The AT&T Issue Brief Library

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Accessibility

Materiality Assessment Topic: Inclusivity – Accessibility & Aging; Innovation; Products that enable social and environmental benefit

Issue Summary

People have a variety of communication 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 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. AT&T’s 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 

Accessibility is one of AT&T’s core commitments. In 2012, we launched the Corporate Accessibility Technology Office, which leads AT&T’s efforts to design and develop products and services that address the needs of customers with disabilities. The Corporate Accessibility Technology Office developed a series of internal training programs for AT&T employees that are tailored to the employee's role within the company. All internal trainings were 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. Read more about AT&T’s Corporate Accessibility Technology Office in the 2014 G3ict White Paper.

Universal Design Policy

In 1998, AT&T adopted a Universal Design Policy to convey our commitment to designing and developing products and services that are accessible to and usable by customers with disabilities and older users who may benefit from accessible technology. In this case, “universal design” is not a specific solution, but rather a concept and a process of making technology usable by people with the widest possible range of abilities and within the broadest range of environments and circumstances as practical. This requires AT&T and its 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
  • Making products flexible enough to accommodate a diverse population and the different ways in which people use them

Conceptually, this inclusive, user-centric approach to design makes great sense, but applying universal design principles to the diverse and ever-changing technology that AT&T provides its customers can be a challenge. As a result, product development teams have not only the policy to build from, but also benefit from a set of accessibility and universal design checklists to guide them while considering the needs of users with disabilities. The checklists prompt teams to think about how users with various types of disabilities (e.g., physical, sensory or cognitive) will operate different kinds of technologies, from hardware, to websites, to networks. Significantly, these checklists are reviewed at the beginning of the design and development lifecycle to ensure that products and services are built inherently accessible, rather than requiring expensive and time-consuming retrofitting.

AT&T’s Advisory Panel on Access & Aging

AT&T maintains its awareness of the needs of customers with disabilities thanks, in part, to our ongoing work with the disability community and the Advisory Panel on Access & Aging (AAPAA). Comprising national leaders in assistive technology, aging and cross-disability issues, 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.

Innovation

AT&T not only works to improve accessibility in our own products and services, but helps other companies improve accessibility through innovative initiatives. Many of AT&T’s offerings enhance the lives of people with disabilities and for everyone throughout life’s stages. AT&T hopes to encourage and inspire innovators to understand the importance of making products and services accessible.

We introduced the innovative U-Verse Easy Remote App, which makes controlling the TV-viewing experience easier for U-verse TV customers, including those with disabilities such as vision and hearing loss. The app enables customers to easily use their smartphones or tablets as a U-verse remote control and includes a voice initiated remote control, voice search and other accessibility features such as multiple screen color, button and font size choices, voice initiated remote control, voice command feature, gesture commands, and one-touch access to closed captioning.

In 2014 AT&T worked with Blue Jeans Network to develop an accessible, mobile optimized and cross-platform interoperable video conferencing solution.  The service has been enhanced to improve accessibility for a wider range of customers with disabilities, including blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity and combinations of these. For example, the collaboration services functionality now makes it possible for those with deafness or hearing loss to invite an interpreter into the meeting to help facilitate the discussion and Blue Jeans’ enhanced services are now compatible with standard screen readers.

In 2015 the AT&T Foundry worked with Permobil to develop a proof of concept solution that wirelessly connects wheelchairs to increase user independence and freedom. The connected wheelchair concept uses AT&T’s Internet of Things technology so that the chair can be easily monitored for comfort, performance, maintenance requirements and location. 

Third Party Partnerships

We’re also working with third parties to create innovative, accessible solutions and raise awareness for the importance of accessibility and inclusive environments. This has included:
  • In 2014, AT&T sponsored the Disability Cinema Coalition/Inclusive Cinema Empowerment Project (DCC/ICEP) mentoring program for a filming project with Cicatrice Pictures. This video, “Connection is Universal,” demonstrates AT&T’s commitment to making technology accessible to all.
  • In 2015, AT&T collaborated with G3ict, the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies, to release a white paper titled, “Internet of Things: New Promises for Persons with Disabilities.” The report features AT&T’s Digital Life Platform as technology that shows the potential of Internet of Things for improving the quality of life for persons with disabilities and older adults.
  • In 2015, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, AT&T and New York University’s ABILITY Lab delivered more than $100,000 in prizes to developers of high-tech solutions to improve the lives of people living with disabilities. The prizes were delivered as part of the Connect Ability Challenge, a three-month-long technology challenge to spur innovation for people with physical, social, emotional and cognitive disabilities. A panel of experts from the engineering, technology and disability community judged the competition and awarded $100,000 in prize money that was made available by AT&T and the Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA).
  • We also encourage others to develop innovative accessibility solutions. We launched a blogger outreach and hackathon initiative targeting the Autism community, and we partnered with Autism Speaks to launch an app idea contest. We then took those ideas generated from the public and used them as a platform for the first-ever Autism-focused hackathon to create apps for those with Autism.

Outreach and Education

Starting in 2014, AT&T’s Corporate Accessibility Technology Office, in conjunction with the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Wireless Technologies (Wireless RERC), conducted outreach efforts focused on educating people with disabilities and their caregivers on the accessibility features available on wireless devices and how to activate and use those accessibility features. Through these Wireless Independence Now (WIN) trainings, AT&T and the Wireless RERC trained over 900 participants with disabilities at rehabilitation centers, vocational training facilities, independent living centers, abilities expos, universities and conferences around the country. In 2016, accessibility trainings will also take place at AT&T Stores. For more information about outreach events and resources, visit AT&T’s Digital You page.

