Developing an Accessible Technology Plan
Although each organization is unique and has unique requirements, common steps are
involved in developing a good accessible technology plan. Following is a proven
five-step plan used in many technology development plans that has simply been applied
to accessible technology. Many of the themes described here are based on the steps
in Susan Conway's and Char Sligar's book Unlocking Knowledge Assets. (Conway, Sligar
Thinking through your strategy and requirements will reduce costs and increase efficiency—reducing
false-starts, ensuring compatibility with existing technology, and accurately addressing
your organization's unique situation and needs.
The five steps are:
Define the accessible technology strategy
In this critical first step, you define how accessible technology fits into your
business by identifying a vision and objectives that set the groundwork for the
this step, you develop a comprehensive set of requirements by describing the scope
of the accessibility needs of your organization and evaluating the current technology
Design, develop, and purchase technology
This next step involves the design and development of technology based on the requirements
outlined in Step 2. This step might also include purchasing accessible technology
and assistive technology products and identifying internal technology systems that
need to be updated to increase accessibility.
. Once the accessible technology is in place, including new
technology, it is rolled out to the organization. This step also involves increasing
awareness among employees about the availability of accessible technology and training
employees on how to use the accessibility features.
Maintain technology and continue learning
. In the last step, you increase
awareness of the accessible technology vision in your organization, support employees
in their use of technology, and evaluate success and opportunities for improvement.
Step 1: Define the Accessible Technology Strategy
In this important first step, you describe how accessible technology fits within
your organization—specifically, how it fits with your business and competitive strategies,
objectives, and measures of success. This information will help you integrate accessible
technology into your business plan and ensure that your accessible technology strategy
is aligned with your business needs. What you produce in this first step provides
the framework for the rest of the planning process.
Elements of an Accessible Technology Strategy
An accessible technology strategy should both stand alone and reinforce your organization's
overall technology plan. The two plans should be complementary. If your organization
has an overall technology plan, review that plan as you begin outlining your accessible
technology strategy to make sure there are no conflicts and to strengthen how these
two plans can work together.
An accessible technology strategy should include the following elements:
Vision statement. Create a unique vision statement that defines
the role of accessible technology in your organization and how it will support the
organization's overall vision of accessible technology objectives. If your organization's
overall vision statement already provides the proper foundation for creating accessible
technology objectives, restate that vision statement. This was the case for UnumProvident,
whose vision statement reads, "Be the number one provider of services that help
our employees and our customer's employees get back to work when they become injured
Objectives. Define success metrics and clarify the specifics of
the vision. Using the vision statement, create accessible technology objectives
that also align with business objectives. You'll use these objectives to measure
success in Step 5. For example, RBC Financial Group estimates that 40 percent or more of Canadians have
trouble using financial services because of disabilities such as mobility impairments
or literacy skills. In order to be a leading financial institute in Canada, RBC
Financial Group wanted to improve the accessibility of its branches to ensure it
was reaching these customers. Therefore, a sample business objective for the bank
might be, "Ensure that 90 percent of branches are accessible to customers with disabilities
such as mobility impairments or low literacy."
Expenses and budget. Clarify how expenses will be covered and describe
funding sources. For example, determine which expenses are part of the overall technology
purchases of the organization versus which expenses should be part of a separate
budget that might be used only for assistive technology products. Some organizations
choose to have all assistive technology product purchases come out of a centralized
accommodation budget, whereas other organizations deduct these expenses from the
individual technology budgets of each department. It is important to clarify these
budget decisions at the outset and to allocate funds appropriately.
Ownership and next steps. Clarify responsibilities and plan execution.
For example, outline who or which groups will be responsible for completing the
next steps of the plan, which are to identify requirements (Step 2);
design, develop, and purchase (Step 3); implement and train
(Step 4); and maintain technology and continue learning (Step 5). This will require strong partnerships among various
groups. One technique is to form a council or committee that meets regularly to
ensure that the plan is moving forward and that the next steps and responsibilities
are clear. You might even find it helpful to assign a person within the organization
to project manage the accessible technology plan. RBC Financial Group developed
such a position called the Accessible Technology Consultant. Responsibilities of
this position include educating IT staff about the business value of accessibility,
selecting assistive technology products, and advocating employee accessibility needs.
