Transcript from "Powering Up Your Employment Potential Through Accessible Technology – What People With Disabilities Need to Know," which explores how people with disabilities can advocate for accessible technology in their workplaces and the benefits of doing so, for them and all employees. This webinar was recorded on Friday, September 26, 2014. Speakers included:
- Richard Crespin (Moderator), CEO, CollaborateUp and Senior Fellow, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
- Loren Mikola (Session Chair), Project Director, PEAT
- Zuhair Mahmoud, Information Technology Specialist, Technology , The Library of Congress
- Lucy Greco, Web Accessibility Evangelist , IST – Architecture, Platforms, and Integration, University of California, Berkeley
- Ken Harrenstien, Software Engineer, Google
The following is a transcript from "Powering Up Your Employment Potential Through Accessible Technology – What People With Disabilities Need to Know." The webinar was recorded on Wednesday, August 6 2014.
Introduction Loren Mikola (Session Chair)
Alright, thank you. Good afternoon and good morning to everyone depending on where you are. Happy Friday and welcome to today's webinar on using accessible technology in the workplace. My name is Loren Mikola and I will serve as session chair and am the project director with the Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology, or PEAT which is the sponsor of today's event. I know many of you joined us for previous webinars and this is a continuation of that series. We are glad that you are joining us and you can expect more to come from PEAT going forward.
We have an absolutely outstanding panel today and we look forward to producing them in just a minute. Let me start with a few housekeeping items and accessibility information. Most of you are joining us through the Adobe connect platform and are hearing the audio through voice over IP through your computers. The audio is also available over the phone line for those of you who would like to listen to today's event in that way. The conference call in number is 1-866-365-3921 and the conference code that you need to enter after you dial is 7247886139.
We are also live captioning this webinar which you can follow along by clicking on the link in from the reminder e-mail that you received yesterday. Please note will also be accepting questions during today's discussion and you may submit your questions but typing them into the Q&A window on your screen. With all of that out of the way, let's get into the subject at hand.
I will briefly connect the dots between accessibilityand employment in by telling about the project. Accessible technology is obviously crucial to the hiring employment and career advancement of people with disabilities. Because when someone, anyone, not access or operate the tools they need to do their jobs, the can't perform to their fullest potential.
All of use have a role to play in solving this workplace accessibility puzzle. Employers need to buy and implement workplace technologies that are accessible, technology providers need to manufacture accessible technology for the marketplace, and people with disabilities really need to know what tools they need to be productive on the job, how to operate them effectively, and how to request the support they need from their employers. So it is that very trio of stakeholders that we are really aiming to serve with the PEAT project, which is a multifaceted initiative working to advance the employment and career advancement of people with disabilities through the development, adoption and promotion of successful or accessible technology. And PEAT is funded by the Department of Labor through a cooperative grant agreement through RESNA. It is the only entity of its kind that brings together employers, technology, government policy makers, and consumers around this topic.
Next month we will be launching peatworks.org which is an online resource center that will house education and outreach activities. It s basically an online portal that will feature educational articles, guest blog posts, accessible workplace technology etiquette with opportunities for collaboration and to contribute to the dialogue around accessible technology in the workplace.
Also featured is a tool called Tech check which is interactive tool to help employers to assess their technology accessibility practices and find tool helped to develop them further and you can visit www.peatworks.org to sign up for e-mail, updates about the portal launch, and to learn more about getting involved. You can also follow it on Facebook and Twitter.
In preparation for today's discussion I would like to talk re-flip up the difference between assistive and accessible technology. Many people use the two terms interchangeably, and although they are related they are not the same. Accessible technology is technology that can be used successfully by people with a wide range of abilities and disabilities. Assistive technology, or AT, is a piece of equipment or a system used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. Examples of AT include alternative input devices that enable control of computers through means other than the standard keyboard, or mouse such as voice recognition software, had operating devices and system path systems controlled by breathing, and screen readers that allow users like me, the blind, to hear what is happening on their computers by converting the screen display to digitized feeds. While PEAT strongly supports product compatibility with AT, our primary focus is to encourage employers and technology providers to buy and or develop products that are directly accessible whereby they are usable by the widest range to people possible right out-of-the-box.
And since PEAT is so focused on accessibility, I want to say little bit about how we think about it. For us accessibility is all about the user interface. To give the user in a convenient, effective and equitable way to control the technology and put it into use and accessibility often falls into the same category as usability and that both need to improve user experience and effectiveness of the product.
Usability covers the user experience at a macro level, while accessibility caresses dust addresses the specific needs of the people with disabilities. But in terms of actual product features they often overlap. For example a feature-length volume control benefits everyone, as does the ability to assume and display on a small mobile device. And really this overall is often referred to as universal design, which means products are designed to be used either widest range of people possible. I really hope that provides some basic background and framework for our discussion today. Without further ado let's get to it and I will head over to our distinguished moderator Richard Crespin to introduce himself and then we will hear from each of our panelists. Richard, take it away.
Panelist Introductions: Richard Crespin (Moderator)
Thank you so much Loren for that great introduction. That really gave a great framing for our discussion today. I know we have a lot to get to so I really want to dive in. I am Richard Crespin and I am the CEO of CollaborateUp. We specialize in accelerating collaboration on important issues like this one and I am truly honored to serve as your moderator for today.
As moderator I will be playing traffic cop and that means I will be making sure that our panelists get to share their great information with you, but more than that I am here to make sure that you get your questions answered and your issues addressed. This is your webinar. I really want to encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity to submit questions so we can get to as many of those as possible and make that work for everybody. To that end, what I also want to do is get your voice in this discussion right now from the very beginning.
What I want to do is pose a polling question to you in the audience. So if we could bring up the first polling question please. Perfect. We want to know what is your will and your organization? Where do you fall along these different roles? Are you entrepreneur, sole proprietor, executive management, sales and business development, administration, a developer or programmer, and accessibility specialists, archiving communications, human resources, and so on? Please respond to the polling question and we will discuss the results in a minute.