As part of AT&T’s proposed IP Trials in Carbon Hill, AL and West Delray Beach, FL, the company has been working with local communities to develop and execute technology trainings for older adults in the communities. The trainings in Florida reached 285 attendees in 2014 and generated media coverage that helped further raise awareness for the events, which expanded throughout the year. At AT&T we see great opportunities in these technologies and look forward to helping the West Delray Beach community get the most out of everything these advanced networks enable. Read more about trainings in West Delray Beach and Carbon Hill.

AT&T’s employee resource group, oxyGEN, also provided educational workshops for seniors throughout 2014. These trainings focused on teaching seniors about features available on smartphones and tablets. This training will be expanded in 2015 with assistance from the Corporate Accessibility Technology Office.

Lastly, in 2015, AT&T made a two-year $600,000 commitment to The OASIS Institute. Through the end of 2016, this support will enable OASIS to continue expansion of its Connections technology training program, update curriculum and increase workplace skills training to help older adults gain valuable job skills. OASIS Connections job training programs are currently offered in 49 cities across 26 states on a variety of topics from smartphone use to using tablets. AT&T retail employee volunteers also provided hands-on instruction to more than 900 older adults at many of these sessions.

Customer Call Centers

We operate dedicated customer care centers to assist people with disabilities, including the National Center for Customers with Disabilities for AT&T Mobility and the AT&T Sales and Service Centers for Disability and Aging for our landline customers.

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 have for our customers.

AT&T’s 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 careers events and engagement with professional associations at national and grassroots levels. Our att.jobs website is designed to meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and was certified by the Employer Assistance and Resource Network (EARN) as accessible. In 2015, we also launched our att.jobs/nolimits webpage to highlight individuals with disabilities working at AT&T. Career videos are closed captioned in English and Spanish, and we offer accommodations to job seekers for every step in the application process. 

We have several specific disability programs in place:

Project capABILITY is an extension of the work AT&T performs to grow our diverse employee base by focusing efforts on the disability population. We recruit and attract talent in many key areas, including disability, but Project capABILITY is a proactive measure designed to offer supported employment through state and/or nonprofit interaction. Continued and active support from both local nonprofits and state agencies allows us to identify the right candidates, as well as provide training and preparation for the existing local workforce. Their support and the support of a local/onsite "champion" to help oversee the creation and management of the effort is vital.

AT&T partnered with a strategic supplier, VetConnexx, which is owned by a person with a disability, with the goal to employ veterans with disabilities at AT&T. The initiative, “AT&T Serves,” promotes diversity and inclusion while fostering opportunities for people with disabilities to achieve self-sufficiency and participate fully in the community. In the process, AT&T gains capable employees who strengthen the company’s culture by bringing a commitment to quality, loyalty, and enthusiasm for work. This initiative creates not only opportunities for jobs, but it also creates opportunity for disabled suppliers, such as VetConnexx.

AT&T’s Global Supplier Diversity Mentoring Program, Operation Hand Salute, is a groundbreaking national education and mentoring program for service-disabled veteran-owned businesses. The national initiative provides training and mentoring to a select group of qualified CEOs with the goal of improving their business operations and enhancing their ability to win corporate contracts. AT&T joined with John F. Kennedy "JFK" University and helped mentor, educate and offer contract opportunities to service-disabled veteran business owners.

AT&T’s Employee Resource Group IDEAL (Individuals with Disabilities Enabling Advocacy) helps enhance the understanding, awareness and resolution of the challenges facing individuals with disabilities in the work place. 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 AT&T as an employeer of choice for the disability community. AT&T conducted a Twitter campaign highlighting products and services that would benefit people with disabilities, caregivers, and the aging population. We also sponsored disability events where we showcased AT&T’s products and services and attended career fairs.

AT&T business units connect their recruitment strategies with AT&T’s disability initiatives and programs and provide their employees with the resources and tools needed to do their job. To learn more about our diverse workforce, please visit our Workforce Diversity Issue Brief.

Awards and Honors 

As a result these efforts and others, AT&T has won numerous awards. AT&T received the 2014 Helen Keller Award from the American Foundation for the Blind due to an exceptional track record of providing accessible products and services that improve the lives of people with vision loss—specifically, large print and braille billing statements, mobile phone applications and readers and an exemplary national help center for customers with disabilities. AT&T also received the 2014 Justice for All Corporate Leadership Award from the American Association for People with Disabilities and the 2014 Lex Frieden Employment Award. 

Additional awards include:

  • 2013 Recognition by Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies
  • 2013 Access Award Winner from American Foundation for the Blind
  • 2013 Malcolm J. Norwood Award for Inclusion Through Technology
  • 2015 Disability Matters Award for Marketplace and Management Award
  • 2015 FCC Chairman’s Award for Video Conferencing
  • 2015 USBLN Award for Marketplace Innovator of the Year
  • 2016 Disability Matters Award for Steps to Success
  • 2016 Top 50 Employers of the Year from CAREERS & the disABLED Magazine

Updated on: Aug 18, 2016

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