Teaching new skills and promoting an inclusive workplace breaks down barriers
Education is a big part of the inclusive culture at Fannie Mae. The company launched a series of technology showcases called Accessibility & Productivity Labs that proved to be a popular way to teach employees new skills and promote a more accessible workplace. Employees from across Fannie Mae’s Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia, and Plano, Texas, offices gather regularly in a “users talk to users” format that encourages employees to share insights.
“The Accessibility Labs are hugely popular opportunities for people to embrace the full breadth of the accessibility features built into Microsoft 365. We promote the idea that everyone can work more productively and create better outcomes for customers,” says Scott. “Last year at each location, volunteers from the I2 ERG and members of the Digital Workplace team trained employees on accessibility features, focusing on those that might assist with hearing, cognitive, and vision conditions. So, we covered things like Tell Me, the Microsoft Office Themes and High Contrast, Magnifier, and Ease of Access settings. It was a big success because it raised awareness about the benefits of inclusion and showed Fannie Mae employees how accessible technology can help everyone.”
“Planning this event in partnership with the I2 ERG was a great experience to not only educate our colleagues on collaboration tools like we normally do, but also bring awareness to how others can deliver content to our colleagues more efficiently using alternative text, making captioning available in meetings, and more,” says Hannah Cherian, IT Business Analyst in Digital Workplace at Fannie Mae. “We saw an opportunity for Digital Workplace’s partnership with the I2 ERG to produce impactful events for our users while building a sense of community that enhances our everyday jobs.”
The I2 ERG and Digital Workplace team designed the workshops to provide a productivity spin for all abilities. This helped individuals appreciate that the accessibility features could benefit everyone. “Using Outlook Read Aloud to review your emails or the Accessibility Checker to ensure everyone can consume your PowerPoint presentation—we all benefit from the accessibility features in Microsoft 365,” says Cherian.
Keith Clayton, Project Manager and Lead of the I2 ERG’s Recruiting and Pipeline Development workstream at Fannie Mae, is always hearing stories about interesting uses for the accessibility features built into Microsoft 365 that demonstrate the universal benefits of the features. “I was talking to a director not long ago at Fannie Mae who likes to listen to his emails before he hits the send button to make sure they sound good,” he says. “There are so many uses for these accessibility features in Microsoft 365 that go beyond what you might expect. I turn on captions in Microsoft Teams, and it helps folks with language barriers, for instance.”
“To maintain social distancing, we’re holding our second annual Accessibility Lab virtually through Microsoft Teams live events,” says Cherian. “We want to be able to give everyone an opportunity to join a hands-on virtual environment where we demonstrate Microsoft 365 and Windows accessibility and productivity features and talk about why these things can be valuable tools as they relate to vision, hearing, cognitive, and even mental health assistance.”
Fannie Mae is also hosting a workshop on Microsoft Power Platform, which allows non-developers to build their own applications, dashboards, and workflows. Organizers plan on including content that’s geared toward inclusive design. “We thought it would be beneficial to host an inclusive design workshop to showcase the built-in accessibility features within Microsoft Power Platform,” says Cherian. “And now that we have analysts, legal assistants, HR employees, and other non-technical folks making apps, we want to open this window of opportunity for them as well.”