Whichever unique approach your organization takes, two elements are critical to
success: support from senior management and alignment with business objectives and
the organization-wide technology plan.
As with any strategic planning process, the leaders and senior management in your
organization must clearly understand the business value of accessible technology.
Only then can they stand behind the plan, be spokespersons for the strategy, and
help ensure support from other key stakeholders.
It is important to gain the support of those responsible for executing the plan
and other key stakeholders including those who manage the budget. Although some
resistance is normal with any change or new idea that has not yet been implemented,
one key to success is ensuring that stakeholders fully understand and embrace the
strategy because these stakeholders will be responsible for carrying out the next
With a number of steering committees that oversee the use of technologies within
the bank, RBC Financial Group also created an accessible technology committee headed
by its Accessible Technology Consultant. This provided a natural way for the accessible
technology strategy to be integrated with the rest of the technology planning. Each
committee head advocates for his or her technology area when evaluating new products,
testing, and doing long-term planning. This process ensures that key stakeholders
are more informed about the importance of accessible technology when making decisions.
Step 2: Identify Requirements
In this step, the owners and stakeholders identified in the accessible technology
strategy are asked to do a needs assessment, evaluate the current state of technology,
and create success measures.
The needs assessment involves outlining the accessibility requirements from the
perspectives of employees, your organization's processes, and current technology.
Ideally, you should integrate the requirements you outline in the needs assessment
with your organization's existing technology plan so that technology evaluations,
purchase decisions, and development of new technology will take accessibility needs
Also in this step, it is important to gather information about the current state
of technology and prioritize needs if your current technology is out of date. In
addition, at this stage you determine success measures to help your organization
clearly evaluate and measure results. The outcome of this step is a document that
includes a comprehensive set of accessibility requirements and measures of success
that owners can use to execute the design, development, and implementation steps.
The needs assessment task identifies the organization-wide accessibility needs,
which include specifying collaboration and communication needs among all employees "regardless
of abilities" and identifying the assistive technology needs of individuals with
specific disabilities. Even if your organization does not currently employ people
with visible disabilities, you should still define your accessibility requirements.
In the future, you might find much greater use and desire for accessible technology
than is initially apparent. A proactive accessible technology plan can offer:
- Increased performance and productivity through enhanced process flow
of your organization's diversity vision
Accommodations that will expedite employees'
return to work after injuries and illness
Organization-wide ergonomic (or human
factors) benefits by reducing the impact of repetitive stress injuries
As part of your needs assessment, list the specific accessibility needs employees
have, the processes in your organization, and the technologies you want to support.
Ask how your employees and customers use technology. For example, if most employees
in your organization need to use a sales data entry application, that application
needs to work well with a variety of different assistive technology products. That
way, an employee who is blind, for example, can access the application with a screen
reader and keyboard (rather than a mouse), and an employee who has a mobility impairment
can access the application with voice recognition software.
To gather your list of requirements, consider conducting surveys of employees. During
this process it might also prove helpful to provide lists of possible needs or requirements
because many individuals won't understand what you mean if you simply ask them to
list their accessibility needs.
Determining Your Organization's Assistive
Technology Requirements, includes a sample list of accessibility requirements.
Evaluate State of Current Technology
As part of identifying requirements, it is important to describe your current technology
and compare it to the information gathered in your needs assessment. This evaluation
will help establish priorities and show where changes can have the greatest impact.
Plan to evaluate the following:
Operating system(s). Do
operating systems used in your organization have built-in accessibility options
that allow individuals with visual, hearing, mobility, learning, and language impairments
to adjust options to their needs? Is the operating system compatible with a wide
range of assistive technology products?
Office productivity and communication software. Is office productivity software
such as email, word processing, and presentation applications accessible? Are accessibility
options available consistently among these applications?
Are compatible assistive technology products
available for your current operating systems and office productivity software?
