireless.org, is the smartphone tips for seniors, which is a result of those outreach meetings that we hosted earlier this year, with our member companies and with representatives from our older adult community. So I would encourage you, as you’re looking at AccessWireless.org, to check those out. Next slide.
Here at CTIA, we are still learning when it comes to trends in wireless, in the workplace. We know a number of companies have begun to utilize this “bring your own device policy” in the workplace. For example, IBM did a study which shows that people believe smart phones can be a critical essential tool for the workplace, smart phones offer them the ability to customize their device to meet their own unique needs and interests. That’s why BYOD is particularly beneficial to employees. Companies can take it advantage of accessible solutions already in the market, simply by encouraging employees to find a wireless device that meets their needs. We think of wireless as revolutionary. Next slide.
Accessible features in wireless devices. As an example, I am excited about a few increasingly standard features for wireless smart phones, just to name a few, there are built in screen readers, and personal assistant software that’s out there such as Siri, Google’s is called Cortana. These are all really revolutionary for people who value ease of use, and ease of access with the device. With all the investment in new wireless technologies, HD Voice enabled devices will offer clearer voice communications for people with hearing limitations. For people with physical and cognitive limitations, wireless devices can be customized for ease of use in menus, home screens and more. Next slide please.
Before I close I want to highlight one area in which I believe the wireless industry has been really proactive, and that is the 911 emergency communication. As we increasingly rely only on wireless, emergency communication is one of our members’ highest priorities. Last year the four nationwide wireless providers fulfilled voluntary commitments to support text to 911 in areas where local 911 call centers have asked and are capable of receiving these messages. In the workplace, text to 911 can be helpful for people who cannot make a voice call or who are deaf or hard of hearing. It’s another example of how we are harnessing wireless technology in ways we believe will benefit everyone. Last slide.
With that, I will conclude my presentation. My contact information is on the screen. Thank you so much for your attention and I look forward to the dialogue.
Thanks so much Laurie. And thanks to all of our panelists, this has been almost a fire hose here of information. I really appreciate it.
As I said at the beginning, we really want to get the audience involved, so please start sending us your questions so that we can begin answering and addressing your issues, I have a ton of questions to fill up all of our time, but much more interesting to you, I suppose, would be to have your own specific questions answered.
With that, while folks are submitting questions to us, I want to dive right in.
A couple of things we heard about the benefits, in supporting accessible design, what are the challenges you have experienced? What are the biggest challenges you are seeing out there, how are you overcoming them as industries? Laurie I want to put that one first to you, tell us about the challenges you are seeing for wireless providers?
One of the challenges that we have to address, is making connections between wireless providers, and the accessibility community, and manufacturers so that there is dialogue upfront in the beginning. I know one of the panelists mentioned that when you’re building this technology, the manufacturers need to be on the front end rather the backend. The technology tends to work a little better, that is one of the things that we are working on.
The other challenge is that technology is innovation, it is all moving so quickly, a lot of times the regulation cannot keep up with all the innovation that is happening. That is something that we continue to work with the federal commission communication on, that is just for the better for everyone.
Thank you Laurie, Katie what about for your clients and associates? What are some of the challenges you are seeing?
A lot of the challenge is re-education. You have to make sure that management understands that you bring this in at the beginning, you talk about it at the beginning, they cannot just have managers go to these things and understand what is going on, you have the developers and the front end developers, backend developers, to sit down with somebody who understands assess ability, it doesn't take that long. It is complex to be an expert in it, but it does not take that long to get solid basics down. Most people say they will do it at the end, honest truth, most of the time, nobody does it at the end, I might come and do a report to say this is what you need to do, and it never quite gets done.
How do we overcome that barrier? How do we get people more involved from the beginning? To widen the circle of involvement to include more managers, developers, back end, front end?
Most of it is pretty easy, bring somebody in the beginning to talk about it when you’re first trying to understand the problem. And make it be a habit of your culture, that you answer these questions, does that image need alt text? Then people can give intelligent answers as to why it does or does not need alt text and what kind of metadata would it need. It really is part of a habit. When I worked at NASA, whenever you deploy something for the government it has to pass 508 check. If it does not pass 508, it does not get deployed period. We kept getting held up by the 508 group, we thought they hated us. We finally one day sat down and read everything we can get our hands on about 508 compliance and how to make accessible websites. It didn't take us that long, but thinking that way, and being able to refine, and having a good framework in our mind, we got past 508 every time. Any issues were super minor, and we knew how to fix them immediately. If you sit down and educate people, have it become a habit, it became a habit of us, walking into this, we knew more, writing an accessible website than we would write one without proper tests – or without a way to back up the site, something like that. It just became a big habit for us, fortunately we had management who supported us because they saw how much cheaper it was, everything was on time and under budget.
