Good day ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Virtual Communication: Implications for Employers teleconference. At this time all participants are in a listen only mode. Later we will conduct a question and answer session, and instructions will follow at that time. If anyone should require assistance, please press star and then zero on your touchtone telephone. As a reminder, this conference is being recorded. I would now like to turn the call over to your host, Janet Peters.
Hello everyone. Welcome to the ADA Audio Conference Series. My name is Janet Peters, and I am the Project Coordinator of Accessible Technology at the Great Lakes ADA Center. I am serving as the moderator for today''s session. This program is a collaboration of the National Network of Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers, also known as DBTAC Regional ADA Centers. The ADA audio conference is offered monthly and covers a variety of topics related to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Today''s session, as the moderator said, are as the telephone host said, is Virtual Communication: Implication for Employers. And we are privileged to have our speaker, Anthony Tusler, joining us. Anthony is a writer, consultant, trainer, and advocate on disability issues. He has written curricula for the World Institute on Disability, and taught Disability in America at Sonoma State University. He is the author of the book How to Create Disability Access to Technology. His website, aboutdisability.com, is the home for the new paradigm of disability bibliography. He also writes and lectures about disability arts and culture. Today''s session is being recorded, and at the end of the session we will have an opportunity to talk with Anthony and ask him questions. The Operator will provide instructions when we are ready to take those questions. If for some reason your question does not get addressed today, we encourage you to follow up by calling toll free to your regional ADA center. That number is 1-800-949-4232. There will be a transcript and recording and today''s presentation available at our website at www.ada-audio.org. And with that, I think we will get started and I will turn it over to Anthony.
Great, thank you very much Janet. This is really a pleasure for me to be able to talk to people about employment issues for people with disabilities; particularly when it comes to the virtual world, and virtual communications. I think so often that we tend to get so lost in the minutiae of what we are doing, that sometimes we forget to take a step backward and really take a look at the broader picture. We had a fascinating conversation as we were waiting for this to start, talking about accessible technology, particularly on webcasts and what became, I was reminded of as we were talking about this, is that so often, and this is something we need to remember, is so often technology is moving so quickly that the cycles of coming up with new software, new hardware, those cycles are moving so quickly that accessibility features tend to lag behind. So we are always having to deal with a certain amount of frustration that the newest, latest, and greatest doesn''t have all the accessibility that we would like. And in doing that, I think also in stepping back a little bit, we have to realize... what I am reminded of, I don''t know about you guys, but for me and this comes when I start teaching my father, my 88-year old father, how to use his computer is that we are really in the beginning of having electronic and information technology work for us in really easy kinds of ways. He cannot go and get his email in the same way that he can turn on the television. It is an analogy that doesn''t completely work, but we just need to remember that this is all evolving quickly and to have a little patience, and both with ourselves, the technology, and the people we are working with. So what are we talking about really here? What we are talking about is if you are an employer, if you are a supervisor, if you are in the HR department, or an employee and you are working with people with disabilities, are you making sure that everything - all ways of communicating that employees have, well that employers have, is accessible to your employees? So that means are you saying to an employee either directly or indirectly, oh for your benefits information just go to our website and in the HR department there is a link to our benefits. That link may or may not be accessible, your website may or may not be accessible, and the information they get to may or may not be accessible. When I am saying accessible I am meaning everything from JAWS, which is a screen reader for people who are blind primarily, through people who have a learning disability and who are going to get lost in too much information on a page. So we are talking about a lot of different things in this one instance. So when you say to the employee, go to our webpage, go to the HR site, click on the link - it needs to be accessible to JAWS, it needs to be easily found by that person with learning disabilities, it needs to not have a colored link, it is not translated in another way for somebody who is color blind. There is a lot of issues here. And I want to raise this kind of this spector of how much problems there are just to kind of outline what we are dealing with here. And it is not just finding the benefits. These days there are all kinds of ways to communicate. When I first started using computers in the work place, it was primarily just a fancy world processor. Eventually email came online and at this point, we are talking about instant messaging, we are talking about Twitter, we are talking Skype which is the voice over internet protocol - it is one of the voice over internet protocols which has a lot of web based features to it. There is a lot of different things that we are dealing with that have a various levels of accessibility. So one of the truisms I think that we can say today is, that the longer something has been around, this isn''t always true but pretty much true, the longer something has been around the more likely it is to be accessible. If you look at word processing, if you look at Microsoft Office products, we are talking about the basics - Word, Excel, PowerPoint, those have pretty good accessibility built into them. Whether or not Twitter has good accessibility built into it, I actually don''t know. And my guess is that it probably isn''t too bad but it probably isn''t great. So right there is one of the things, the caveats, that I wanted to give you too is we are not going to be dealing a lot with the nuts and bolts. I am not a person who can look at the code on a website and say, oh yeah, this is accessible code or this isn''t accessible code. What I can talk to you about is the broader pictures we have been talking about. One of the things that you need to worry about as somebody who works in a large organization, is worry about accessibility and more importantly, and this is really where we will be spending more time, how do you deal with those issues? How do you deal with the individuals, how do you deal with the organization? How do you deal with your own ability to find and implement information? So with that in mind, what I am, what I am always painfully aware of, and when we are talking about employees, is all of us, I think most all of us, 99 percent, really want to make it possible for employees to do the best job possible. That is a given. We want to provide them with the support, the training, the feedback, that are going to make them effective within the organization; that they are working towards the goals of the organization, that they are contributing, and in that, it then becomes very complicated on how to implement that with any employee. But when you add on another layer of accessibility it is something you need to think about. So do your employees have the tools to do their jobs? And this is going to take looking at the tools that people use, and it is sometimes difficult in a, in a work setting to recognize all of the tools. Sometimes we forget that the telephone is a tool. Sometimes we forget that the time clock is a tool. To do an inventory of the tools that people are using, sometimes takes some real thinking and takes a couple of bodies looking at it. So do your employees, the people you work with, do employees have the information they need? If they don''t have the information on how to get access, it is going to be difficult for them to be able to use the tool effectively. So even though, and this is where we are having this discussion just before this thing started was that we were talking about some software that had accessibility built in, but it hadn''t been documented. And