Proprietary or legacy systems. Consider whether you have overlooked
accessibility options you already have. Are you utilizing built-in accessibility
options, features, shortcuts, and toolbars in your current systems? Consider the
state of your proprietary and legacy systems. Do you have legacy systems that employees
with disabilities have difficulty accessing? Can all employees use your proprietary
Internal systems. Are internal technology systems,
such as intranet sites and internal purchase applications, accessible to all employees?
Customer systems. Are the systems your customers use such as your
organization's website/e-commerce site, touch screens, or automated teller machines,
As part of your technology evaluation, ask the following questions about your current
How does your present technology meet your employees' and customers' accessibility
Can employees effectively collaborate and communicate regardless of their
Is the technology flexible and does it allow customization so that
individuals can be more productive?
At the end of this evaluation, you should have an understanding of the current state
of your technology as measured against needs.
Leveraging Legacy Technology
Most organizations will want to take advantage of the improved accessibility in
the most recent releases of products including
Windows and Microsoft Office. But many organizations are not able to upgrade
every employee simultaneously to the latest operating system and software, so they
need to plan for scalable solutions.
In recent years, software and operating system upgrades have become more streamlined,
and today, employees using different versions of products can continue to collaborate
effectively. For example, if the majority of employees in an organization use an
old version of Windows, and an employee develops a disability that requires
the use of a screen reader that works best on the most recent version of Windows,
that employee can be upgraded to the latest version of Windows and still effectively
work with his coworkers. Or, if an employee simply needs to change his or her font
settings and sound options,
Windows provides these accessibility
Each organization needs to set its own priorities and, with the help of an accessible
technology consultant, make the most of the accessibility in legacy technology.
Compare Accessibility Features in Various
Versions of Windows. This chart shows you the accessibility options available
in different versions of Windows.
At this point in the process, you should create success measures based on the objectives
outlined in Step 1 and the baseline information gathered in
the needs assessment and evaluation of current technology. In
5, you'll use these success measures to evaluate progress and highlight
areas of improvement.
Examples of success measures include
Increase the retention rate of employees who develop impairments by 15 percent in
Increase the employees' awareness of accessibility by 25 percent within
12 months of implementation
Increase reported improved collaboration and communication
among employees to 50 percent within 18 months
Increase the job satisfaction
of employees with accessibility needs by 35 percent in 24 months
satisfaction of customers with accessibility needs by 25 percent in 12 months
Broaden the customer segment that includes a disability demographic within two fiscal
Step 3: Design, Develop, and Purchase Accessible Technology
In this third step, the focus is on designing and developing the technology based
on the accessibility requirements outlined in Step 2. This
step includes identifying and purchasing accessible technology and assistive technology
products, updating internal technology systems to be more accessible, and determining
how to make use of legacy systems.
Select an Accessible Technology "Foundation"
The standard operating system and office productivity software used by your organization
is the foundation for accessible and assistive technology. Therefore, it is critical
that the operating system and office productivity software be accessible.
Choose products that allow employees to customize the system to their preferences
as well as those products that address the requirements outlined in the needs assessment.
Be sure that the operating system and all office productivity software chosen are
compatible with a wide variety of assistive technology products for specific disabilities.
To check compatibility, contact assistive technology manufacturers to learn if products
are compatible and if settings can be adjusted to optimize compatibility.
Learn about and search for assistive technology products.
An Accessible Operating System
built-in accessibility settings and programs that make it easier for people
to see, hear, and use their computers. Microsoft has worked to better understand the needs of people who experience a wide range of physical challenges that can impact their computer use. The accessibility settings and programs in Windows are particularly helpful to people who have visual difficulties, hearing loss, pain in their hands or arms, or reasoning and cognitive issues.
Windows offers a high level of accessibility for specific visual, hearing, mobility, learning, and language needs. Built-in accessibility tools include Magnifier, Narrator, and On-Screen Keyboard. You can also choose a high contrast color scheme and numerous other options to personalize your computing experience. A wide range of assistive technology products are also compatible with Windows.
An Accessible Office Productivity Suite
Microsoft Office makes it easier to create accessible documents, spreadsheets, and presentations with rich content.
An Accessible Browser
Internet Explorer includes accessibility settings to help all users, including those with disabilities, move around the Internet easier, see webpages more clearly, and access information more quickly.