Dennis, it sounds like you guys that Canon have built this into your culture, when you mentioned the way you think about things in harmony. What advice would you give to others, do you agree with what Katie just had to say there and how have you guys incorporated this as a habit and what advice would you give to others?
Certainly that’s not easy. When we think about challenges, one of the challenges that many organizations, particularly companies like ours face, is oftentimes developing technology in support of the PWD community in a way that is also conducive to providing enhanced functionality for general users in the population, it isn’t always less expensive in terms of development costs and manufacturing and so forth. Trying to get organizations to get past some of those issues and recognize that they are significant benefits, altruistic and financial, certainly is not easily overcome. In Canon’s case, the nature of our philosophy is one that it is just a tight connection to our culture overall, that maybe the challenge for us, in reaching the point we have, wasn't such a high mountain to climb as it might be for other organizations. But without question it’s a difficult thing to do.
The other point I would make, when we look at challenges in the marketplace in general, we find yes, some organizations certainly pay significant amount of attention to this area, they are very focused around this as a key criteria, I wouldn't say enough of them are. This is true even for government agencies that we sell into, Katie referenced NASA, the reality is Canon sells to every government agency there is, I can tell you from first-hand experience, some agencies place a high importance on accessible technologies. For others it is not even a factor in their decision making process. There are significant challenges that will have to be overcome in the government as well as the commercial marketplace is in this area. Hopefully through further education we can see those challenges ultimately become overcome as well.
That is a great segue into the first question we have from the audience, one participant asked how do you think the federal government should encourage vendors, especially small business startups, who aren’t so knowledgeable about accessibility to produce accessible products for government?
Dennis would you like to take a shot at that one?
Jumping on that grenade is the appropriate frame of reference, this is not in easy question. Smaller enterprises in general are obviously have even larger challenges, in comparison is — to like Canon for example. We have really significant R&D budgets, if we make an R&D bet we can afford to be wrong on occasion, and still survive, some smaller businesses do not have that luxury, if they are going to build technology like that, it needs to be incumbent on the end customer that is going to be an absolute mandatory criteria for sourcing. I don't think this question has an easy answer. I think yes, government could certainly legislate this and create laws that require this kind of development. Frankly I am not a big advocate of more government regulation, we have enough as it is. I would much rather see the government take action to require that as part of their sourcing initiatives, to give stronger consideration to technology that supports accessible design. Use that as a key criteria in terms of sourcing. In doing so they would then drive the behaviors that they would want to see in terms of small business in the technology that they provide.
I would like to pull Jim Tobias back in this conversation, Jim you still with us, how would you respond to this question? You have a lot of experience in this area.
Well, I think Dennis’s comment just now, that’s the motivation the 508. It is the leverage, the federal purchasing dollar, to some extent the larger public sector purchasing dollar, to favor accessible products. I think this will always be an issue, we need new laws and new regulation, more oversight, transparency, clarity, you can always in a bar and have a great discussion for hours on end. It is the motivation and you can certainly see instances where it succeeded. I personally feel we have more problems on the demand side that we do on the supply side. This is not to curry favor with any wonderful folks on the panel. ICT Industry has really stepped up, and provided yards of accessibility year over year, and they continue to do so. Maybe there is a little bit of slack in communicating about that and providing good documentation about accessibility but what I mean on the demand side is we are not seeing sufficient market demand from individual consumers, or public-sector or employers to redeem the promise of accessibility that is being delivered on the supply side. That is one of the goals of PEAT, helping companies on both sides of the table to come together and understand their different roles, to communicate openly and clearly and continuously, about accessibility and that will generate the market momentum we will see. And that may result in less of a need for regulation and government oversight , etc.
Laurie or Katie, do either of you want to jump in on this one?
I think another thing I would love to see is better education. Because talking to people who have degrees in computer science or front end design, if ask them, was there an accessibility course at your college? They are like no, but I learned assembly. I’m like, well of the two things, guess which one is actually useful? Most of us will need to think about accessibility at some point, a smaller percentage needs to worry about assembly.
I would love to see more pushes to get more colleges to accept this as one of the things that you just have to teach in these programs. I would like to see good resources, in the government if you go to how do I get my 508 questions answered, where do I get training, but they are not presented in the best way. I would have to dig through resources, but they are not pushed up at the top where they need to be. They are not shown to people, pushed out, I'm looking for a word here and blanking — you know what I mean. They need to advocate for these things more clearly, the materials are there. There are a lot great websites, nobody knows where there are. So it’s hard for people to go out and find them to even educate themselves.