if it hasn''t been documented, then nobody is going to know how to use it and that happens all too often. So making sure that the tools that employees use have accessibility and that the employees know how to get that. So in thinking about this, I think communication, there is tools and I am thinking some of the basics, whether it is a customer relations software, whether it is using software that is in the cloud, that is on the internet. Or whether it is just using word processing. Those are basic tools. There is also, and these are also tools, but I think a whole arena that is really important for us to think about, and that is communication. All of the formal and informal ways that people communicate with each other in the work place, are important for us to think about. So, looking at everything from around the water fountain, those are the informal ways that people communicate with each other, through the more formal ways whether that is instant messaging, and sometimes these are ones that are approved by the business and sometimes not. So that is decisions that your HR department''s going to have to decide on - how do you deal with those, they are running kind of under the radar. And then there is the more formal ones such as email. And then also all of this holds true also for outside the organization. Do your employees have the ability to talk with customers, to talk with people that have information that your employees need? All of the kinds of communication right now that... there is you out there listening to this, can come up with lots and lots and lots of communication that your employees, the people you work with, are doing on a day to day basis. And it may take a little thinking to do that, but that thinking is well worthwhile and I think, and this is true, here is another truism and that is that the more you work on accessibility, the more you make things usable for people with disabilities, the better off everyone is going to be because the more usable they are for people with disabilities, the more usable they are for everyone. Okay now let''s talk about some of the nuts and bolts, actually no let''s not. Let''s talk about the Americans with Disabilities Act. Most all businesses in the United States these days have a requirement to provide accessibility for their employees, Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Title I in particular, I am assuming that most of you know this stuff, but let me just say it so it is out in the open. Title I at this point, particularly with recent federal legislation, is very much in flux. The goals that we had in getting the ADA passed, the employment goals back in 1990, were limited particularly by Supreme Court decisions much to our surprise, and I am hoping that the pendulum is swinging back to supporting employees with disabilities and their need for accommodations. And I am hoping that this current administration and the current Congress is going to be supporting us in that, but that is something you are going to have to monitor and find ways to monitor, because we don''t have any. Under Title III, there has been some recent decisions such as the decision about the need for Target, for their website to be accessible to their customers. But that is customers, that is not talking about employees, so we don''t have that same kind of bright line yet for employees. So this is to say keep an eye out there but know the spirit of the law, the spirit of the ADA is to support accessibility for employees with disabilities. And this is to go back even further to what I was just saying is that this goes back to your obligation to employees to give them the tools that they need to effectively do the job, which is going to lead to the bottom line for your organization. Whether that is to create profit for the profit world, or towards your mission for the mission-based organizations. It all leads to that bottom line and it all is integrated. So I think that there is an obligation out there, whether it is legal or not. Okay let''s get a little more specific now. I just want to run through real kind of quickly some of the things, as I was thinking about. What are we talking about when we are talking about what do we need to have accessible in terms of communication? And I had mentioned a bunch of these, the regular basic landline. One of the things, one of the earliest accommodations I saw was a device to be able to show people who are blind and couldn''t see the blinking button on a one of those old Ma Bell telephones, that that button was lit, there is a device to tell blind people that that was happening. And so some of those basics on through to voice over internet protocol, VOIP, things like Skype, others that are in organizations that have lots and lots of bells and whistles. Are those accessible to the people who are using them? And this is some part of the decisions you need to make. It is important to think about overall accessibility, but you also need to look at what the individual, what the employee with the disability specifically needs. And sometimes being creative there is really going to be your best bet. So the way I look at it is a balance between having overall policy and an overall perspective in the organization, that accessibility is important, and everything that happens within the organization has a component that looks at accessibility, at the same time really looking at what the individual needs because if the individual isn''t getting what they need, then all the policies in the world isn''t going to make a huge difference. So, there is more and more handheld devices that people are using, and I mean I wrote down PDA''s because I am still using an old Palm, but if you look around at the Smart phones and how quickly that is evolving, it is pretty amazing. And looking at the accessibility in that for the individual is going to be a... it is going to take some work. So also laptops, Smart phones, and I even look at things like copy machines; it is a way of communicating. If you have got a wheelchair user and that person can''t reach the copy machine, and they don''t have another way to get copies, in some ways you are limiting their ability to communicate. Software is another way to look at things. We talked about that; word processing, planning, spreadsheets, email, customer relations, more and more processes are coming to the software. All other things that are on the web is another area. Information, forms, email, IM, Twitter, Wikis, all of those are being used in businesses and you need to look at whether they are accessible or not. Software is interesting, one of the things that I am very pleased about is to see the growth in what are called SAAS, Software as a Service, that is on the web because typically those become, use general protocols that make them much more accessible, rather than proprietary software that is running on an individual machine. 5 or 6 years ago one of the problems was if a company had something that they used to track their customers, and it was a piece of software that was developed by someone and resided on an individual machine, a lot of times there hadn''t been a lot of attention paid to accessibility. Now with the software in the, being much more standardized, accessibility is being brought in much quicker, and so I think that is really a positive trend. Of course it is still going to lag a little bit behind as they bring in new stuff, but the trend is toward making things more accessible. And I think, looking at our local university when they brought in a very large integrated database with both student records as well as all the financial and planning of the university, a lot of attention had been paid to accessibility before it was brought into the university because it was something that was a somewhat standardized program. So the individual tweaks that were done for the institution in general didn''t break that accessibility. So I think that the trend is toward things getting better in that sense. And then as I was talking about, just around the office the communication, whether that is memos, handouts, the pink while you were out forms, reports, calendars, all of those kinds of things you need to look at. Are those tools available to people? Calendaring is becoming much more residing electronically. It is providing a great deal of power to people to be able to set up meetings, to be able to access resources, but does that power also rest in the hands of the people with disabilities? That is something that you have to look at. So, I hope that makes some sense. Those are the general spheres, and the reason I am talking about this is so you get a sense of, ways of thinking about it. I am not, I don''t expect today to bring anything brand