Identify and Select Assistive Technology for Individuals
Many employees with disabilities need to use assistive technology products to fully
access their computers. In the next two sections, we discuss two approaches to providing
assistive technology to employees as well as how the partnership between human resources
(HR), employees, managers, and assistive technology experts might work.
Two Approaches to Selecting Assistive Technology
Organizations generally take one of two approaches to identify and provide employees
with assistive technology. One approach is to custom select assistive technology
product(s) for each employee with a need. Another approach is to provide an approved
list of assistive technology products that are tested, evaluated, and selected as
the standard assistive technology products for an organization. Each approach has
its own advantages and challenges.
Microsoft Corporation does not have a standardized list of assistive technology
products. Instead, employees partner with their manager, a human resources (HR)
representative, and an assistive technology consultant to identify the appropriate
assistive technology products for their business and personal accessibility needs.
For Microsoft, this makes sense because, as a technology company, it has a broader
mission to ensure that technology works for everyone using all types of assistive
For organizations such as RBC Financial Group, a standard list of assistive technology
products is more efficient because the assistive technology products are evaluated
and tested to ensure that they work properly with RBC Financial Group's systems. This makes providing technical support easier
and getting new employees up to speed faster.
Whether your organization provides a standard list of selected assistive technology
products or not, it is still important to accurately identify which type of product
works best for an individual's needs and to partner with HR and
assistive technology experts to work through the process of selecting assistive
Partnering with Human Resources and Assistive Technology Experts
The need for accommodation arises for various reasons. Employers often ask new employees
when they are hired if they need any accommodation. For existing employees, when
new accommodation needs arise, an HR representative is often one of the first to
know. This makes HR a pivotal resource for learning about accommodation needs of
HR representatives are at the forefront for identifying employees who will benefit
from accessible technology. Because accessible technology is part of providing accommodation
and involves health and privacy issues, it is important to consult with HR and an
assistive technology consultant to identify and select assistive technology for
HR representatives usually manage worker compensation claims, ergonomics evaluations,
and accident reports. They should be contacted directly by employees and managers
with inquiries about accessibility. An accident report or even a change in an employee's
productivity might be a sign of a need for accommodation. HR representatives can
be trained to identify these signs.
Do not assume that individuals who are technology experts are also knowledgeable
about accessible and assistive technology.
who understand disabilities and the latest assistive technology products
can provide valuable guidance to organizations. If your organization is large, it
might be beneficial to develop one of your own IT professionals into an accessibility
expert. In this way, you can avoid relying on outside consultation if you prefer.
See Consultants and Resources for more information about
how to find accessible technology consultants in your area or to find training.
In order to accurately identify an individual's needs and provide insight into assistive
technology, a strong partnership needs to be formed between the employee, the manager,
a human resources representative, and a consultant.
See Identifying the Right Assistive Technology,
for two examples of tools used by organizations to select technology for employees.
Clarify the roles and responsibilities in this partnership for a better understanding
of who makes decisions and how the partnership will work. The following five lists
are a sample of how one organization outlines this partnership.
- Provides medical documentation of need through HR and manager
ergonomics team if required
Meets with assistive technology consultant to review
work and work processes
- Reviews assistive technology proposal
in education and training as required
Reports any concerns or issues to HR or
manager if necessary
- Provides an update on accommodation needs if necessary
Responds to surveys to help measure success of program
Partners with HR to assure employee is supported and aware of resources and accommodation
- Provides clarification on job requirements and business needs if needed
Reviews assistive technology proposal to see if the proposal will address the business
needs and job requirements
Supports employee in getting training and education
on the assistive technology if needed
- Provides or coordinates ergonomic assessment
Defines and coordinates accommodation
and assistive technology process with employee and manager
documentation from employee
- Coordinates assistive technology consultant
Reviews assistive technology proposal with employee
Prepares assistive technology
proposal for manager review and sends copy to manager
Provides training and
additional information for manager and employee as needed
Assistive Technology Consultant
- Meets with employee to assess assistive technology needs
Creates a needs
assessment or assistive technology proposal
Recommends assistive technology
product(s), from a standard list, if applicable, that meet medical accommodation
and business needs
- Sets up products and training on products as required
Medical and Rehabilitation Recommendations
- Provides medical recommendations
Provides additional or updated accommodation
information for employee as needed or required
Ergonomics Evaluations and Accessible Technology Recommendations
A number of organizations, including Microsoft, train their ergonomics specialists
to look for situations in which accessible technology will benefit an employee.