Speaking of education, that brings up another question from our audience, that has to do with the difference or the similarity between accessible vs assisted technologies. Are these the same thing or how are they different? Katie, is that something you would be willing to address?
I’m trying to think of an answer – it’s a new question for me. Assisted Technology is went you make something accessible, you are exposing everything, I think assisted would be how somebody gets to that information. So a Screen Reader is assisted technology, because it’s made for somebody who is blind and needs something to read out what’s on the screen, versus me having an accessible website which works for many people because I am exposing it for many different user groups, does this make sense?
It makes sense to me. Other panelists – anybody would like to chime in here?
I would like to chime in on that. Go ahead please.
This is Laurie — we think of accessible technology as being accessible directly, it is usable without assisted technology, or it is compatible with assisted technology. It can be used by people with a wide range of abilities or disabilities, and incorporates the principles of universal design, where assisted technology I think of that as more of an umbrella term, that includes adaptive technology and promotes greater independence by people who might have certain limitations.
This is Jim. — I love what Katie and Lori had to say, they are very accurate. This is a topic with a lot of facets to it. We’re seeing a lot of change in the technologies themselves, as accessibility features migrate and mutate from assisted technology products into mainstream products, and back and forth, I think a way to resolve this, is adding clarity by going a little deeper, not trying to categorize the product, but the feature. Accessibility feature, like enlarged text, volume control, simple text, could part of an assisted technology product sold for the use of people with disabilities or it could be a feature built into a mainstream device. It actually gets easier to understand what the product needs next is not some black box term like more accessibility, it needs a particular feature or a set of features. It’s easier for designers and developers to think of it that way, and consumers to search, as that excellent database on AccessWireless shows, it is a very great way for consumers to shop for products according to the features they need. That is the way that we are moving, technology is just migrating these features all over the place very quickly.
Picking up on that idea of taking things from the PWD market to the mass market, and back and forth, another question from our audience if, do companies ever look at accessibility as innovation for the mass-market? For instance, people who are deaf or hard of hearing have been texting for many decades. But now that the mass market texts, its innovative. I wonder, maybe I’ll start with Dennis, have you at Canon looked at how you can use products for the PWD market as an innovation idea for the mass market.
Sure, let me give you a prime example of that, we have a technology that ultimately when it was developed, initially was developed to provide disabled users to remotely access the control panel of our MFPs, we call this a remote operator's kit. What we have found in developing this technology given the height of the devices you find in the general office, an individual who might be wheelchair bound would have an awfully difficult time in actually seeing and operating the LCD panel on the MFP device. So we built this remote operators kit so we could in essence replicate the user interface on a locally network connected PC.
What turned out the product or the technology itself, had great viability for folks with that particular disability, but the technology itself proved to be in some ways more useful as a remote training tool for end users, who needed to learn how to navigate through the device, to program the device to perform different types of copy, fax, scan and print features. I think that is a great example of how with technology, that Canon had originally developed PWD community, we ultimately found arguably a better use case with supporting the marketplace in general. I think that’s a great example of how with technology that Canon had originally developed in support of the PWD community, we found that it had even a better use case in connection with supporting the marketplace in general. I think we have a number of examples of that. And again one of the points I made, when building technology, we are trying to build our technology so that the user experience is an ideal experience regardless of whether they happen to be able bodied or possesses some form of disability. We find many times that a technology we build with the intent of solving a usability challenge for the PWD user, it turns out to be an effective technology for the population of users in general.
That’s great Dennis. Laurie are there examples that you would like to highlight?
I really do not have any examples of PWD products moving to the mass-market, but I would just like to point out that innovation, and customization, are really key issues that drive mobile accessibility, including specific technology. They are drivers of mobile accessibility. In the area of innovation, accessibility is really a key component of the design and the implementation of new products and services, and thanks to innovation, people with disabilities have been able to create their own unique devices, and their own unique experiences by customizing wireless services, with built-in features that I mentioned, to meet their needs.
What we are seeing is with more people, more households, moving to a wireless only environment, we know people are increasingly turning to wireless as their primary method of communication, they're using a lot of products that are out there on the mass-market, that is like an answer in reverse. People with disabilities are taking products in the mass-market and applying them as they see fit. That is something we are noticing.
We also see with effective BYOD policy, one thing we are seeing in the mass-market, consumer electronics are driving innovation in the workplace. Because people are bringing them into the workplace and expecting them to function in the workplace. It sounds like you’re saying the same holds true for people with disabilities.