new to the table that you haven''t heard at least once or twice. What I am hoping to bring is a way for you to think about these things, for you to be able to prioritize what is important, for you to be able to look at your job settings and look at the individual, an employee with a disability, or an applicant with a disability, and be able to feel comfortable with that person is as a level, excuse me, that that person has a level playing field with employees or applicants who don''t have disabilities; that this person with a disability has the ability to use their skills, use their talent, to be able to contribute toward the organization. So it is ways of thinking about that. And I think so often it is easy for us to get caught up in check lists, and what do the standards say, and forget to look at the bigger picture, and keep the individual forefront, fore grounded as they say sometimes. Okay, so the spheres are kind of the bits and pieces the tools. So some of the questions that have come up, that have been posted at DBTAC is and some of the things that you need to look at is how do I post a job, is Monster.com accessible, is Job Builder, is Craigslist, and so these are the kinds of things and places that you need to look at. And actually as long as we are here, I want to talk a bit about Accessibility Champion. I am making a quick note to myself. So I think this is really a good place to start, and that is, am I getting the word out to everyone I need to get the word out to? I think sometimes we limit ourselves in spreading the word about jobs that we have, and finding the best pool of applicants. And at that first level, that first of using the tools that are available, let''s use Craigslist as an example. I am assuming everybody knows what Craigslist is. That Craigslist has a broad reach that you get the word out on Craigslist, that you need to look at whether Craigslist is accessible or not. But then you also need to look at our people with disabilities going to Craigslist and looking at jobs? And I think that that, depending on where you are in the organization, whether you are doing this hire directly, whether you are working in HR department, is to go beyond just is Craigslist accessible? You also need to go, am I getting the word out to the people that are potential employees? And I have to say the last job that I was hired for, and actually it was the World Institute on Disability, it had been put out on Craigslist. I hadn''t been particularly looking for a job because I had been consulting, and still consulting. The reason I found out about the job was that I went to a Halloween party for a lot of people with disabilities, I went as Jon Voight in Coming Home and my wife went as Jane Fonda, was both in Coming Home. I went to that party and I ran into a friend of mine and she said, do you know we have a job opening, are you interested? And as she told me about the job I said yes, I am interested. And I applied and I got that job. And so sometimes we also forget that it is that one to one contact, it is LinkedIn and I discovered, at least with the crowd that I run with in the disabilities studies community, Facebook is becoming an effective communication tool. And in preparation for this talk, I went into LinkedIn and tried to find information about whether or not it was accessible, and I was not able to find out any information. That was with about a half hour''s worth of work. So this is a real life example of how difficult sometimes it is to find out if these channels, which are important channels, are accessible. So this is why I said, I made a note that I wanted to talk about Accessibility Champions. It is a term, it is a job description that actually I don''t know anybody who has that exact title of Accessibility Champion, but it is a way to describe an individual in an organization whose primary responsibility, who has a primary responsibility for making sure what the organization does is accessible to people with disabilities. Sometimes in large organizations, that might be the person who is assigned for the ADA responsibilities, sometimes that is in the Affirmative Action Office, sometimes it is in the HR office, sometimes it is given to the services for employees and students with disabilities in the university. But just most large organizations now have an Accessibility Champion, and that person whether they have formally been given the responsibilities, or informally taking them on, it is a person that is really going to be helpful to you when you are looking for accessibility. So what I did with LinkedIn was I went to their Help screen, typed in all of the words, okay I have a digression on a digression. Search terms - I will get back to search terms, so I don''t digress too much. So we are talking about Accessibility Champions. So what I did on LinkedIn was I used every term I could think of; accessibility, access, disability, blind, I don''t think I put in wheelchair although I would do that, and I might even put in handicapped. And I didn''t come up with anything in their Help that had any information about accessibility. And so what I did is I wrote a note to their Help people. If you go through enough screens you finally get to a place where you can send a note to Help, asking them if they had any accessibility information. That was 2 days ago and they haven''t yet responded. So I think it is a real good example of how we really have to anticipate where if I had been thinking far enough ahead, I would have started that process 2 weeks ago so I could tell you today what happened, and where it led. So what instead I have is, if you give yourself 48 hours you are not necessarily going to be able to have the information that you need. So this is talking about how do you reach various channels? This is posting a job, just the beginning. And even before posting the job, writing the job description, and making sure this is a good place where you can pay attention to the tools that people need, and then look to see how accessible they are. So another question is, can I use PDF? And I will tell you what I do with the material that I have. Many people are blind who use JAWS, the screen reader, or people who have difficulty in manipulating with dexterity, who use tab and arrow down and those kinds of things rather than a mouse. Most people can use a PDF and Adobe, who suddenly got stuck with making this product that they had developed on a whim really, they suddenly found it was their responsibility, that they had to make PDF accessible for them to be able to continue to be in the market in the ways that they wanted to be; which is a good example of how federal legislation works. Without that federal legislation Adobe might, which is Section 508, Adobe might not have made PDF as accessible as they are today. So generally I use PDF, but I also, in things that are really important, and I would say posting a job is really important, I put up a plain text version because some people who are blind like plain text. That is what they are used to, and that is the easiest for them to handle. In doing that, they don''t necessarily get chapter headings, they don''t get some of the accessibility features that are built into PDFs, but they don''t necessarily need them. So one of the keys to accessibility is provide multiple ways to do something. So here is one way to do it. Provide PDFs and provide plain text. And this is just an example. You are going to need to look at it in other areas as well, and not just in providing information, but when you are looking at how to access a website is there a couple of ways to do it? I have found that I have been using more and more web based email program that my ISP, my internet service provider has, and that log in screen, I was getting tired of having to move from the keyboard to the mouse and I crossed my fingers and I said I hope they have tabs implemented on this website in a way that is going to be helpful to me. And I found out they did, so that meant that I don''t have to lift my hand from the keyboard when I log in. I can tab through, type in my password, type in my username, hit return, and I can go to my email. That is an example of 2 ways of being able to access the information; both through tabs as well as using a mouse. That is another important way to look at this. So back to the accessibility, no sorry. Let''s go to the question, continue with the question. One of the questions was should I examine my company''s inter and intra office communications for accessibility? And I would say absolutely. I mean, that is one of the key information within an organization for employees, is part of the tools that employees use to get their job done. And I am sure that all of us have worked in organizations