And while we are waiting for you in the audience to complete the poll, I would like to introduce our panelists. Our first panelist is Zuhair Mahmoud who is an information technology specialist at the library of Congress and please join me in welcoming him. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself please?
Zuhair Mahmoud: Information Technology Specialist, Technology, The Library of Congress
Hello and good morning or good afternoon wherever you may be. I am Zuhair Mahmoud and I work at the Library of Congress and I am totally blind. I was born totally blind so I am a screen reader user and I also use other assistive technologies. My role in my organization, I have a dual role. I work in technology assessment, and that is not limited to adaptive technology, or assistive technology although assistive technology is a part of it. What we do is we evaluate new technologies and explore their use and how they can make our lives easier, both at the library internally and also to provide services to the American public.
The other role I play is I manage the adaptive technology demonstration center which is our information technology accessibility hub at the Library of Congress. Again we evaluate equipment for potential compliant services to various library departments that have ongoing IT projects. That is a quick and brief introduction.
Wonderful, thank you so much. Next I would like to bring Lucy Greco and to our conversation through Lucy is a web accessibility evangelist at the University of California Berkeley, good afternoon to you Lucy or perhaps good morning. California could watch of the audience know about you — what should the audience know about you?
Lucy Greco: Web Accessibility Evangelist , IST – Architecture, Platforms, and Integration, University of California, Berkeley
I work at UC Berkeley but I also advise the University of California systemwide and ways to become more accessible with web technologies primarily I'm a but also with technology acquisition, also technology development on all of our campuses in the UC system. My role is first of all to evaluate products for their accessibility also to train and work with developers to teach them how to become more accessible and they're working to incorporate the culture of accessibility, hence the evangelist in my title. I teach people to not only know and understand accessibility, but to believe in it and incorporate it in their daily work. Thank you.
Beautiful and thank you so much Lucy. And I would ask our panelists if you are not speaking to please mute your lines because we are getting a bit of a feedback on the lines last come but certainly not least, I want to bring in Ken. Steam was a software engineer at Google, welcome and tell us a little bit about yourself as well.
Ken Harrenstien, Software Engineer, Google
Hello there, hi everybody. Like Richard said my name is Ken Harenstein, I am speaking through a sign language interpreter, I am deaf, like Richard said I am a software engineer at Google and I have two big hats here. One, because I am deaf myself I am an advocate of accessibility for my company, and secondly, I'm also the implementer of successful or accessible technology here at Google. Most people know me for the implementation of closed captioning on YouTube. And that is it.
Wonderful Ken, that is terrific am thank you so much for another thing I want to cover again as I want to ask everybody to please do submit westerns. We will try to get to as many of your questions as possible and you can do that by Twitter, using the #peatworks on Twitter, or submit them right here using the Adobe platform, and you can also e-mail them to us if you'd like as well. So please do send in those questions and I will try to get to them as much as I can.
Today's session will be a real dialogue among our esteemed panelists and we have dispensed with them during formal presentations so we can get right into the conversation and Warren I hope you will join us in that dialogue as well. Before we do that I do want to hear from you and audience, so if we could bring up the second polling question please read the question we want to ask is do you have an accessible technology initiative in your organization question –? I forgot to look at the polling results from the last one.
Could we see the results from this poll please?
Hopefully those will come up here for us in just a second. But it looks like what we're looking at here, oh, I see, we have 24% on the line who are accessibility specialists, that makes up our biggest chunk. The next one happens to come from other, and then human resources. Whenever representatives from executive management, administration, and a few other places. We have a really nice group here. If we could go ahead and bring up the second polling question about whether or not you have an accessible technology initiative in your organization.
You can either answer yes, no, or I don't know. So while we're waiting for that let's dive into this discussion with our panelists to everyone listening knows just how critical accessibility is for the employment of people with disabilities and panelists because of experts and would talk about this all the time. The first thing I want to know is what do you tell people, especially companies and employers, about why it is so important that they make accessibility is a priority for both developing and carrying technology products and perhaps Lucy if I could turn to you first please.
Definitely. What I try to explain to people is I avoid the frequently misdone action, which is it is the law, you must do it. Because that is always a turnoff to people. I demonstrate, I am a screen reader user myself and I am totally blind, I show how an inaccessible product is a barrier and how difficult it is for an individual to use a product that is inaccessible and thenhow them how quickly and how accomplished a person who is using accessible technology can work. So, I tend to lead through demonstration and a lead through guidance, I get people on my side by showing them how hard it can be so if I have an inaccessible application I turn to people and say to them, look at this application and look how hard it is.
Inevitably I find that they say that is something very difficult for me as well, I do it this way and can you do it this way? I say no, but I say if it was better for both of us we would all be able to access it and employability for all of us is so much better. That is terrific. It is not just a question of compliance but really what you're trying to do is create an empathy based on personal experience. You show them how productivity is trapped really in a good portion of the population here, if they do not have access to these kinds of technologies, and that in fact if we use principles like universal design and others we can make things better for everybody and really create more productivity in the workplace. Exactly and it turns out to be that inevitably the problems that I have, if they are not identical to what an able-bodied individual has, it reflects the problems they have as well. I definitely focus on the universal access in the universal usability.
Wonderful, wonderful. Zuhair, at the Library of Congress what do you tell your colleagues? First of all, I would emphasize the point that you and Lucy have both mentioned. I would also always ask the business case for accessibility because in a time of scarce resources people are conscious of cost. The biggest problem that I have, or the biggest myth I hear is that we don't have a problem with disability so why should we expend so much cost such as making our systems accessible and compliant with really are not catering to that many people?
The first thing that we usually respond with or inform people with is that you are not catering to the people you already have. When you're designing an accessible system you are designing it for everyone and that would include the public, stakeholders, potential employees, you don't want to limit potential employees by having inaccessible systems. That goes straight to the business case because it is cheaper, it is a lot less expensive, to design a system as an accessible system from the start, rather than go back and retrofit it which is what the trend is here to stay but you go somewhere and you find that a system is inaccessible and according to Pressman, who wrote a pretty respectable book on project management, if you start developing a product without putting accessibility in your requirements, and then find yourself having to go back and reapply accessibility or retrofit accessibility, it is estimated to cost you six times as much. If you wait to the release, it may actually times the original cost in some instances to make your product accessible, so why not do it from the start and put it as part of your development cycle or your procurement cycle so that way, it's a done deal and you never have to worry about it.