At Microsoft, all employees can request an ergonomics evaluation, which involves
a 30-minute one-on-one consultation with an ergonomics specialist who works in the
HR department. This HR representative's role in this case might be as simple as
educating employees about changing their font sizes or using different mouse devices,
or it might involve a discussion about assistive technology. According to Ellen
Meyer, an HR lead at Microsoft Corporation, "Employees who would benefit from accessible
technology have been identified through an ergonomics evaluation. Through a coordinated
process of review, implementation, and education, these technologies are in place.
Ergonomics and accessible technology go hand in hand, so it makes sense for Microsoft
to combine the two."
Evaluating and Updating Internal Systems
As part of the design and development step, your organization will need to evaluate,
and possibly update, internal systems based on requirements and success measures
outlined in Step 2. Integrating the task of checking for accessibility criteria
into the update and development process for all your internal systems will help
eliminate the need for reengineering later.
For example, a requirement identified in Step 2 might be to provide access to a
legacy sales application for employees who are blind. This step determines how you
will accomplish that requirement. One approach might be to use a tool that your
IT professionals develop to allow access by a screen reader. Other approaches might
be to change settings on existing software or acquire another product that makes
For new systems that are currently being planned, evaluate accessibility needs and
requirements and make necessary changes in the design to ensure that your new systems
are accessible. To do this, it is necessary to modify design specifications and
add accessibility testing into test plans. For example, design specifications can
be modified to include keyboard access for all features. Similarly, test cases can
be modified or added to test without a mouse to ensure that keyboard access is fully
For existing systems, evaluate and measure the system against the accessibility
needs and requirements. Next, assess the impact based on systems used by the most
people, identify the frequency the system is used, and determine if there is an
alternative that is accessible. (See the sample list of technology assessment questions
Determining Your Organization's Assistive
Technology Requirements.) Once you've analyzed the impact, prioritize the
systems that must be updated for better accessibility. For those that are a lower
priority, document the issues and make them requirements for the next scheduled
update of the system.
Step 4: Implement and Train
After you have developed, purchased, and updated technology, it is time to deploy
technology, and train employees how to use it. This step involves setting up the
systems, communicating the change to your organization, and providing training.
It is important to align these efforts with the original strategy and success measures
to make sure you are on target as the implementation stage unfolds.
The implementation step includes a range of projects such as setting up one computer
for a single employee with a disability who is using a new assistive technology
product, launching a more accessible intranet site, and deploying a new operating
system and office productivity suite across the entire organization.
Deploying Microsoft Products and Adjusting Accessibility Options
For organizations that choose Microsoft products,
Microsoft TechNet is a central information and community resource for IT
professionals and is one source of assistance. TechNet is designed to meet the technical
information needs of anyone who plans, evaluates, deploys, maintains, or supports
Microsoft business products.
Microsoft TechNet information is available either online or through the Microsoft
TechNet CD/DVD Subscription service. The subscription saves time and increases productivity
by providing 12 monthly issues with the latest technical information, service packs,
resource kits, tools, utilities, Microsoft Knowledge Base articles, and other information
useful for IT professionals.
Once the business products are set up, accessibility options in the products need
to be adjusted for people with accessibility needs. Information about accessibility
features and options is available in select resource kits available on Microsoft
TechNet as well as on the Microsoft Accessibility website. See
Accessibility Tutorials and
Guides by Impairment. Although these materials were originally written
for trainers and users with disabilities, IT professionals who are new to accessibility
might find these resources helpful.
Deploying Assistive Technology Products
IT professionals within an organization will likely be the ones called upon to help
individuals set up new assistive technology products. Most importantly, whoever
helps set up assistive technology should first contact the assistive technology
manufacturer to check compatibility with the operating systems and applications
that will be running with the assistive technology product. The assistive technology
manufacturer should also provide information about settings that need to be adjusted
to optimize compatibility.