where there has been somebody who is less than helpful, less than friendly, and for whatever reason is using their access information to garner power. So they give out information in ways that really don''t help everyone. I am thinking back to when I first started at Sonoma State, and there is somebody in one of the offices who did this all the time. I would ask a direct question and I would get a little bit of the answer, I wouldn''t get the full answer and I had to keep going back there again and again. So that is a good example of how, how important information is for us to be able to do our jobs, for employees to be able to do their jobs. And so I use that just to remind us, all of us who have been in situations and seen how painful that is, and how hard it made us for us to do our jobs, to be able to give us some motivation, impetus, whatever, to look at the inter and intra office communication. Women were finding this out when they started coming into the work force and trying to break through the glass ceiling. You know, where are the decisions made? Are they made, are many decisions made in the men''s bathroom? I believe a lot of them still are. After a meeting, bunch of guys go into the bathroom, conversation ensues and a couple of quick decisions are made. And people who are not using that bathroom are left out of that decision making. And so it is really important to find all ways to be able to make communication flow easily. Another question that came up which hadn''t even occurred to me when we started talking about me doing this today was, what happens when employees telecommute? It is a double edge sword in some ways. It depends on the software that the employee has to use to be able to access their information. What I have found is as somebody who has worked from a home office for 9 years, and I have both telecommuted to a job, I have also done my own consulting. First of all, without the internet none of this would be or computers, none of this would be possible for me. For me to be able to type and print my own letters. I am 61, when I started working my typing skills were okay but they weren''t great. I had a secretary back in the late 70''s who would type my letters for me. And it is hard for me to even believe that that world ever existed, but it did and as word processing came into the work place those jobs, those secretary jobs really changed. And for some people, really provided a career path that was wonderful, but I think a lot of people ended up, a lot of those jobs disappeared too. And so an entryway for a lot of people who came in as secretaries and worked their way up the organization, disappeared as well. But that is a different subject. Often times in telecommuting, so there is this rich environment that can make accessibility very easy. That is a promise that technology, the internet holds for people with disabilities. Most people at home, their set up, their computer''s set up, their phone, their fax, whatever kinds of technology they use, they have made accessible for themselves. I know for myself, I have pretty descent access here. I am a wheelchair user and I am an aging wheelchair user, so I have to make sure that I have a good ergonomic set up. And so I do, I have paid enough attention and certainly been through enough evaluations by HR people to really pay attention to the ergonomics in my work setting. So for me to telecommute, it is actually a better work environment than it is when I would go into a job. So that is the upside. The downside is, are the tools your employee needs to use, the people you work with, are employees, are the tools the employees need to use, are they accessible? If the company has an internet, is that accessible from home? Can a person get to it? And that is the basics. And the person getting to it, is it accessible with accessibility tools and features that the employee uses? And that is going to take a fair amount of discussion. I think with any telecommuting set up it is always best if the supervisor, and sometimes HR as well, has a pretty good discussion about what is going to happen at the telecommuting site? How is it going to work? How is the supervisor going to be comfortable in knowing that the job is getting done? And my little bit of editorializing is I think if done right, it forces supervisors to start supervising employees for their, for what they produce rather than whether they are looking at the computer screen all day long. What the employee produces is really, I think, the better way to supervise rather than is that employee''s butt in that seat all day? Okay, end of editorial. So telecommuting is, as I said, a double edged sword. I talked about at the beginning can my employees find information on benefits and HR information, and that is, I think we have talked enough about these kinds of things, but those are essential kinds of things. As you prioritize things, do employees have those things that are absolutely key to them doing their job?
This is Janet the moderator. I don''t want to interrupt and I want to keep the flow going, I just wanted to take one minute here though, we are getting a little bit of static feedback from your line, and I want to acknowledge to the participants we are working on that. And then could you speak a little bit louder? Some of the participants are having a difficult time with their audio. So if I could just have you bump up the volume a little bit and then.
Okay, how is that?
Yep that is better, yep. Just keep it a little louder and we will start again. Thanks.
And I think some of the static is coming from my end, and I don''t know where it is coming from.
Okay well we will try to work on that.
Okay, that would be great.
Okay thank you. Okay so the other question I had is what about the ADA? And right now the ADA is not that big a club in terms of making employment accessible around these issues, although certainly that has being pinned as a loss, and if you are one of those people, if you are the Accessibility Champion, if you are the person inside the organization and I am assuming that most of you are; you can still use the ADA as a way to argue for accessibility for your employees. Let''s move into actions and best practices. One of the things that I think people fall short on is to come up with a policy and not seek the advice of those directly affected. That is always, actually that is where I always start when I start talking accessibility. What does the individual need? How well is the individual able to express what it is that they need? And one of the things that I, it took me a long time to learn was that the person with the disability doesn''t always know all of the best ways to get accessibility. I am reminded of this story of a colleague of mine, Paul Longmore San Francisco State, he was hired into a faculty into a tenure track position and when he came on campus, their Accessibility Champion, it was somebody in the Affirmative Action Office, in walking through his job and helping him to figure out the access he needed, found a way to electronically unlock his office and open the door. Paul, because he can''t use his arms, had never before been able to independently open his own office, unlock it, and open that door. It took somebody else from outside looking in to say, this is what you need, this is what we can provide you. Most people with disabilities have gone through their lives, at least that is how I have done it, is figuring out how to do it as quickly and as easily as I can get accessibility, and then really not to think about it again until something gets in my way. So this is a wonderful opportunity when an employee comes into an organization or needs accessibility, to be able to help that person be more effective. I have talked about Accessibility Champions, I think it is essential to have an Accessibility Champion within an organization. It may be somebody who does this informally, that is not the best way. The best way is to have it formal, and whether that is a person who has a designated ADA coordinator, or whether it is somebody in HR as I said, but you need to have someone, organizations need to have someone who really is a conduit for information, the person who is paying attention, the person who is worrying about is everyone getting the accessibility they need? As much as I would like to say it would be wonderful for an organization to build accessibility throughout the organization, and there wouldn''t be a need for an Accessibility Champion, we are just not there yet. Really in talking about accessibility, we are talking about really this is new, this is new stuff. We started looking at providing broad accessibility to people with disabilities in the early 1970''s, 35 years ago. That is not long in