Wonderful. So there really a solid business case for building it in from the beginning in terms of cost avoidance and to make real hard cost savings on the line. Absolutely. I do want to turn over quickly to our poll here before I give Ken a chance to respond. It looks like the majority of the folks, 66% or almost 2/3, have an accessible technology initiative in their organization where you all work. We can take the polling question down, I understand there may be an issue for polling questions blocking captioning so we do not want to keep doing that. If you would want to take that off that would be great.
So Ken, it is your turn here, what are you telling your friends and colleagues and what would you add to what has already been told to us? Okay, hi there. There are two ways to look at this issue, one is internally, what Google does for its own employees. In the second way is what Google does to include accessibility and services. I will address the second part first. Here, I don't know how many of you are aware of the Google initiative or mission statement to organize the world's information and make it accessible and useful. And you see the word accessible is right there in the mission statement.
So there you have it. And I would also like to add, this issue on universal design, I agree with what you say on universal design. I also want to throw in a slightly different perspective. Especially in this area, we have high-tech startups and in theory, yes, the cost is less if you take the time to make the product accessible from the very beginning. But in reality, many of those startups do not have the time to invest, a quick proof of concept and they get just enough money to build the product and get a little bit more money to staff, I go through that iteration process again.
Like it or not that is what we see happening. And there are a lot of Google products, for example, that at first were not as accessible as they should have been. And then they completely turned around. In the past two years we've had an enormous focus on making sure that everything that we have is, in fact, accessible. And that is wonderful. Richard, did you want want me to speak a little more about what happens inside Google as well? I do. I want to come back to two of the things that you said there. I completely get and I love the Google mission statement around organizing and making accessible the world's information. You make this point about startups, and how they sometimes do not have the time or money to do what Lucy and Zuhair are recommending from the beginning and I guess I would ask what is the implication of that and are there things that Google is doing to help those new and emerging technologies to get over that hump?
Do you mean for our own new services, or what we might do to help other companies that are not Google?
Okay. That is an interesting question. I can't speak for what we are doing for other companies companies except for that many of our services are indeed free. And I would like to think that we set up ourselves as a role model in some ways and I know that for my part, my service with YouTube captions, I believe we are a role model. And, internally I would say the main problem that I have noted is that we are growing so quickly, and sometimes it is a challenge to make sure that everyone is fully aware and informed about the need for universal design and accessibility. But here we have quite a few people, I cannot say how many exactly, what we do have quite a few people who are deaf or blind or who have other disabilities.
They all help to make their colleagues and coworkers aware that we need to remember these things. So it is getting better here all the time. That is terrific. You raise a really interesting point there in terms of how quickly Google is growing, but also this field is growing so quickly and it is such a dynamic field when it comes to these kinds of technologies. I am interested to know, particularly for our audience members here, how can they stay on top of all the different trends? I guess I would ask each of you, how do you stay on top of your own technological needs and preferences and what advice do you have for the audience on how they can do likewise? Lucy, let me come back to you, how are you saying on top of this field and on top of your own technology? It is the standard answer that most people give today, social media is where I get my information in general. I participate in a lot of the industry list serves, I participate on Twitter quite actively,
I read several blogs of people who I trust in the industry who talk about what is going on, and I attend conferences as much as I can to the ability of the campuses to go and see these conferences and attend them. It is really important to stay active and to stay involved within the community and since it is literally changing on a moment by moment basis, if you're not participating in all of these new techniques of being socially active in the community, you actually fall behind very rapidly and very quickly. In a day the world can change, Products can become accessible overnight and a product can also become inaccessible overnight, depending on the newest release and by participating in the community I can get that feedback as quickly as possible and work with developers and with people and say hey, all of a sudden you have this new plug-in, as new module that you been using a couple of weeks now that we have been problems with, if you do this to it you can actually have it work.
Beautiful. Thank you for that. Zuhair? You there at the the Library of Congress, both I guess you and Google are in the business of organizing information so how do you stay on top of this field? That is a very good question. I think some people might actually argue that we have too much information these days and that is probably true. We are overwhelmed with adverts, with memos and communications and articles about all types of topics and news. And most important, this is what I use in my strategy in us to figure out what it is I want to stay on top of.
When we apply that to adaptive technology or to the field, the field is pretty large technology, there are PC-based technologies, mac-based technologies and other operating systems. And you look at your role. Are you an HR person, are you trying to understand information from the legal side or from the technical side? I think that is a very important key in determining how you get the information and in my case, obviously I am primarily technical and I also deal with quality issues.
Those are the two areas that I focus on, but primarily since we're in the business of technology assessment, social media is, and has been, a very good source and in addition to listserv, Twitter is becoming a very useful tool or loss of information is changed almost instantly. A small example, yesterday or the day before that Apple came out with an update to the iPhone which broke something and it was amazing how quickly that news spread and so we did not update our iPhones or suffer any problems as we were able to learn about that detail from Twitter.
But lots of vendors have Twitter feeds, also vendors have Facebook page, and again the nice thing about Twitter, is that it is quite a bit more accessible and it gives you the flexibility of using a particular client that you like rather than using a website that is forced on you. There are lots of other ways, conferences, Indiscernible-audio podcasts are a growing means as well, you listen to the broadcast on your way to work, or somewhere, whether you are driving or on the Metro, which is what I do. I am not allowed to drive.
And the other thing as well, users, you would be amazed how much you learn from talking to other users who not only tell you what is going on and what is the latest happening in your field, but the techniques and know how about using things you never thought really could help accessibility to make these accessible. We all know the magnifier, the extended magnifier the people uses to make the text larger am a but I will tell you a little anecdote. There is apparently an item that people can buy called the luggage locator. You put that in your luggage and you have a remote control on when you get to your destination, wherever you are flying, as the bags start coming, you can start pressing the remote control in the system will beep once your bag is within range.
