It wouldn’t be March without the annual CSUN Assistive Technology Conference, hosted by the Center on Disabilities at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). The Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT) team joined thousands of accessibility enthusiasts from around the globe in San Diego to exchange insights about the progress of accessibility efforts in technology and business, and to learn what is in store for the future.
Over the course of the conference, PEAT had the opportunity to engage with many movers and shakers in the field of accessible technology. They share our passion for spreading the principles of accessible design to make workplaces more inclusive of people with disabilities. Here are some highlights from the innovative ideas they shared.
Implementing accessible workplace strategies
Matt May of Adobe explored ways to get management on board when it comes to accessibility in the workplace. “Accessibility is a diversity and inclusion effort. If your management hasn’t made that connection,” Matt urged, “make it for them now.”
- Find out what management knows about accessibility and build on it.
- Clearly pinpoint the problem and how it affects people.
- Propose an actionable, inclusive solution that goes beyond the law and acknowledges that this is the right thing to do.
During a session on strategic approaches to buying accessible technology, PEAT Deputy Project Director Corinne Weible took a turn behind the microphone to give attendees an overview of PEAT’s Buy IT! tool. This tool helps employers and their purchasing staff build accessibility and usability into their technology procurement processes. She was joined by the Texas CIO Jeff Kline and Minnesota CIAO Jay Wyant, who shared their own on-the ground methodologies for success, including their work with NASCIO in developing the Policy-Driven Adoption for Accessibility (PDAA) model.
To compliance, and beyond!
Microsoft lawyer Sue Boyd and disability rights lawyer Lainey Feingold discussed the best practices that align with, and go beyond, current legal developments for accessibility. “Legal compliance is important,” Sue said, “but there is a fundamental core principal to drive into your organization to be really successful with accessibility.” Lainey also touched on inclusive hiring as a part of accessibility: when companies hire inclusively, they get the best talent and bring in accessibility considerations from the beginning.
Microsoft’s Megan Lawrence echoed the value of inclusive hiring. “The best way to ensure we are making those products accessible is to make sure that the teams, organizations, and communities in which we are operating are inclusive,” she stressed.
The future of accessibility and technology at work
Building on our Future of Work podcast series, PEAT Project Director Josh Christianson and Jutta Treviranus, director and founder of the Inclusive Design Research Centre, predicted trends, technology, and policy related to the future of accessible work. They highlighted the expansion of the gig economy, noting that by making gig work technology accessible, it can create big opportunities for people with disabilities.
Preety Kumar of Deque also presented her annual address on the state of accessibility and outlined the top technology trends for 2018:
- Digital transformation is reinventing business process culture to put digital first, which means accessibility needs to be agile.
- Agile development brings a high-trust, collaborative culture where
everyone owns the quality, and constant testing leads to better detection and
- Machine learning and artificial intelligence are contributing to an automation of accessibility, including auto captioning, alt-tagging, and testing.
- The future of digital content is in photos and voice.
So, what else lies ahead? Augmented reality and virtual reality are coming soon to a job near you—if they haven’t already. These technologies allow people to experience something virtually and provide immersive learning experiences. However, there are many accessibility challenges that developers need to get ahead of now, so all can succeed in work.
PEAT partners with Teach Access
During the conference, PEAT also proudly announced our partnership with Teach Access to help advance their mission of promoting the teaching of accessibility in higher education. In addition to program support and amplifying the Teach Access message, PEAT is helping the organization seek out and create resources to foster better, more mainstream accessibility education for student technologists. Activities will include the development of a searchable database of accessibility training programs, plus Faculty Grants and Study Away programs.
CSUN always inspires us, and we’re excited to see what’s next when it comes to accessible technology in the workplace. Until next year, we’ll keep partnering with other advocates and working toward realizing a more accessible world.
To see the presentations PEAT delivered during CSUN, visit peatworks.org/CSUN18.