terms of the history of how things are doing, that is not long at all. And that is part of the reason that you and I are struggling with some of these issues, is that even just our basic ways of thinking about who requires accessibility and how do we provide it, sometimes is difficult for us. So figure out a way, if you are the Accessibility Champion, figure out a way to get some kind of official recognition for that, for the work that you are doing, and if there isn''t someone in the organization, figure out a way to make sure that an Accessibility Champion is designated. The next thing that I want to say in terms of a best practice, and this is one that I think there, in terms, talk about this 35 years, I don''t think our thinking has gotten here, but I think it is important, and that is we need to value disability. And what I mean by that is we need to create a level, we need to provide a level playing field for people with disabilities, but we also, I think it is very wise to look at the skills that people with disabilities bring to the work place. Those of us with disabilities have, excuse me a second. People with disabilities have found very ingenious ways to be able to get through the world. People with disabilities have found ways to be successful even though many people look at us as being less than. These are skills, these are ways of being in the world that I think could be, if utilized well, can be used within the organization really powerfully. But the reason I hesitated was that, I was looking for a quote that is from the playwright Neil Marcus. He says that disability is not a brave struggle, or courage in the face of adversity. Disability is an art. It is an ingenious way to live. And I think if we look at our employees with disabilities, that they have been living ingeniously. I think those are skills that we can leverage within the organization to help that person be successful, and contribute to the organization. So I think valuing disability, valuing the experience of people with disabilities had, is important. Another thing, another best practice is to survey the company. I know in the county I live in they have decided that it is time to redo their ADA self study, because a lot has changed since 1992 when they did their last one. And so any way that you can find to survey your company, your organization, to look at how accessible things are on a broad level, I think is valuable. After doing that, develop a plan. Figure out what is important, prioritize things. Going back to this ADA self study in our county, they can''t do everything that they want to do so they are prioritizing things and they are prioritizing things, and this is what I am very proud of is that they are making sure that their social services are accessible because a lot of people use public assistance, people with disabilities. But they are also looking at the responsibilities that everyone has as citizens to discharge their responsibilities, sitting on a jury, voting, those kinds of things. So I think that it is really important to look at, develop a plan and develop the priorities. And here is the next one is put policies in place. This I think, is it is not particularly easy, it depends on the culture of your organization. Sometimes the most powerful policies are those that are informal. In general I would recommend though that you make your policies as explicit as possible, so that they have some possibility of longevity. One experience I had in instituting policies, we had a number of explicit policies and I thought we were in good shape, and with a change in the leadership of the organization a lot of those policies became, they lost their power and lost their meaning. And so sometimes, and often times, it is support at the top of the organization that makes a difference in terms of accessibility. The threat of a lawsuit for Americans with Disabilities Act can get someone''s attention, but there has to be a desire on the inside of the organization to do things right and to make things accessible. Actually I have found the fastest and best way to make change, and I documented this with the AOL - America Online, was that they had an internal Accessibility Champion when the National Federation of the Blind sued them for lack of access. The NFB didn''t know that this internal champion was working, and as it turns out the champion was not getting heard at the top levels of the organization until the lawsuit happened. Once the lawsuits happen, everybody starts paying attention and suddenly the people in the company started listening to the Accessibility Champion and really making positive changes so the AOL became much, much more accessible. So what I am saying is, there is formal policies and there is informal policies, and certainly you need to look at who has the power and how is that power used with the organization? Review your plan and policies on a regular basis. If there is some way that you can have a yearly review, that is good. One other thing, and I haven''t mentioned this at all yet, and I am hoping that you are all familiar with it, is the importance of using concepts of universal design. The idea of universal design is that you can make things much more accessible, much more usable than they generally are so that maybe not everybody with disabilities has access, but the vast majority do. This idea came out of looking at how are curb cuts, we used to call them curb cuts now we call them curb ramps, and that is that concrete ramp that goes from the sidewalk to the street. How are curb ramps used? Originally they were put in place for people who use wheelchairs to be able to get up and down, to get from the street to the sidewalk. As it turns out, curb ramps are useful for a whole lot of people whether it is parents pushing a baby stroller, whether it is delivery people with a wheeled cart. I believe, actually I firmly believe that the popularity of rolling suitcases, the suitcases that you see in all the airports with those little wheels on them. The popularity of those wouldn''t be nearly as big if it hadn''t been for the Americans with Disabilities Act and all of the curb ramps that were put in places. If people had to be lifting those suitcases up and down curbs and up and down stairs, they would probably just stick with the old way. Anyway, so the idea of universal design is to as much as possible make everything accessible. And this takes some creativity, and there is some resources that I put, there is an outline that is, it is on the web where you went to probably to register for this presentation, and I put a link to the universal, for universal design, the Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University, and that is really the home of it. If you haven''t looked at universal design, it is a wonderful way of looking at both the built environment as well as the computer human interface, and always of communication. One of the things that has turned out to be a universal design, we didn''t expect it, was closed captioning on television. We were just talking before this started, I didn''t realize, I knew that the primary use of closed captioning was in bars and restaurants. But I didn''t know the second most popular use was by non-English speaking people, to be able to access information on television; and then third was hard of hearing. So closed captioning, which was originally developed for the deaf, are used by a whole lot of other people. So it becomes a universal design feature. Finally, and this is in some ways a no brainer, but I think we forget a lot of times is, this is under best practices, is to have a central telephone number or email that people can use if they are having accessibility issues. So to go back to my experience with LinkedIn, where there is no way I could find the access information about whether they were accessible or not. There was no way to reach the person, I assume they have an Accessibility Champion, there was no way for me to reach that person. There was no way for me to know, to be able to tell you today, how accessible their site is from their own perspective. And so I think for all of us it is really important to put somewhere on the home page ideally, for accessible problems or questions call this number or send an email to this address. I think that makes things a lot easier and solves a lot of problems up front. I think there is going to be a reluctance sometimes. I know particularly, I remember when I was doing research for the book that I wrote, I was trying to reach people in large companies like SAP to find out who their Accessibility Champion was. From their home page there was no way to tell. I had to do a lot of web research and kind of go in the back door to be able to find the person