That product was never intended for blind people or people who have visual impairments, that's just a general product you can get off Amazon. But obviously, the application of that product to somebody who is blind or visually impaired is quite useful. There's a lot of information there, but I think just trying to figure out what it is you want to focus on and then social media, conferences, and communication and networking with other users. That has terrific Zuhair. Could I ask you to be more specific there. Are there particular hash tags that you would recommend that people follow or specific blogs or list serves that you think people should take a look at? You know, #a11y on Twitter is always a useful one.
Follow that hash tag and you begin to notice other hash tags with specific issues that you can follow but I would say that the Twitter hash tag is key, or #a11y is the one to follow. As far as podcasts, I am an avid listener of the serotek podcast. And even though they actually sell their own products, they have done an amazing job exchanging information about all sorts of technology, including technology that competes with theirs and so I find their podcasts and their information quite useful. If you're looking for information on mobile technology, primarily Apple-based products, then Apple.com would be the website you want to check out. Again many of the website have Twitter feeds so when you go to the website you can sign up for the Twitter feeds. With mailing lists it is tricky because it depends on how much volume you want to handle.
I actually do not use or subscribe as much to mailing lists just because of the sheer volume of e-mails we generally get. But the one list I would recommend is the NFB promotion technology list. Every few days you get announcements, they are usually announcements that are on point the talk about new products or new things. And the list goes on but those are the ones that come to mind now.
Beautiful. Thank you. And I would just to remind our panelists that please if you are not speaking to place yourselves on mute. We are still getting some feedback. And Ken this is your turn, how are you staying on top of the field and what social media or blogs or list serves or other things are you paying attention to these days?
Okay. Well I have to say first that I try not to use social media at all. I am so overwhelmed I, like Lucy said before there is so much information out there. There is really no way to try to track everything down. In my e-mail inbox, I think messages I haven't gotten to yet right now. It's hard to get through the week and find the important things. But personally, I have an excellent relationship with the national Association for the deaf. They have a new website, newsletter, and anytime something pops up that they think we should know about they do let us know. And also, with some of the technical advantages come or advances we are the ones doing it at Google.
I even have a hard time tracking everything that Google is doing. An example that I would like to give you, I worked with some people at Georgia Tech, we are developing android, I'm sorry, a google glass application – to put captions on Google Glass. So we're taking a product that we already have, and writing software so that the android phone can listen to somebody speak, have speech recognition, and send captions to Google Glass and you can see the captions overlay the person that you are looking at. There was a demonstration at this summer's conference and that was very cool.
A great example of what is happening in my company and I happened to know about it because I knew the people who were involved. As far as how other people who are not working here should keep up, let me see, I can offer offer for people who are interested in using it, the NAD, for people who are interested in
blind issues, there are three great organizations to pick from and there are other folks on the panel who can speak more to that.
Terrific. Thank you for these insights Ken. Also at Google, how do you keep your other staff and colleagues up-to-date on the latest trends?
Okay. There are several different ways that we can do that here. Every once in a while we do have tech talks were we taught everybody who comes what is going on. And we also have internal e-mail lists that are kind of general, when in doubt we can have more people. And inside Google we are very transparent internally. There are other ways that if you're serious about something, you can go look at another team's source code and get that information. And not always, but most of the time, is available to anyone who works here.
There is a book that just came out that is called How Google Works. — Is called how Google Works. I would would definitely recommend that if you want to understand how this stuff actually happened. Thank you Ken. Lucy how about you there at the University California at Berkeley, how are you keeping your colleagues and peers up-to-date on the latest trends? We have internal lists, one system wide and one at Berkeley specifically. I hold bimonthly meetings where people can come either to attend a peer review site, go through and see how somebody's site is working, learn from what that developer is doing and improve their own work by watching other people's work.
Again, I also tweet myself. so several of my colleagues follow me and I try to retweet some of the better #a11y tweets out there and I'll various seminars and trainings for people interact with it we maintain a very nice website at Berkeley — that would put as much information as we can on there and we link to some of the best information that we are aware of our on the web. It is also a growing tool so we're adding to it all the time. And we are always looking for new ways, we still think that we are not impacting nearly as many people as we would like to. It is an uphill battle to maintain communication but we are doing our best right now. Thank you for those resources. Hopefully the audience members here are hearing a number of possible resources that you can continue to go back to. We will gather those here and have them available for you so that you can also, if you were weren't writing fast enough there as Ken and Lucy were sharing their sources of information, we will try to compile those for you as well so you may have access to them. I want to turn the conversation a little bit here and come back to you.
Zuhair, accessibility is an employer responsibility that people with disabilities know their own situations best. How do you think employers and employees can best balance these different employee was possibility so what are you guys doing there at the Library?
Because a lot of times you would hear somebody saying this system is not accessible. And they are a user of assistive technology. What is happening is that there are features of screen readers that could be utilized to access the information. I think the first thing is that we try to educate people about, particularly assistive technology users, the more they know about the equipment the better off you will be regardless of what your role is. We have in the past provided employees, particularly when we had new systems rollout, we provided training on assistive technology.
Again, in order to try to bridge the gap and make sure that the systems are usable. I also I would always go back to training because when for example a company changes to a new system or have a new employee joining onboard, the reaction is to try to send them to a training class that everybody goes to and that may not always work because someone who uses assistive technology may not approach the computer in the same way as a someone — as someone would approach amounts shortcut. — Again, I think the employer can understand these things and try, to the best of their ability, provide resources and provide information in a manner that is going to make it easier for someone who uses assistive technology to access that information.
And again on the user perspective, I realize not everybody is one to be a technical whiz, and there are people who are in human resources who have disabilities and eight don't really want to learn about the ins and outs and nuts and bolts of the computer. But I think that a basic understanding and comprehension of how your assistive technology works will help you to do two things. It will help you better understand your needs because you know what the limitations that you will be running into our. And it will, I take make things a lot easier for you as you are exploring and as you are looking at your options. And again, I don't know that anybody has a magic answer for this question.
