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 G4 Indicators: Accessibility of products and services DMA

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 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. 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 

AT&T’s Corporate Accessibility Technology Office leads our 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. 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 2016, the office began to develop, implement and manage the Accessibility Center of Excellence (ACoE). This center serves as the go-to accessibility resource for product development throughout the company. The office 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 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. 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.

In addition to the policy, product development teams 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. These checklists are reviewed at the beginning of the design and development lifecycle to ensure that products and services are built with inherent accessibility, rather than requiring expensive and time-consuming retrofitting.

AT&T’s Advisory Panel on Access & Aging

We participate in ongoing work with the disability community, including with 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 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.

One initiative that demonstrates our commitment to helping people with disabilities communicate in real time is Real-Time Text (RTT). RTT is a mode of communication 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 of communication and offers a number of improvements over traditional TTY (TeleTYpewriter) devices. RTT allows for both parties to send and receive text at the same time, and it supports numerous languages. To read more about TTYs and RTT, please visit this blog.  

AT&T has worked with industry partners, standards development organizations, government agencies and accessibility experts at Gallaudet University and elsewhere to champion the need for 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).

In 2016, AT&T also enhanced the accessibility of its 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

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 about 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 have trained more than 900 participants with disabilities at rehabilitation centers, vocational training facilities, independent living centers, abilities expos, universities and conferences around the country. AT&T also provided the Shepherd Center with $50,000 for its work with Wireless RERC to support our consumer education outreach efforts and increase awareness for internal AT&T teams.

In 2016, in an effort to more effectively scale this program, the Corporate Accessibility Technology Office began working with AT&T Employee Resource Groups and AT&T retail employees to train volunteers around the country so that they can offer the trainings to more people in more places.

AT&T is also helping to narrow the technology skills gap for older adults. Over the past decade, tens of thousands of consumers have participated in AT&T-supported trainings. This work continued in 2016 with AT&T hosting events with local organizations in over 25 states.

Additionally, AT&T’s support for the OASIS Institute’s Connections program enables OASIS to continue expanding and updating the program, which helps adults build skills and confidence using computers, the internet and portable devices. OASIS Connections programs are currently offered in 34 cities and have reached 92,000 participants since 2001.

AT&T’s support for the AARP TEK (Technology, Education and Knowledge) Program has allowed it to grow as well. In 2016, the program—a free, live workshop aimed at helping to close the technology gap among people ages 50 and over—was offered in 33 cities around the country. The program includes hands-on workshops as well as the AARP TEK Academy, a free, easy-to-use online classroom. Both are open to anyone, including, but not limited to, AARP members, and are designed to allow Americans to connect with people and passions in their lives using technology.

In 2016, AT&T provided $75,000 to the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) to support AAPD’s 10-week Summer Internship Program to address employment disparities within the disability community.

AT&T also provided $75,000 to The Washington Center (TWC) for Internships 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’s Digital You page.

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 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 can develop 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 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 and was certified by the Employer Assistance and Resource Network (EARN) as accessible. We also use 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 are also one of the leaders of The 5,000 Initiative: Autism in Tech Workforce, a unified plan to train and employ 5,000 people on the autism spectrum in technology positions by 2020. The initiative is designed to create and build best practices around training for these positions and to appropriately support those with autism to build strong careers and successfully serve in the global workforce.

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 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 employeer of choice for the disability community. 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 to 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 of these and other efforts, AT&T has won numerous awards, including:

  • 2014 Justice for All Corporate Leadership Award from the American Association of People with Disabilities
  • 2014 Lex Frieden Employment Award
  • 2015 Scored 100% on the Disability Equality Index
  • 2015 Disability Matters Award for Marketplace and Management
  • 2015 FCC Chairman’s Award for Video Conferencing
  • 2015 USBLN Award for Marketplace Innovator of the Year – Product Development
  • 2016 Connector Award from American Association of People with Disabilities
  • 2016 Scored 100% on the Disability Equality Index
  • 2016 Disability Equality Index recognition for internal/external 'best practice'
  • 2016 Disability Matters Award for Steps to Success
  • 2016 Top 50 Employers of the Year from CAREERS & the disABLED Magazine
  • 2016 USBLN Award for Marketplace Innovator of the Year – Disability Inclusive Advertising

Updated on: Aug 17, 2017

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