who was actually doing some wonderful work. So I think there is a reluctance to be able to put something, a direct link, but I think you are going to solve a lot of problems up front if you can deal with people''s access needs in the very beginning, than much further down the line when the person''s more frustrated and having more and more problems. So that link, or some way to reach somebody about accessibility issues, is important. Let me quick kind of go through some resources and take some questions. I can''t believe it, I am a little early. I have never done this before. The DBTACs around the country all have people within their areas, in those regional areas, who can help with things like website design, making it accessible. Let me take a little divergence here. One of the, talking about webpage design is what reminded me, is that there are federal guidelines Section 508, that are currently being rewritten. They have been rewritten actually, and they are in the comment phase right now. And those essentially say that all products of that are used by the federal government, such as computers, websites, need to be accessible to the federal employees as well as customers. I think I have that right. And so what Section 508 did when it first came in, is really guide software companies, in particular also hardware. If you followed what was happening with Apple Computer''s operating system, once 508 came in there is a lot more access features built into OS 10 in Apple than before 508. All the sudden as I said, PBS, that need to get PBS accessible after 508. A lot of work and energy was put into it so 508 created a lot of change, and with this new rewriting of the ADA, of 508 we should be seeing more accessibility. It is not a critical issue that you have to be concerned about most of the time, but if you hire somebody to do a website for you or to do an accessibility review of your website, that person has to be current with 508 because you need to anticipate what is going to be coming in. You don''t want to build something today that is going to be out of compliance tomorrow. The other thing you should look at, and it is the second one that I put in here, which is the Web Accessibility Initiative at W3C. W3C is the body that sets the standards for the web. There were the ones that standardized HTML. They were the ones that started looking at XML, which is a way of tagging information. They were the ones that set the standards for XML, and they have worked on standards for accessibility. They have a number of different standards now, and they all have various initials and you can go to their website and take a look at them. There is WCAG and ATAG and UAAG, and WAI-ARIA. WCAG is 2.0, is also in the review phase right now, and that is the web content accessibility guideline. And so using 508 and WCAG are really the best ways to make a website and internet communications accessible. And also it was wonderful to take a look at the W3C page again. The URL for it is W3.org/WAI. They have tons and tons of resources and ways to think about accessibility on the web. Their focus is the web and only the web, but in looking at terms of virtual communication, just about everything I talked about holds true. And so it is really a good place, if you know your stuff, it is a good place to go to see if there is anything new as well as to say, to remind yourself of what is important. If you are somewhat new to this, that is where I would start and that is where I would look through things and start reading things, to really get a sense of what we are talking about 508 there is also a site, and that is in the resources and that is Section 508, those are numerals, Section508.gov. And in there, I had forgotten - you can take courses in there on accessibility, and so they have a lot of information also about accessibility because both the people setting up the Access Board is the one who, I guess administer 508 as well as the WAI project at W3C. They realized that a lot of this stuff is new and they have to have a way to be able to educate people about it to really be effective. The bottom line for all of these people is to make things more accessible for people with disabilities. So I think that is it - oh let me hype my book. You can go to Amazon. If you put in my name, Anthony Tusler, you can see the book and it is actually more like a manual for Accessibility Champions. And what it is, it is a distillation of everything I found in talking to electronic and information technology companies, Accessibility Champions, about how they were successful. A lot of it is very easily translated into how a university would do things, how a non-profit would do things. I actually started re-reading it last night because I hadn''t read it in awhile. You know, and I have to say that there is some good stuff in there. It is basic points, but it is good things to remember. Go to Amazon to and put in Anthony Tusler, T-U-S-L-E-R, and you will pop up How to Create Disability Access to Technology. Okay enough about me. I think, and we are 10 minutes early believe it or not, it is time to take questions and we will do that until the end of the half hour.
Okay I think what will happen now is the telephone Operator will instruct the participants how to ask questions. And I will come in at the end to just wrap it up.
Ladies and gentlemen, if you have a question please press the 1 key on your touchtone telephone. If your question has been answered, or you wish to remove yourself from the queue, please press the pound key. Once again, if you have a question please press the 1 key on your touchtone telephone. Here is our first caller question.
I had a call the other day from an individual who has a family member who is really diagnosed as visually impaired or going blind, and back in the old days 911 had a registration process for allowing the person to let their local dispatch center know that the person had a disability, so that if they had to dispatch police or fire to the home that there would be some pre-awareness of this. The question that came from the lady was one that I had never heard before, and I didn''t have an answer without checking into it, but still have gotten a response; thinking maybe you do know, she said well okay, I told her to call her local dispatch police or fire department to get the form for that. Then she asked me, what about cell phones? Do they also have that registration process? And so far the answer I have gotten back is that no, there is nothing formally set up because I work for the county and our county actually has the major dispatch center. When I talked to the manager he was not aware of that. Are you aware of nationally whether there is a way of processing 911 emergency calls using a cell phone that would allow a dispatch center to know the person has a disability?
This is funny. The latest project that I have been working on is disaster preparedness for people with disabilities in our local county. So I know way more about this than I ever did before. And, I think what you found out is pretty much what is going on. There is very little standardization across the country, even for emergency contact numbers should somebody put it on their fridge, or should they put it in a special container in the freezer. I have not been able to find standardization, and cell phones in particular are very problematic. I know in our county, if you dial 911 it goes to a dispatch center that''s in another county, and it takes a while to get transferred up to this county, and often times that number is busy. So what I have been recommending to people is to use the local dispatch number to call if there is a non 911 emergency, or to call 911 and tell them what is going on. Some people, and I don''t even know where there is a resource for this, have a window decal that says there is a disabled person in the house so that first responders would know. But some people are really reluctant to put that up in their window, feeling that it makes them more vulnerable. So I think this is something that is evolving, and we are just going to have to monitor.
Okay, thank you.
Once again if you have a question please press the 1 key. Our next question.
Hi Anthony, thank you. This has been very helpful. Anthony, I was wondering if you would be willing to provide your email address if we have questions later on that come up?
Yeah, it is email@example.com. It is all 1 word. I mean if you stick Tusler into Google my website is like on the first page anyway.
Oh okay, thank you very much.
Okay thank you.
Once again if you have a question please press the 1 key on your touchtone telephone. I am showing no further questions at this time.
Oh there is got to be somebody who has got a question about this?