This is sort of one of those equations that are still in the process of being balanced and sometimes it goes one way and sometimes it goes the other. But I think that the thing that we can get out of this is that I think both the employer and the potential employee have a responsibility of understanding what their needs are, and being able to communicate and to find those needs. There is no magic answer that you have found him a what about you Lucy? Have you found the answer? I think primarily purchasing is going to be the key for the employer's responsibility.
They have got to hold any vendor that they use feet to the fire when it comes to that. If a vendor says we know that something isn't accessible and there is nothing we can do about it, you cannot be purchasing those products. Far to many corporations and industries are purchasing products knowing very well they are not accessible. They come up with excuses and they come up with reasons for doing it such as well, it meets a business need and we do not have anything also will meet the business needs. Maybe the business need itself will need to be addressed.
That is on the employer side of the issue. But I would definitely agree on the last point. The assistive technology user has a much bigger responsibility today than ever before. Assistive technology is hard to use, it is not simple or easy. It is something that is very complex and very intricate. Especially modern screen readers using modern web techniques and modern technology in general. It is complicated. You need to know how to use that technology and you need to recognize structures when you encounter them and you need to understand how to interact with them.
Coming across a type of control you do not recognize and saying it is inaccessible does not cut it anymore. The developers are now starting to adopt what those of us on the web accessibility world have been pushing for a long time that if the users do not know education, it is not teaching people with disabilities as well as their teaching people without disabilities to access computers. Any of the students that I see coming into Berkeley, one of the leading universities, has never used a screen reader to the utmost of its potential. They have used, to use a term of community right now, ghetto blindness products and not active mainstream products. Use the mainstream products and do not use products specific to your disability only, and learn how to use those products thoroughly and learn how to recognize the structures and how those structures work that you can encounter on a daily basis. And demand training when you can't.
Because if it is accessible in any way you should be responsible for figuring out how to use it. If it is not the employer is responsible for making it accessible or purchasing accessible products. So the employer really needs to understand and zone in on their business requirements and make sure that they are taking accessibility into account. And when they go to purchase products, but they purchase products that meet accessibility standards and needs and at the same time the user needs to take responsibility making sure they need or know how to use accessibility technology that is out there that are available to them.
Richard if I may make a quick comment? Is that Loren? I was just about to turn to you, I just want to make sure I captured what Lucy said, did I recapture what you said Lucy?
Absolutely and it is a two-way street and people have to work together.
Okay. Yes Loren, thank you for your interest in we definitely want to hear from you on this topic as well. I do want to make a quick comment, that is one of the things that PEAT is trying to help is to bridge the gap between all the audiences and to partner with all of them to sort of piece together what one of our contacts at the Oracle Corporation called the accessibility puzzle. Which Lucy did an outstanding job of illustrating that.
It is not just the technology, it is not just the screen reader or the vehicle that sort of translates the webpage, or whatever the application might be, to someone with a disability. But it is the creator of the product in the end user as well. She really put it very well and saying that everybody has the responsibility. There really is no easy answer. And you know that is why that training is going to become very important. And that is what PEAT really hopes to do which is to create that public square analogy of bringing people to the table and really exchanging sort of pros and cons of various solutions, and also just illustrating how things can be improved. We hope to open that up to have a really nice dialogue and to possibly influence these technology providers, and the end-users to both meet in the middle.
So thank you.
No. Thank you. That was great. Speaking of trying to hold that center and create the public square I do want to bring up a polling question here about accessibility champions. I would like to know how many in the audience have an accessibility champion within their organization. Answer CBS, no — the answers can be yes, no, I don't know, or not applicable.
And while we're waiting for those answers and want to keep up with this discussion on balancing responsibilities and I would like to know what advice you would recommend to our listeners panelists on how they can identify technologies, especially emerging ones I can help them be more productive at work. And Zuhair, maybe I will come to you first if you do not mind.
Sure, so how to identify technologies that could be potentially useful to you at work That is my understanding of the question. I think it depends on what you're functional role is, your approach might be different. But there are things that would be common. Again I'm a I cannot over emphasize the importance and usefulness of networking with people who have, or use the same assistive technology that you do that sort of have the same needs that you have. If you are somebody who is totally blind, you have to use screen readers. Networking with others who use the same technology is a great way to figure out how things might work for you, what new things might have come up that would help you, and sometimes it is not actually a new technology that would make the difference to you. I have seen this many times, sometimes it can be something as simple as someone telling you a keystroke in windows or in the operating system that you use or the screen reader that you use that makes all the difference.
I recall a similar issue, we were around the table, I self and a bunch of colleagues, and we were all sharing our perspectives on collaboration. And particularly how to deal with Microsoft Word documents that have comments in them. It is a tool that is used fairly often in organizations where you send a report to your boss or to your colleagues or direct report. The response would be the document with the tracking turned on and they would add. Comments in different places and make changes. This was amazing when each of us shared the techniques that were used in the keystrokes that we knew about to accomplish this, how everybody went home richer and were able to do so they were not able to do before.
I cannot overemphasize again networking and sometimes casual conversations. The other thing is look for regional conferences and regional expositions or exhibitions rather in your area that highlight assistive technology. Definitely attend webinars. Those are an emerging emerging great resource for lots of information is being shared. And I think that one key aspect of that is you also have to always be aware of what your needs are. That requires a little bit of consciousness and awareness of what it is that you are doing, what is it that is working well for you, and what is it that you are seeking help with or that you think you could do better? And that will help you much better formulate a strategy for getting that information. Then again there is always that part that you do not know that you do not know.
There is quite a bit of that. Sometimes there are new technologies that have opened up ways of doing things, it is sort of like the RadioShack commercial where he see or they say we have what you didn't think you needed. So that is where finding the information and interacting with similar people who have similar needs or in similar petitions or attending shows and interacting with vendors. Vendors are a great resource. The obvious the one to tell you something and it is fine, it is what it is. They are a great resource, they have a vested interest in you knowing. As long as you can filter the information and try to separate the functionality of a product you can always keep the head start on or what ever there is working on and seeing whether it will work for you or not.