With good BYOD policies we can create infrastructure that will allow that to take place more frequently.
The next question I want to turn to – get a little bit more specific here. One of the folks in the audience is asking, what are some of the things the accessibility experts would recommend that we use or integrate into our websites?
Katie are there specific things that you would recommend?
I would definitely have everything learn what alt text is because its one of those things that’s not understood very well. I would have them caption their videos. These are two huge blind spots that people tend to just ignore or pretend there’s an automated solution to them and there really isn’t. And just have
people practice getting around websites by hitting tab, to see where it will go, there will be an outline around the item, and just make sure that you can get to everything, make sure all drop downs work. If you want to go the easy route, things like bootstrap are often very accessible. There’s also Super fish and sucker fish, those are libraries that have really great interactive UI elements that are all accessible, hey are made for accessibility. They are really easy to make work with your site, those are some things I would love more people to use.
Jim, any specific recommendations you would like to throw out?
There is a lot of guidance, a lot of this is good guidance, as Katie said, the problem is not the scarcity of good guidance, it is hard to find, because there is so much out there. With respect to Web accessibility we have a huge community of practitioners with very solid technological leadership on accessibility over the years that has resulted in a document that people call WCAG or web content accessibility guidelines which you can google and maybe we can put the URL in the chat window for people who aren’t familiar with it but it provides really solid way to approach web accessibility because it tells you what you need to accomplish. It doesn’t tell you how but it gives you techniques that are sufficient. Whether you are just getting started, or whether you are looking for finely detailed guidance information, that is a great place to begin your search.
Wonderful thank you for that. Laurie, I got a specific question for you, on what is going on is CTIA. One of our folks wants to know do we have numbers on the number of persons with disabilities who are users of cell phones and other wireless technology.
CTIA does not track that information, we rely very heavily on an organization over at Georgia Tech or the Georgia Institute of Technology, the name of the group is Wireless RERC and they have good numbers that we have used in the past. They do pretty regular surveys of people with disabilities and that’s one of the metrics that they track. I can put the person in contact with Wireless RERC.
We can provide that in our follow-up material as well. Thank you for that.
Next question coming in from the audience, how is the private sector going to train its many employees to design accessible documents in conformance to WCAG? Who would like to take that one?
I would like to talk about that a bit.
With documents, there is often accessibility features built-into things like Adobe, PowerPoint and such, I would get very familiar with them. If you make PDFs, make sure the text is exposed, do not try to do a scan where it is a picture of the text, some do it for security reasons, make sure that text is accessible to everybody. Not only do you need that, if there is any in images you have to have them captioned. Of particular interest, especially in powerpoints and stuff like that are graphs. Understand how to caption graphs. With graphs you have to describe what the data is doing without implying anything. The idea is that a person who is sighted would look at a graph, they would say rose in November dropped off in January, went up again in May, so you need to describe that in a way like you’re describing it over the phone, you would not list out data points. That is the correct way, and the reason I bring that up, often when people when they're doing things like making compliant PDFs or PowerPoints, there is almost always a graph in there somewhere. Especially if it is for a business or government or something like that.
Perfect. Thank you. Jim or Katie or Dennis, anybody else want to jump in?
This is Jim, I would second what was just said on the technical issues that arise, but in looking at it organizationally, this has to do within the enterprise, what are the resources for staff training? To what extent are those tools built-in so that the default, is to create accessible content? For example there is a way of in Microsoft Word, when someone pastes an image into a document, they can be prompt them for alt text, so having a tool that will prompt the author, if you get that prompt you don't really need to do any additional training, you are saving an hour on how to add Alt to every image by creating a just-in-time tool that does the prompting for you. So those techniques are really an organizational decision, whoever manages IT, says we will set that insert command to pop up this Alt text requester. Imagine that hundreds of times for all the different authoring tools and we’ll be well on our way to reducing training demands which we know in typical enterprise we just do not have time to provide training on all of the topics that you want them to be expert in. It is a puzzle we have to work on, but more of a question of getting the architecture of the enterprise right, then it is insisting anyone who dares to write an e-mail, has to go through accessibility program. It is just not feasible to do that.
This is Laurie, I can add as well, I want to point out, our member companies see accessibility as a corporate value, therefore it isn't embedded into the infrastructure of company — for example AT&T, one of our larger member companies, they have the corporate accessibility technology office, which is what they use to promote accessibility in AT&T products and services, I know that Sprint has a similar office within their company, they have people working on these issues every day. I know that it is incorporated again, in their structure as a company. I just wanted to point that out.
That is one of the questions I wanted to get to, the role of offices like that or other accessibility champions, is that a position that we are seeing a lot of?
