The AT&T Issue Brief Library

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Accessibility

Materiality Assessment Topics: Accessibility of products and services; Products and services that enable social and environmental benefit | Global Reporting Initiative Standard Disclosures: Accessibility of products and services MA

Issue Summary

People have a variety of communications needs, and the information and communications technology industry plays an important role in providing accessible products and services to meet those needs.

Our Position

At AT&T, accessibility is more than a word: it’s a commitment to help all of our customers and employees communicate everywhere they live and work by offering a range of innovative and accessible products and services to meet a variety of disability- and age-related needs.

Our Action

At AT&T, we believe in the ability of all people. Our dedication to accessibility is evident in the products we make, the services we offer and in how we hire, develop and engage employees with disabilities. Whether we are working with manufacturers to build accessibility into smartphones or providing employees with customized accessibility solutions, we create inclusive experiences for customers and employees, so we can all progress, grow and achieve.

Corporate Accessibility Technology Office 

The AT&T Corporate Accessibility Technology Office (CATO) leads our efforts to design and develop products and services that address the needs of customers with disabilities. CATO developed a series of internal training programs for AT&T employees that are tailored to each employee's role within the company. These trainings are designed to help product developers think about accessibility at the beginning of the product lifecycle and help customer service representatives better serve the needs of customers with disabilities. In 2017, CATO processed nearly 6,100 submissions for accessibility review and had more than 1,500 accessibility impacts.

The Accessibility Center of Excellence (ACoE) within CATO serves as the go-to accessibility resource for product development throughout the company. In 2017, CATO continued to automate and simplify the processes for the ACoE and introduced a Q&A service to answer routine questions from clients. CATO also works across the company to identify and train “Accessibility Champions” within business units. These champions work directly with their colleagues to enhance accessibility at all stages of product development.

Universal Design Statement

In 1998, AT&T adopted a Universal Design Statement to convey our commitment to designing and developing products and services that are accessible and usable for older customers and those with disabilities. In this case, “universal design” is not a specific solution, but rather a concept and a process of making technology usable for millions of older Americans and those with disabilities who depend on communications technology for employment, education, social interaction, recreation and other life activities. This requires AT&T and our suppliers and vendors to think inclusively about who will use our products and services, and to create solutions that meet varying needs by:

  • Designing for customers with disabilities;
  • Considering users in limiting conditions such as loud environments or divided attention; and
  • Making products flexible enough to accommodate a diverse population and the different ways in which people use them.

At AT&T, applying Universal Design principles is a team effort that occurs across the company. Leadership comes from the AT&T Corporate Accessibility Technology Office. Led by the Chief Accessibility Officer, this group includes staff with extensive experience in business, compliance, technology and accessibility, including certified accessibility professionals. They define corporate standards, offer training and provide tools and resources to help ensure that Universal Design principles are applied and accessibility is implemented by project teams throughout the company.

AT&T’s Advisory Panel on Access & Aging

We participate in ongoing work with the disability community, including through the AT&T Advisory Panel on Access & Aging (AAPAA). Comprised of national leaders in assistive technology, aging and cross-disability issues, the AAPAA provides disability-related advice and counsel to AT&T leadership teams. This expert panel meets regularly with AT&T leaders—from AT&T Labs to Marketing to Human Resources—and provides ongoing input on accessibility efforts. Read more about the AAPAA.

In collaboration with the AAPAA, Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), G3ict and World Enabled, AT&T compiled insights and proposed guidelines to launch a report titled "Smart Cities for All: A Vision for an Inclusive, Accessible Urban Future" in June 2017. The report centered on helping cities identify ways in which smart city technologies can adopt a people-first approach to benefit those with disabilities and older citizens. The report complemented the Smart Cities for All initiative launched by G3ict and World Enabled in 2016. The initiative advances a vision of making cities all over the world smarter through more inclusive, accessible design.

Innovation

AT&T is committed to leveraging technology to improve accessibility wherever and whenever people need it. We aim to improve accessibility in our own products and services, and to help other companies improve accessibility in their products.

Real-Time Text

One initiative that demonstrates our commitment to helping people with disabilities communicate in near-real time is Real-Time Text (RTT). RTT is a text-based communication service in which each text character appears on the receiving device at roughly the same time it is typed on the sending device. This allows for a conversational flow in communication and offers a number of improvements over traditional TTY (TeleTYpewriter) devices, which were first introduced in the 1960s. RTT allows for both parties to send and receive text at the same time, and it supports numerous languages. This technology was launched in December 2017. It does not require specialized equipment and is available on both Android and iOS smartphones. Read more about TTYs and RTT  the AT&T Public Policy blog.

AT&T has worked with industry partners, standards-development organizations, government agencies and accessibility experts at Gallaudet University and elsewhere to champion the widespread adoption of interoperable RTT solutions. Although analog TTYs are outdated and declining in use, RTT users will still be able to communicate with TTYs (e.g., on legacy networks and in 911 emergency call centers).

AIRA

In 2017, Aira was the first product to come out of the AT&T Foundry for Connected Health. Aira’s remote technology uses wearable smart glasses to connect those with diminished vision to a network of certified agents. The visual agents, connected via our reliable and secure wireless network, provide a real-time account of what they see so users can engage with their surroundings.