Deploying Your Internal Systems
As identified in the accessible technology plan, you'll need to roll out any modified
or new internal systems. These systems might be newly accessible updated applications
that should be rolled out to all employees, or add-ons or new applications for a
specific employee's access needs.
Just providing accessible technology doesn't mean employees will automatically know
about new accessibility options or how to use them. As part of this step, educate
and train employees on how to make full use of the accessible technology available
to them. Accessible technology benefits everyone, so be sure to educate everyone
about the availability of accessible technology, not just those with disabilities.
Although some organizations choose to offer classroom style training, another option
is to provide self-paced training materials on intranet sites. This is an inexpensive
and efficient option.
Microsoft publishes a variety of training resources helpful to trainers, and IT
professionals and people with disabilities. The next two sections highlight specific
training resources available to help customize a computer for people with disabilities
and people with accessibility needs.
accessibility tutorials to introduce computer users to the most commonly used accessibility features in
Microsoft products and to show ways to adjust the accessibility options
to best meet their needs.
Guides by Impairment
Microsoft produces a series of Guides by Impairment
that organize information
into helpful resources by each specific type of impairment. Each guide provides
a list of assistive technology and links to tutorials that can be used
to customize computers to accommodate an individual with a specific impairment.
Guides are available for:
Step 5: Maintain Technology and Continue Learning
The last step in the accessibility technology planning process involves increasing
awareness and sustaining your accessible technology strategy. In this step, you
promote the accessible technology vision statement in your organization, support
employees' use of the technology, and evaluate the success. This ongoing step is
critical—accessible technology is a fundamental part of your business, and true
success is measured by how well your employees can collaborate and communicate with
one another and how productive individuals will be. It is important that your effort
does not result in a big launch with little follow-up. The outcome of this step
is continued feedback and synergy that will help you improve your accessible technology
strategy over time and make accessibility part of your organization's culture.
Successfully building and implementing an accessibility technology strategy isn't
the end of the work. A measure of success for the strategy is having high awareness
among employees that accessible technology is available and for employees to understand
where to go for information. Another measure of success is for all employees to
accept accessibility as a part of the business culture.
Although the saying, "If you build it, they will come," might have worked for Kevin
Costner's character in Field of Dreams, your organization will likely need to increase
awareness through various communication strategies. The following sections contain
techniques that many organizations use to educate their employees about the availability
of accessible technology.
Educate HR and Managers First
It is important that HR representatives and managers be aware of the accessible
technology your organization provides, and that they know whom to contact for information.
Consider educating your HR representatives first, and then asking HR to educate
managers about the accessible technology. Be sure to hold this meeting or training
session for human resource representatives and managers first, so when the program
is rolled out to employees, they know where to get more information. Reeducate your
HR and management staff periodically at regularly scheduled management and HR-sponsored
Educate New Employees at Employee Orientation
Most organizations have some form of orientation for new employees. This is an ideal
opportunity to provide information about the availability of accessible technology.
Because many people might not even know what accessibility means or what accessible
technology can do for them, you might sponsor a presentation by an expert in this
area that explains accessible technology and where to go for more information. However,
if resources are tight, a simple handout that explains that accessible technology
is available and provides a confidential contact person will suffice.
Educate Current Employees Through Newsletters, Email, and Websites
Just because an employee is already on the job and hasn't notified you about his
or her accessibility needs, it doesn't mean there are none. Many people do not self-identify
as having an impairment, or they might not realize the accommodations available
to them. Employees' needs change as they age or if they are involved in an accident.
Be sure to educate all employees about the availability of accessible technology
through employee newsletters and flyers, email, and websites that explain employee
benefits and ergonomics resources. Plan ongoing communication sessions. Although
it might seem like the communication is redundant at times, an employee who recently
had an accident would welcome a reminder about the assistance that is available.