Lucy what about you? What advice can you give on how our listeners might identify the technologies, new and emerging ones? First of all I want to emphasize what was that there about networking and talking to people who know how to use it. So many people are isolated, so many disabled people are isolated from other people with disabilities and other similar disabilities. That harms you more than anything else, reach out to others with disabilities and learn from them and experience from them and interact.
I have been lucky my entire life to have a community of people around me with multiple and different disabilities and frankly if I had not dealt with people with disabilities I never would've gotten the job I have today. It is really important to reach out and network with those people, but is also reported to network with people outside the disabled community and be able to interact interchangeably.
This group to have very strong connection within the disabled community stick not to have engagements or friends outside of that community which is critical. Sometimes a person in a wheelchair can help a blind person and sometimes a blind person can give a sighted person a piece of information they need as well. So expand your network and your community. Being an extrovert is the best thing you can do for yourself even if it is counter to your personal preference — it is really important to go out there and network with people and engage with them. Secondly, I have to say that fear of technology or fear of change is the biggest thing that will hinder you in your life getting better with new technology. For many, many years I resisted changing screen readers to what I knew was a better screen reader. I have tried it a couple of times.
I knew that it achieved things that the screen reader I was using at the time wasn't able to achieve. And I resisted the change because it was different. I had to change the way I worked, I had to engage with it slightly differently and learn different terminology for the same activity. The older that we get the harder it is to change. It is a very frightening, frightening thing to do.
Recently I just challenged myself and I said okay, I am giving up using all the old technologies I was using and I am no longer going to use Microsoft office, I am no longer going to use a protective client may just for blind people using Twitter. I went fully on the web and I change my screen reader to the screenwriter that I knew worked more effectively. And you know, there was a bunch of us in the community doing this and I think I was the only one who actually managed to make it to my last month and accomplished accomplished the goal I wanted to, and now I have switched permanently using those newer technologies and all the innovative new technologies.
The challenge yourself and do not be afraid of change. We got to get out there and network and we've got interact with people who have direct experience with these challenges and technologies. Experiment and take some risks and change when we need to. I am wondering also, we have this topic about identifying new and emerging technologies and we have gotten a question from our audience. People would like to know what are some of the other forms of assistive technology or those who cannot use audio and visual communication tools? How can these be leveraged for such gifted talend who could benfit from these assistive technologies in remote corporate environments. any one of our panelists, who would like to jump on that one? I would be happy to take that Richard, this is Zuhair from the Library of Congress.
There are indeed plenty of assistive technologies, for example things do not involve audio outputs, there is speech recognition, a lot of people think this is a technology that is helpful for the blind and visually impaired but that is not always the case. It is helpful for people who have motor disabilities. But other technologies, funnily enough, this is probably the most we disperse at the Library of Congress are adaptive ergonomic keyboards. There are different types of keyboards and mice for people who have different challenges. So whether it is something such as carpal tunnel syndrome, or something more complex, and so there are plenty of other technologies. I think one of the things this question reminds me of is I remember I was in a meeting in a project acceptability requirements and something came up that said you know what, most of these involve people who are blind here are there any other technologies or requirements for people who are deaf? They kind of got me thinking. The biggest challenge years, technology has been made visual.
And so you are trying to deal with something that is created specifically to work with something that you do not have and I think that is one of the things that presents us with the challenges and that is why you see a fair share of requirements and assistive technologies that are out there which are audio based technologies. But there are other technologies such as ergonomic keyboard, screen magnification which is very valuable tool that a lot of people use. Keep in mind that the definition of assistive technology is anything that would help you accomplish what it is you're trying to accomplish, and overcome a limitation.
So anything can be assistive technology, it doesn't necessarily have to be a screen reader or screen magnification software. Other panelists? Other ideas? Lucy and then Warren. I agree with that, I start with students assessing them and I said think about technology or you can think of everything being technology. A pencil is technology if you're using weapons on a different and unique way that you never thought of before. Many of my students would do the pencil to type if they could not manipulate a keyboard.
That becomes assistive technology right off the bat. You know assistive technologies their way into the mainstream and they become more usable. Just think of the fact that speech synthesis is now used in cars, it is used in cell phones for people who are driving, it becomes a part of our culture and we don't even realize that it started as assistive technology. I think that is a really important point. These things can become mainstream and used by all. Exactly. We all use speech dictation out even though we do not realize we are using it and that started as a form of assistive technology. The thing to realize is you have to look at what you're doing and have to try to realize a way of doing it and do not do it independently. So reach out to somebody else who has the same situation, and someone who doesn't have the same situation, engage with them and work together with them. The important thing is though if you have a disability and you want to become employable, definitely make sure that you present yourself as not having that disability, not necessarily not having a disability but present yourself as that disability is not blocking you.
For example, if you have a speech impediment and you cannot speak use some form of augmentative communication. It is very difficult for a person who is actually a beautifully, well-versed in verbal person who has a speech impediment who then does not actually speak. They become hindered in their life. So find a form of augmentative communication and use it to do not let your disability block you.
Get your assistive technology working for you and then you can become employable, and then you can become the full person that you actually are. That is a very good point raised and I know that Warren you want to get in. Spent yeah, really quick, and thank you both I agree with those sentiments here and I just want to reiterate that is deinitely PEAT's mission which is around accessibletechnology or making technology accessible to the largest possible strata or group of people. As was already integrated, different technologies in different scenarios or environments can simulate disability.
As Lucy was saying, if you are driving you are not going to want to look at your screen to watch the road. Well, you have a visual disability when it came to look at your screen. Maybe your phone talks to you. If you're in a very loud room, you may not consider yourself to be someone with a hearing disability but if you're in a loud room you may have hearing disability so you might need to have something displayed on a screen, you know something like that. And so we sort of see those synergies and where they could go in the future, and just as it was stated, technologies that were in these "in each area is" — in these " niche areas" are now in the mainstream. In audio books have been around for decades and some say this audio.com is unique and not really. People with disability seven using audio books since the 1930s or thereabouts. Our colleague at the Library of Congress could probably, exactly eared that yeah, these things, that is what I love the sea.