Well I have a question that came in via email.
From someone who wasn''t able to make the conference, and they wanted to know if you recommended following 508 or the W3C standards?
Uh-huh. I got myself current on this. The key phrase is ''harmonize''. And what W3C does in all of their work is to try and harmonize all of their policies, which means having everyone in agreement and all policies out there in the world pretty much work together. That is the harmonize, is work together. And so when 508 came out and WCAG 1.0 came out, there wasn''t much, they didn''t harmonize very well and certainly there has been a recognition since that time of the importance of them harmonizing. Right now they are really quite close, and my guess is that after the comment period for 508, there is going to be, 508 is going to diverge a bit from WCAG just by the nature of the process of implementing 508. So what I would say is think of 508 as what one needs to do from a legalistic point of view, and then use WCAG as an additional way to look at the website. I would use both. Look at WCAG more as kind of a usability feature. Is your website as good as it can be? And I would think anyone, any website designer who is current on accessibility should be current on 508 and WCAG 2.0. It depends really the bottom line comes from, in California all state offices need to use 508. That becomes the most important thing to pay attention to, because that is a legal requirement. And then use WCAG, which generally will not contradict 508, to add on any other features to make it even more accessible. So it is a matter of looking at what is required and then what is a good thing to do.
Anthony, this is Robin. I am just going to jump here for a second and ask you. One of the things that we have been talking with and working with the EEOC on is this issue of the fact that, there has really been nothing that has come out, as you indicated early on, in the legal context around these issues; specifically in guidance to employers and such around the provision of addressing accessible technologies for communication purposes, whether it be the recruitment process or the hiring process and such, other than kind of resting on those statements of reasonable accommodation. And does that mean that well, if I can provide you if you are doing online recruiting and you are doing online applications, if you get a paper copy of it as an alternative to the online processes - is that going to be sufficient or not? And what we have been told from them is that they are working on some guidance documentation that will be put forth in the process that they currently have guidance information on in a variety of different topics available on their website, but they are working on a fact sheet that will clarify, because when you look back to the ADA when it was written in 1990 very few of us had personal computers that we were using on a regular basis, that was those science people or someone else who had those. So a lot of the rules and regulations as they were promulgated at that time, and the language that we used did not necessarily anticipate or were not inclusive of electronic communication and things of that nature. So it has become an issue of interpretation of the law as it currently stands, whether it be reasonable accommodation, whether it be effective communication, whatever else it might be to apply to these particular issues. But I think for one of the things that we have seen as being problematic, that is because there has not been any significant litigation as you indicated in the employment arena on this particular issue, there has been probably less attention by employers other than more of a case by case [audio disturbance] What is it?
It is my cell phone!
Okay well you might want to turn it off. [laughter] Okay. But anyway, that when you look at the issue of employers are often very responsive to things when they see litigation like we are seeing an interest in Title III entities around the Target administration, but you would hate to have an employer be in the position of only addressing this issue once litigation comes forth, and if you are only addressing it as a band-aid on an issue of per case when you have an employee who comes forward, who needs something, or an applicant who needs it as a reasonable accommodation, you are actually doing more work and more effort to meet that one individual case by case by case by case situation as an accommodation than building that infrastructure from the very beginning.
Well that is why I spent some time talking about the accessibility champ, the importance of having someone there who is both looking at the power structure of the organization. Rarely do we use that term, but really that is what we''re talking about. And getting those people who are influential within the organization to support accessibility issues. Because, I have found that the threat of the ADA for many organizations, once they discovered that when they were threatened with a lawsuit and it never happened, some organizations felt that well it is pretty much a law without teeth. And so it really takes someone from the inside working to make sure that the organization brings in accessibility. So as much as I like to see a lawsuit brought at the appropriate time, I think many organizations and many advocates spend too much time saying what does the ADA do, instead of looking at how do I create change within the organization?
Yeah, and enough of that creating change before or from the ground up, not waiting until it comes, because as we know when I purchase a piece of equipment, or when I purchase a piece of software, or I have hired someone to do some proprietary software program for us or something of that nature, and you haven''t included our incorporated accessibility up front to retrofit those things is obviously very expensive and often very time consuming. And then you end up the defense coming in of well it is an undue hardship to do these things. Whether that is a valid defense when you didn''t take those things under consideration up front, is a difficult one to...
Well we have learned this very early on with the built environment. There is a number of buildings that are covered under the accessibility of the ADA. Buildings that were built without accessibility, and when you go in and retrofit them, it is usually ugly for one thing; not as useful as it would have been if it had of been brought in, in the beginning, and fiendishly expensive. And also, and this is what breaks my heart sometimes, is that retrofitting it is very hard to get good usability features, good universal design features into something when you are retrofitting. And so we know that that retrofitting is not the way to go, and so convincing the powers that be that within the virtual communication''s realm, to do things beforehand. That is really the job. That is the key part of the advocacy, is to get people to put it in early rather than late. One of the things that I found, and fortunately I managed to get it into the book, is one of the ways you do this is you look at what are the goals of the organization? Most for profit organizations say well, money profit is our most, is what drives our company. Some companies it is, even though they say it, some companies it is other ego needs of the CEO. Say at a university or non-profit, most of them say well it is to serve our customer, our client, our student, but you need to look a little bit deeper and see what really drives the organization and figure out a way to bring accessibility needs to align them with those drivers of the organization. And that is tricky. It is an art, it takes time, it takes energy, but that is really the Accessibility Champion''s job is to figure out a way to hitch the caboose to those drivers of the organization.
I would agree, and again that whole planning process and embracing this issue as something that is critical, and to be looking as a business case or a business issue the same as you would do anything else in the employment or recruitment and employment process.
Oh that reminds me - there is a very nice article on the W3C site about making a business case for accessibility. It is always nice to have somebody whose written something already that you can use and modify.
Sure, sure, definitely. Are there any additional questions out there?
We do have another question.
Hello we are from Hawaii here.
Hi. The question I have is that a lot of times when developers are asking if there is a place they can send their site to, because I know Bobby used to do it for free. Are there any other free sites that will do a check of a website to see if it is designed accessibly?