Jim, or Katie, do you want to take that one first?
Sorry can you repeat?
The question is about the use of the accessibility champions within organizations.
I am generally the accessibility champion, it does help having somebody. It is not my full-time job, I am not a full time accessibility person, I am a developer. It helps because I am the person they can come to and ask the questions. They come up with these one-off questions, like hey, the customer wants to use red and green, can we do that? I heard that was bad. I’m like, oh no, let's sit down and look at good combinations/bad combinations. I can give really quick answers to questions. It helps to have somebody on like that on your staff or that you know. I also have people that I’m friends with in the open source community that will track me down on twitter, and say hay what do you think on X versus Y. And I’ll say X is the better solution. Because often I can make those calls really quickly, it doesn't take me long to look over something. Having somebody in your back pocket to trust to talk to them about these things, saves you quite a bit of time. I do not have to spend a lot of time yelling at people, you have to be accessible, it's often people coming up to me and saying, help me make this accessible and showing me the problem.
Thank you very much Katie. I would like to bring up one polling question, whether or not folks have accessibility champions in their organization? We will bring that polling question up, if you can answer yes or no. While we are waiting for answers, Jim are you seeing the use of accessibility champions as a tool?
We have heard a number of times from organizations that are all over the map in how well developed their accessibility program is, that having a champion or executive sponsor is a key point. It is for several reasons, one is that requesting one often forces you to get your act together. You’re going to have a meeting with the vice president, you’ve got to have more than just a hand waving exercise in what your accessibility program is all about and how is it going to be efficient, effective and how is it going to be measured.
All of those things that drive the improvement at that the organizational level, then of course the second, and strategically more valuable point sometimes, you’ve got someone watching your back. You have someone that can say, when talking to a product manager having a hard time understanding why they have to perform accessibility testing that might delay a product release, it is a very tough conversation to have. You have someone's name to drop. Maybe more than just a name, but being at the table when those decisions are made, so it is very valuable both as a flag and a token in institutional politics.
That is terrific, thanks Jim.
Ooh, look at that. 75% of folks have an accessibility champion. That’s wonderful and a great resource.
I have time from one last question, how do the panelists to see the new 503 regulations affecting accessibility initiatives? Maybe we can go back in reverse order here. Laurie do you want to jump on that one?
I really have to think about that one. If you can come back.
I know Dennis had to step out but I believe Paul Albano has stepped in from Canon. Paul, do you have any thoughts?
Speaking for Canon and about the products which Dennis mentioned, to the extent that our office type devices are critical components within a workplace setting, and as companies now need to think about having programs to include more for people with disabilities in the workplace, those products are going to be essential, they will have to start building the infrastructure to support these additional employees in the workforce, it will drive more innovation and accessible design, from a manufacturing standpoint for sure.
Jim last word here?
With 503, it is new, we are not entirely sure how it will play out, it requires that the application process be accessible. It doesn't go into detail about what that means, that is an area where technical clarity is a good thing, the net effect will be on the side of technology providers, like our folks on the call today, making sure the products you offer for job application platforms, that is a whole string of products right there, from websites to resume uploaders, to interview scheduling, calendars, all of that, that there will be more accessibility attention on there because nobody wants to jeopardize their federal contract. It applies more so on the employer side, making sure that when they post a job, or when they do anything connected with a job application, that whole process, that it will be accessible as possible. It is a little murky, but if you were to see a storm front coming, that is not the time to throw your umbrella away, it is the time to figure out what you need to do to stay safe. That’s the mode that I think we’re in.
PEAT will have some sizeable resources to help PEAT networkers in addressing 503 requirements as providers and as employers.
Thank you Jim. Thanks to all our panelists. This is been a wonderful discussion, for your developers I hope you have heard a lot, and take some things away from this and start building accessibility into your product development right away. Today we had time to cover just a small part of this whole topic, so please stick with PEAT and we’ll be helping you along this way. For those of you who would like to view this webinar again or tell your colleagues or friends about it an archived version will be available on PEATworks.org in the very near future. Going forward PEAT is also going to have lots of great information and resources to help employers, developers and users. You can follow PEAT on Facebook and Ttwitter for updates so please stay tuned to PEAT for information about more webinars coming up and the big launch in October. Thank you so much to our incredible panel, Jim, Dennis, Laurie, Katie and Paul, you’ve been amazing and we appreciate you taking the time to share your knowledge with our network. And finally, thanks to you, everyone out there for participating and sending in your great questions. We hope you enjoyed it. Until next time, I’m Richard Crispin. Thank you so much for joining us.