When technology gets into the mainstream and when companies and organizations and people realize that no, this technology is not created for this niche audience or a small subset of the population. When business and employers realize that this technology I'm either procuring or creating can benefit everyone and can also benefit the bottom line of the business. I remember at the summit locally here in Arlington Virginia in June, Senator. Tom Harkin said you can do well and also do good. What he was alluding to is that you can do the right thing and you can also make a heck of a lot money out of it in certain situations as well.
That is terrific. Thank you Loren. I do want to look at the results of our latest polling question here, we asked define the administrative applications and HR systems at work are accessible to you? If you do not have a native disability have they been made accessible? A majority of you am a 54.7% of our audience answered that question yes. With the next largest group being 20.4% and I don't know, 16% saying no. Do you think that is representative Loren or what you think about these poll results?
I think is really hard to say if it is or if it is not the goods we do not necessarily have a deep knowledge of our various audience members or where they are working or what office equipment or software they are using. But I think that the fact that things are accessible is a good sign. As Lucy was saying, people are learning how to use these different tools with modern technology. And/or the creators of the technology are setting accessibility standards. Obviously there is still a long way to go and it really depends on the systems that you are using. And what PEAT will delve into as our grant moves along is looking at the accessibility of various points of what we call the employment lifecycle.
We are currently looking into the research and policy around online job applications and how accessible they are, because of course if someone cannot even apply for a job the rest of the cycle doesn't even matter. But very soon we are going to be trying to delve into the next step which would sort of be that accessibility excuse me, HR systems, employee orientation systems, as was in the poll question. Timesheets, leave of absence type tools, like HR technologies, as well as online, I am sorry, on-the-job office equipment.
We have actually done a profile of Canon USA I'm a bear another one of our PEAT networkers and they have done a nice job of really thinking about accessibility and accessible technology. They have interwoven that into a lot of their office. And just a harken back to previous topic quickly, what is interesting is that even said in a previous webinar that we had that some of you here may have heard, that their accessible web-based app for their office equipment also helped the technicians troubleshoot because they could remotely login to a client's machine and do diagnostics. And so that was sort of a synergy of making it accessible, but this also applies to technicians, people can remotely do something, they don't necessarily have to travel to the physical device. So again, it is seeing those really interesting opportunities were accessibility really can have much more of an impact.
We're seeing accessibility having more of an impact and back-office functions like HR systems and timesheets and benefits and travel, and we are also seeing, and you pointed out there and office equipment, there is also the rise of the so-called BYOB systems or bring your own device to work and I'm interested in our panelists and how they are seeing these trends impact accessibility in the workforce. So how are using this Horizon of new accessible technology trends Ken and things like BYOD? degree turn, most of what we have been talking about so far has not been focused on deafness at all and that is what I am an expert in. I was a bit in some environments I Google.
These are already accessible to begin with, everything is online, everything, literally everything, we have no paper here. Most people do not even have a phone at their desk. Everything here is online so it is a perfect environment for someone like me. Also the device that you are talking about is not necessarily hardware. It can be biological for example. The device I'm using right now is called the sign language interpreter. And Google is extremely supportive of every deaf person who needs a sign language interpreter here and has one when they needed for as long as they need it. And I know it is not necessarily the high-tech, cool stuff but it works and it works really well. I have had interpreters that all of my previous jobs. I cannot really comment so much on BYOD, bring your own device, everyone here at Google is free to bring whatever they want.
Google may provide something in takes responsibility for sledding what they need and if someone works here and I need something they can talk to HR. And people here, they like to do the right thing I'm a sometimes they do not know the right thing is. If they don't know they cannot tell them. So there you go. As a user of accessible technology, and whether that technology is as you say biological or hardware, what has made the most difference for you? What is the most important thing that has helped you in your job? E-mail. Online chat. Those two things. They are somehow helped develop really. Before the Internet even started. Yeah. I do want to go back to something that Lucy said before, people take responsibility not only for just a minute getting what they need and also learning new things as well. And it happens that people become death later in life — become deaf later in life and one of the technologies that becomes available is called CART, remote captioning him send audio to a remote locations, just like we're doing here today actually. It is okay but frankly it is not as good as having a sign language interpreter who was there and who can see the exact expression and get the feel of the communications. And for that a person has to learn sign language and that is what I did. I did not know sign language until I was in college.
I do not know if that specifically answers your question but that was my experience. That is great. I would like to address this a little bit more, this is Lucy, sorry. You cannot let the lack of assistive technology block you from getting your work done. I have consulted with far too many people who get a new job and sit there and wait for the assistive technology to arrive, or I have seen people who have assistive technology, you know, refuse to bring it to work because it is the employer's responsibility to provide you with any assistive technology.
Frankly you have got a job to do a job. It takes time to purchase things, it takes time to set up things and do evaluations. I actually use my own software at work, not because my employer doesn't purchase it for me, they have. But I'm not willing to go through the hoops and the tricks I have to do to get it to work with the network so I use my own licensing in my own keys and get it done. My employer has bought those for me, yes. But I was able to sit down at my desk and minutes have my software installed on the computer and start working and engaging with people and start doing my job. Not necessarily having to wait literally for three weeks for a purchase order to go through and having attacked come out and install the software. It is critical to have the priority to be get your job done and the assistive technology will take care of itself.
Yes the employer is responsible for making sure that you can do your job and getting you to the technology that you need. But ultimately you cannot use that against them. You have to work with them and work together to make sure that everything is correct. I have had people who I have worked with where the department of rehabilitation bought the computer equipment and then they refused to bring that into the office because this is what they bought for me and not for the office to use.