That is one of the things that turns out that WCAG 2.0, one of the things they really looked at is to make sure that the requirements in 2.0 were testable, because it turns out in 1.0 it was much more a matter of interpretation. I don''t know if you ever ran anything through Bobby, but I have certainly run a number of websites through Bobby and the stuff that was really important was really kind of mushy. Bobby would say, oh yeah this is accessible when it wasn''t that good. And so this is also true with the 508 revisions. So in going to the W3C site, they have a lot of information about ways to test your website. And many of them are unfortunately at this point, cost money. But in some ways, if you are paying for it, it has got to work better than something you get sometimes for free. And so what I would, the place I would start is I would go to the W3C site and start looking for their verifying accessibility features, and they have got quite a bit of information and they have got screen after screen of resources. Go to those resources and see what is what. And I would, if you are getting a lot of these are you at the DBTAC?
Oh, no I am not.
Oh that is right, because California is your DBTAC. What is your organization?
It is the Disability and Communication Access Board, and we are a state agency. We are connected to our Department of Health.
So we have limited resources like every other government agency, so people are looking for free sites.
I understand what you are saying about paying, but we are looking for free.
Right, right, exactly. So it sounds like you might, at least by your placement in the organization to have some clout within the state system right? A little bit?
[laughter] Depends who you talk to. I would like to think that we are the Accessibilities Champion in the state.
Right, right. Don''t tell them you are wrong. What I would do is to somehow, okay this is an ideal world, this is putting on my rose colored glasses, the state has an ENIT division right?
There is somebody central who is making decisions about things? I am assuming that also it is quite decentralized because they don''t have many people either and they can''t do all the things that need doing. Is that right?
Well yes, it is interesting, we do have an agency our DAGS Office that has accessibility, and I mean an IT component there. However it is the Governor''s office that makes the decision about what your website looks like.
Well so anyway, what you do, I mean, what I would do and this is ideal and it is really easy for me here in Penngrove California to tell you in Hawaii what to do, but I would see if you could find somebody either in the Governor''s office or in the ENIT division who is interested and excited about these issues. Often times my experience has been, sometimes it is really surprising who that person is. It is the person who you would least likely think who would be interested in disability access issues. So just to show you what my prejudices are, the kind of conservative uptight business suit, tie wearing, even in Hawaii, guy. I would think that person wouldn''t be interested, but often times that is exactly the description of the person who becomes the disability advocate, Accessibility Champion. So I say that both to highlight that I have my own prejudices that I have to deal with, but also that if you can find ways to float the need for an Accessibility Champion, and generally this is through informal ways. If you can get somebody in ENIT who kind of takes it on, to figure out the best way to test websites, so that that person becomes the expert; because I am assuming, just like I am not an expert on these things, and electronic information technology is part of my being, even though just as I am not an expert, you guys don''t want to become experts in the nuts and bolts of this. You want to find somebody who knows computers, who knows websites, who is willing to take this on and who is willing to go look at the W3C site and figure out what is what, and the best way to do it cheaply or to be able to sneak it into the Governor''s budget.
Yeah, I would really strongly recommend that you do look at the site that he is referring you to, because it is becoming that there are more and more commercial things that are available. Again there are some free... you may not get as much and robust as some of the commercial ones that are available, but if you look and pick and choose, and again it goes back to I think as Anthony said, it is educating and getting those people educated that are doing the web design about some of the fundamental elements, so that they are comfortable working with them. And once they get some feedback on some of those areas where they might have problematic, it would be the hope that they next time they design something they won''t have that same kind of a problem, and the need for the checker won''t be the same. And we all know that one of the very good ways also to evaluate whether or not a site is accessible, is have different people use it because it is just the technologies and different needs, because that is again, if you are really talking about your end user interface process as being usable and accessible to somebody just as we look at user testing with individuals without disabilities in regards to the friendliness of the site and it is functionality and stuff of that nature. I think the same is often overlooked when we, we are too fast to look for the automatic checker systems and things of that nature, when it really comes down to who are your users out there, and can they use the site as well?
Another thing that has been really valuable for me in my day to day work, what I have been spending a lot of time in this arena, was to have a couple of friends and colleagues who are blind who are using JAWS, because that is generally where the first problems come up and it really is helpful to have somebody. I could call Laura and say, I hate to bug you again this week but would you go to this URL and tell me how it is working for you with JAWS? And these are the 2 people that I used were highly skilled JAWS users. That is a first take, that is a first cut, because not all people who use JAWS are highly skilled and not all accessibility certainly by a long means, is not all about screen readers. But to have some people, some resources that you can go to on an informal basis, say hey check this out, that is good. Also I haven''t spent a lot of time looking at this, but I would think that there has got to be list serves of people who are doing a job similar to yours, who are having similar problems, who are finding solutions. I say this because for a long time I was on the DSSHE list serve, and DSSHE is Disability Student Services in Higher Education; because I worked in the university, the issues in colleges and universities interested me. And it was a very active list serve, there was anywhere from 10 to 30 posts a day. But they were dealing with day to day issues that were important to them, and this sounds to me like something that I am sure that people working in state agencies across the country are dealing with, and I would hope there would be a list serve. And if there is not, maybe you are next windmill to till that is a list serve organization for people like you across the country.
There are lots of resources and list serves available on W3C, like you said Anthony, is a good place to start, and they have a list of all of those.
Oh good, oh good. My experience with Hawaii is that because of the nature of the island, and also the other Pacific islands, you guys are have thought through a lot of these issues before the mainland has. Because you guys were using virtual communication, you were using radio communication long before the rest of us.
Are there, we are at the end of the hour here.
We are? Okay.
I will wrap it up. Thank you everyone for your attention and participation. Thank you Anthony for the great information.
And this has been the ADA Audio Conference session. There is an evaluation that was provided as part of your materials today, and so please take a minute to give us feedback on that. And as mentioned in the beginning, this was recorded and there will be a transcript and the recording posted 10 business days on the website available for your use. The next ADA Audio Conference session is on April 21, and I also wanted to make just a mention that the Great Lakes ADA Center sponsors a webinar series on the technical aspects of this topic, on accessible technology, and our next session is on May 11. You can find information on the website as well. And I would just like to thank everyone for their participation.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your participation in today''s conference. This concludes the conference. You may now disconnect.