Once accessible technology is up and running, it is important to keep the gears
oiled and running smoothly. Here are a few ideas on how to provide support:
Assign contact(s) in the IT department responsible for helping individuals with
accessible technology issues. Although this isn't necessarily a full-time position,
it is important that employees have a point of contact for technical issues. This
contact should be aligned with HR to ensure that only technical support is being
provided and that no recommendations about needed technology are being made. Such
contacts might be consultants hired by the IT department because of their expertise
in the area of accessible technology.
If you have a technical support center
to assist employees using technology, educate them on assistive technology products.
Train technical support personnel to know when to contact the accessible technology
expert to assist an employee with problems related to assistive technology products
or accessibility issues. Also, train support personnel to know how to adjust the
way they work with an employee for general technical issues when the employee is
using assistive technology or uses different access techniques. For example, if
an employee indicates he or she is using keyboard-only access, support personnel
should know how to translate the step by step mouse instructions they normally use
into keyboard instructions.
Host an accessibility website as part of your IT
department's website. Information on the site should include links to the email
support alias, a newsletter, and names of people to contact for specific questions.
Create an email alias for employees to discuss and troubleshoot problems. Such
as alias provides employees with an opportunity to share problems and determine
solutions. Choose a moderator (preferably the same person assigned to accessible
technology in the IT department if the alias is specifically about technology, or
an HR representative if the alias if for broad accommodation issues) to make sure
the discussion stays on topic and to identify important issues that require additional
assistance. Sears encourages their employees to use the disAbled Associate Network
to facilitate discussion about ongoing challenges facing their employees with disabilities.
Publish a newsletter for employees who use assistive technology. This newsletter
can include solutions to issues, information about available product upgrades, and
new resources available. Individuals should be able to subscribe to the newsletter
anonymously, giving them the option to maintain privacy of their accommodation needs
Form a committee that addresses accommodation and accessible
technology issues. This committee can meet on an as-needed basis to talk about accommodations,
exchange advice, and discuss improvements to the accessible technology strategy.
Evaluate Success and Areas of Improvement
To evaluate success and identify areas of improvement, review the original success
measures created in Step 2 and evaluate progress against those original success
measures. Many organizations gather data through follow-up surveys and interviews
of employees, managers, and IT professionals.
Because integrating accessible technology is a long-term goal, recognize and reward
success and follow through on feedback received by outlining next steps and areas
of improvement, assigning owners to follow through on the next steps, and determining
when you will next evaluate success.
Consultants and Resources
There are many websites and other resources available to help you learn more before
implementing your accessible technology plan. As mentioned earlier, seeking consultation
from an expert in the field is well worth the investment. This section contains
more information on consultants and resources.
See also these additional resources
for information about assistive technology products and services for people with
disabilities, impairments, and difficulties.
Microsoft Accessibility Resource Centers provide
experts on computer technology and accessibility. These centers provide expert
consultation on assistive technology and accessibility built into Microsoft. Each
center is equipped with video demonstrations and accessibility tutorials that show
you how to make computing easier, more convenient, and more comfortable.
The Alliance for Technology
Access has a network of community-based resource centers, developers and
vendors, affiliates, and associates dedicated to providing information and support
services to people with disabilities and increasing their use of standard, assistive,
and information technologies. Find a center in your local area to visit and learn
more, or ask for recommendations for local consultants.
The National Business & Disability
Council (NBDC) provides a full range of services to assist corporations
in successfully integrating people with disabilities into the workplace and marketplace.
The NBDC offers services such as customized training and support, informational
mailings, and information hotline, and job postings.
The Sierra Group, Inc.
is a rehabilitation engineering consulting firm that works with organizations, educators,
individuals, and rehabilitation professionals in the area of assistive technology
to help increase employability of people with disabilities. Sierra Group consultants
evaluate the needs of clients, compare those needs with the diverse talents of individuals
with disabilities, and integrate systems and procedures that create successful employment
Although it is possible to develop and implement an accessible technology plan on
a case-by-case basis, by using the strategic planning steps outlined here, you will
avoid false-starts, decrease costs, and provide higher employee and customer satisfaction.
By outlining your vision and objectives first, and then assigning owners to carry out
the implementation steps and measure progress, you will gain a far greater level
of success that positively impacts many more people in your organization.