That is completely inappropriate because the reason the department bought the equipment is so that they could do a job and not so they can have a computer at home, that is not the function of the agency. If you have something, use it. Get past the rest of it later. I think you want to get in here Ken. I sure did. I wanted to reinforce what Lucy just said about fear. One thing I have seen is that sometimes new people are afraid to ask for what they need. Because they are afraid the employer will see them as the squeaky wheel, which gets replaced instead of oiled. And again, having a network is very helpful so you know what to expect and know what is reasonable. And I used to think I'm a better member I am a deaf, I used to think that as hearing people as spiders. Let me explain what I mean by that. One day I realized they were more afraid of me than I was of them.
[ laughter ] And I realized I had to be the teacher. We all have to take that role of being a teacher, to other people, to other organizations. People who are new to this may not realize this and that is really important, we are all teachers and we have to try to do the best that we can. We are all teachers. Sometimes other people are more afraid.
I don't know if that is just true of people who are deaf and people who can hear, I think we also overestimate, or probably underestimate how fearful of others are of us wherever we are. I do want to make a turn here in the conversation and we are approaching the top of our time together and I wanted to look at some of the more practical things that employers and organizations can do to take action.
To that end I would like to bring up our last poll in question about the role of accessibility champions in your organization. We love to know if you have accessibility champion in the organization. You may respond yes, no, I don't know. And I think that many of the people in our audience are at various points or fewer there employer on accessible technology and I would like to know from you experts what advice would you give them to help encourage the to start and accessible technology initiative or further develop an existing one. Let me come first to you Warren, what would you recommend?
Richard, could you repeat the first part of your question question I'm sorry, I got distracted for a second. Scott sure. What advice would you give to help. The audience to encourage their employer to start and accessible technology initiative or to further develop one?
Yes. I think really as was already alluded to, be your own self advocate. As the other panelists have said, know what you need, learn what you need, and ask for it in a reasonable way. As Lucy was saying, if you already have something that works, bring it to the office if you need to until those accommodations are met, if that is what it is. I think employers, to help foster that collaborative spirit, make yourself friendly to people with disabilities. Mentioned disability in your diversity statements, not three or four levels deep on your website, where it is very visible and very noticeable. Because talented, qualified people with disabilities care about that stuff and they will look for that. They will look at your track record and they will ask other friends that have experience perhaps what is it like to work there?
ou know social media has created an almost instant venue for that type of thing, learning the good, the bad, and the ugly if you will on different organizations to make yourself friendly and open. I remember years ago, I got a job offer right out of college from a consulting firm that will remain nameless, and I got the offer but one of the first things they told me was oh, now we need to bring in our attorneys to make sure that we do everything by the book and that we get you what you need and everything. I mean that was fine, but the job but ultimately took was a very large software company, all they said was what ever you need we will get it for you. Now I worked there many years and I know they have quite the legal department.
And I'm sure they did the exact same thing but it was the culture, it was the way that the messaging was conveyed to me, that really made a difference. It was really more like they hired on the ability of the person, knowing what they're capable of, and not looking at the opposite end of that mirror if you will. So I think the open, be willing to learn, promote disability is another dimension of your diversity program, go to conferences such as things like the business leadership network conference, and others. Get the word out on your organization.
And then just learn. Visit sites like our upcoming peatworks.org to learn more good I will stop there and I'll let the rest of the panelists weigh in. That is a terrific. What why heard was when he to be opened, be focused on the tone and be willing to network with each other and have willingness to learn and that is really on both sides, the employer and the employee.
Lucy we have only a few minutes, your top two or three recommendations, what advice would you give to. It is help them encourage their employer to start and accessible technology initiative? Sorry about that. I would give them the advice that you should try. And if you do not succeed that is okay because you select experience and try again. Having with people with a disability not only increases your diversity, but it increases your experience and your knowledge base and makes you a rounder and fuller company.
It is really important to at least try, you not think something is impossible just because you're building does not have her bring up to get in. Well, give that was in the ability to work from home and so you can accommodate that. There is always a way around if you do not touch if you want to think about it but do not let a barrier or roadblock be the reason you do not hire person with a disability. Think of a diversity initiative as a way to teacher employees and have all of your employees be the fullest and richest people they can be. They can all contribute more to your organization if they have the experience of interacting with not only with people with disabilities but people with different cultures and with people from around the world. Diversity is important because it makes us fuller, rounder people.
Beautiful. Then we need to to be able and willing to try and try again and stay focused on the business case of unlocking the productivity of everyone in our workforce and the real value that diversity brings. And really quickly, your number one recommendation/number one piece of advice?
I think the most important thing is the awareness inside the organization. As I said before, many organizations do not really think they have that much of an obligation to people with disabilities. They just don't have any or they have very few employees. The awareness piece is very important, create awareness in the organization. Not only about the needs of people with disabilities but also the contributions of people with disabilities can offer. And always there is the question of can somebody do this or not, turn it into how can somebody do this? I think that will probably lead to a much better way of creating an accessibility initiative in coming up with real solutions for it.
That is beautiful. Push the awareness and move into the question of how versus if. Ken, the last word goes to you, I need it very quickly, number one recommendation.
Okay. There's no number one choice. The answer is all of the above. I completely agree, push the business case for diversity, I think we have to have, we have not had a diversity department here at Google but really we need to raise awareness and continue to challenge. Try everything that you can. The last thing is Weston Churchill famously said never, never, never give up. I love it. Never, never, never give up.
That is a great note to end our conversation on the unbelievably leveraged that time where we need to wrap up our webinar, this is been a credible discussion and users out there you have heard a lot, I hope you can take some things away from this and start using them. Today we have had time to cover just a small part of this topic so these stick with PEAT and without along the way. An archived version of this webcast will be available on peatworks.org in the very near future. Going forward PEAT will also have great information and resources to help employers and employees and users, please stay tuned to PEAT for more webinars coming up in the big launch in October.
Thank you so much to our incredible panelists, you have been amazing and we appreciate your time out of your valuable schedules to share your knowledge with our network. And, finally, thanks you in our audience for joining us. We hope you enjoyed it. Until next time, I remain Richard Crispin, thanks so very much.