The smart glasses help the blind and visually impaired navigate daily tasks and tackle new challenges—from navigating busy streets or airports to running a marathon or experiencing a solar eclipse.

Because one of the most requested features among Aira’s customers is medication recognition, AT&T is currently helping Aira develop a recognition solution using Aira’s new artificial intelligence platform, “Hey Chloe™,” to help people who are blind or have low vision better manage their prescriptions and over-the-counter medications. Aira’s medication reader will be available for use in conjunction with Aira Horizon Smart Glasses, Aira’s next-generation wearable using voice-first technology.

DIRECTV Talking Guide

AT&T also enhanced the accessibility of our DIRECTV offering across a number of platforms. Millions of set-top boxes received an upgrade that activated Talking Guide, a text-to-speech setting that allows audio output to accompany DIRECTV on-screen textual menus and guides. This feature improves the television experience for visually impaired users by empowering them to make informed decisions about entertainment, making channel surfing and finding information about unfamiliar channels or content more accessible. The Talking Guide also empowers blind users to independently turn video descriptions on and off, furthering access to content.

In addition to set-top box upgrades, the DIRECTV website received improved screen reader compatibility and keyboard navigation. DIRECTV's TV Everywhere apps for iOS and Android mobile devices were also updated to improve access for people who are blind, enhancing customers’ experience no matter how they access content.

Outreach and Education

AT&T is committed to supporting and elevating organizations that are making a meaningful difference in the lives of those with disabilities.

AT&T created an original documentary, RESOLUTION, featuring 4 organizations that focus on innovative thinking about disability and are making a meaningful difference in the lives of people with disabilities. RESOLUTION made its debut on DIRECTV’s AUDIENCE Network in 2016, and in 2017, AT&T hosted a screening event in Washington, D.C., for members of the disability advocacy community.

AT&T provided $600,000 over 2 years to support the OASIS Institute’s Connections program, which enables OASIS to expand and update, helping adults over 50 build skills and confidence using computers, the internet and portable devices. OASIS Connections programs are currently offered in 40 cities and reach adult learners through a national network of partners such as libraries, colleges and community and senior centers. Many OASIS Connections programs are available in English and Spanish.

In 2017, AT&T provided $75,000 to the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) to support 10 scholarships for a diverse group of students with disabilities to participate in a 10-week summer internship program in Washington, D.C., to address employment disparities within the disability community.

In addition to supporting AAPD, AT&T also provided $75,000 to The Washington Center (TWC) to support scholarships for approximately 10 students with disabilities to participate in TWC’s Leadership Initiative for Students with Disabilities college-to-work program. This program emphasizes academic support, leadership development, civic engagement and one-on-one mentoring opportunities to assist disabled students in becoming productive, self-sufficient members of their community.

For more information about outreach events and resources, visit AT&T Digital You.

Customer Resources

AT&T maintains att.com/accessibility, which is designed to help customers find AT&T accessibility resources and identify products and services that best meet their needs.

We also operate dedicated customer care centers to assist our customers with disabilities. The National Center for Customers with Disabilities (NCCD) provides specialized customer service for AT&T wireless customers with disabilities. In addition, our Disability and Aging Center provides specialized customer service for AT&T wireline customers with disabilities and the aging. Among other things, these centers can arrange for customers to receive bills in an alternate format, such as Braille or large print, and can advise customers with hearing, vision, mobility and/or speech disabilities about equipment, accessories, features and calling plans. Read more about these AT&T call centers.

Workforce Inclusion

At AT&T, our commitment to full inclusion is an essential part of our success in today's market. AT&T is a company that is inclusive of all backgrounds, races, genders, ages, disabilities and sexual orientations. The more ideas and knowledge we have, the better solutions we can develop for our customers. Our goal is to promote diversity, inclusiveness and opportunities for employees to flourish.

We engage people with disabilities through targeted automatic recruitment advertising, attendance at disability career events and engagement with professional associations at the national and grassroots levels. Our att.jobs website is designed to meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. We also use our att.jobs/nolimits webpage to highlight individuals with disabilities who work at AT&T. Career videos are closed captioned in English and Spanish, and we offer accommodations to job seekers with disabilities for every step in the application process.

Ability (formerly IDEAL), 1 of 12 AT&T Employee Resource Groups, helps enhance the understanding, awareness and resolution of the challenges facing individuals with disabilities in the workplace. It focuses on making technology accessible to the disability community and understands that universal design ensures overall business success.

AT&T completed several social media campaigns to help position our company as an employer of choice for the disability community. We also sponsored disability events and attended career fairs where we showcased AT&T products and services.

AT&T business units connect their recruitment strategies with our disability initiatives and programs to provide their employees with the resources and tools needed to do their job. To learn more about our diverse workforce, please see our Workforce Diversity issue brief.

Awards and Honors 

As a result of these and other efforts, AT&T has won numerous awards, including:

  • 2017 National Organization on Disability, Leading Disability Employer Seal
  • 2017 CAREERS & the disABLED Magazine, Top 50 Employer of the Year
  • 2017 National Business Inclusion Consortium, Best-of-the-Best Corporation list
  • 2017 U.S. Business Leadership Network’s Disability Equality Index, 100% Score
  • 2017 DIVERSEability Magazine, Top Disability-Friendly Company

Updated on: Aug 15, 2018

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