We remain committed to increasing digital inclusion across all communities and offering innovative and accessible products and services that meet a variety of disability- and age-related needs.
TOPIC: Digital Divide
2024 TARGET: Invest $2 billion by 2024 to help bridge the digital divide.
PROGRESS: Announced $2 billion commitment to help bridge the digital divide.
In 2021, we announced an expanded commitment to invest $2 billion over the next 3 years to help bridge the digital divide. This effort will combine AT&T’s low-cost broadband service offerings with ongoing community investment, building on approximately $1 billion in contributions over the last 3 years to help the nation’s most vulnerable communities. We will begin reporting progress toward this goal in 2022.
TOPIC: Education & Skills Building
2025 TARGET: Provide 1 million K-12 students with the technology and/or skills needed to succeed through the AT&T Connected Learning program.
PROGRESS: Launched goal.
AT&T Connected Learning is a multi-year initiative supporting solutions to help stem the tide of learning loss, further narrow the homework gap and empower today’s learners. We set this goal in May 2021 and will begin reporting progress in 2022.
Digital inclusion is a core consideration in our business decisions. We strive to create opportunities for people, including persons with disabilities, to more easily connect to the online world, whether by requiring manufacturers to build accessibility into their products, providing consumers and employees with accessible solutions, or ensuring consumers have affordable internet connectivity.
Availability & Affordability for Rural & Undersubscribed Populations
Affordable internet connectivity is an important tool for access to education, healthcare and employment – whether households use the internet for school assignments or work to complete an education online, to apply for jobs, to research health information or simply to stay in touch with family and friends.
In 2021, we announced an expanded commitment to invest $2 billion over the next 3 years to help address the digital divide. This effort will combine AT&T’s low-cost broadband service offerings with ongoing community investment, building on approximately $1 billion in contributions over the last 3 years to help the nation’s most vulnerable communities.
Closing the Homework Gap
While the homework gap is not new, the critical need to stay digitally connected has never been more urgent. Nearly 17 million children are unable to take part in digital learning because they don’t have an internet connection or device. To close the gap, AT&T made a $10 million commitment to support at-risk students without access to internet service with free internet connectivity and Wi-Fi hotspots. AT&T is collaborating with Connected Nation, a leading non-profit helping communities solve broadband and digital technology challenges, to assist approximately 35,000 students.
AT&T also continues to offer discounted options to more than 135,000 public and private K-12 schools, colleges and universities to keep students and teachers connected. Since March 2020, we have supported K-12 schools and districts, Departments of Education and colleges/universities to connect more than 490,000 students and teachers across 49 states and the District of Columbia.
AT&T is also providing exclusive savings on personal wireless service for teachers and their families. We also established a matching donation program to support distance learning projects in low-income school districts with DonorsChoose, a non-profit crowdsourcing platform that teachers can use to request resources. Together with individual donors – including employees, customers and members of the public – we have supported 1,350 special education projects and impacted more than 80,000 students in underserved communities to date.
Introducing AT&T Connected Learning
As part of our $2 billion commitment, we introduced AT&T Connected Learning, a multi-year initiative supporting solutions to help stem the tide of learning loss, further narrow the homework gap and empower today’s learners.
We’re also launching AT&T Connected Learning Centers in traditionally underserved neighborhoods facing barriers to connectivity. The centers will provide access to high-speed internet and computing devices, as well as opportunities for tutoring and mentorship through our employee-driven AT&T Believes volunteerism initiative.
And together with the Public Library Association (PLA), we’ll offer a collection of digital literacy courses to help parents and families build the skills and confidence to help children navigate distance learning and participate effectively and safely in today’s digital world.
Through our participation in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Connect America Fund program, AT&T has been meeting the connectivity needs of customers in largely rural areas. Through the end of 2020, we have used funds from this program to help deploy, maintain and offer internet and voice services to 1.1 million homes and small-business locations in FCC-identified areas of need.
Access from AT&T
To educate potential participants about Access from AT&T, we’ve connected with national, state and local groups that work with low-income individuals and families. These organizations include social services groups and organizations representing veterans, seniors, students, non-English speakers and others. Over the past few years, we’ve sponsored enrollment events in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) ConnectHome USA program, which helps connect HUD-assisted housing residents to high-speed internet as well as other digital education resources.
AT&T is committed to working with policymakers and stakeholders to ensure people across the country have access to high-speed internet. AT&T recommends that policymakers first identify where broadband is available with geographic precision. Congress has provided the funding necessary to enable the FCC to implement more accurate broadband mapping, which is a critical step in targeting funding from programs like the next phase of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) program.
Second, AT&T recommends that policymakers give equal weight to wired and wireless solutions. As wireless technologies continue to offer greater performance, simpler-to-deploy wireless broadband solutions are increasingly preferred to help close affordability and availability gaps.
We believe it takes a collaborative approach between the public and private sectors, as well as smart public policy, to continue bridging the digital divide. For example, the FCC is directing substantial federal resources to update its universal service programs and support internet deployment. However, universal internet access cannot be achieved by governments alone.
Policies developed at all levels of government need to work with the market and foster continued private-sector investment and innovation by eliminating barriers to connectivity. The private sector has the expertise and a proven track record of meeting consumer demand at the speeds – and with the service options and technologies – consumers want.
AT&T also recommends that the FCC’s Lifeline universal service program be modernized and digitized. Government assistance programs, like SNAP, allow participants to seamlessly receive benefits and make payments electronically via an electronic card system. The Lifeline program should do the same. Also, to be effective, the Lifeline subsidy must be updated to support the full cost of broadband connectivity. These 2 reforms are essential to bringing Lifeline into the broadband age. AT&T also recommends that the government act to make essential broadband support sustainable. Lifeline funding, in particular, must be put on more stable footing. In lieu of placing a tax on an ever-shrinking base of traditional interstate voice services, AT&T has advocated for direct congressional appropriations to meet the growing broadband affordability needs.
Accessible Products & Services
AT&T adopted a Universal Design Statement more than 20 years ago to convey our commitment to the concept and process of making technology universally usable. This commitment requires AT&T and our suppliers to think inclusively about those who use our products and services.
In the U.S., this commitment adheres to applicable laws, such as Sections 255 and 713 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In Mexico, this commitment follows the General Accessibility Guidelines for Telecommunication Services for Users with Disabilities of the Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones (IFT).
Our Chief Accessibility Office works with AT&T’s organizations so that AT&T products and services are designed to address the needs of those with disabilities in accordance with our Universal Design Statement. The office is run by our Chief Accessibility Officer, who reports to our Chief Compliance Officer. At least once per year, our Chief Compliance Officer reports to the Audit Committee of AT&T’s Board of Directors on accessibility topics.
Based on regular engagement with the disability community, our Chief Accessibility Office designs and oversees internal training programs to help developers think about accessibility from the beginning of the product life cycle and help customer-facing employees better serve the needs of customers with disabilities. The Chief Accessibility Office also trains employee accessibility champions and coordinators across the business, to enhance accessibility at all stages of product development. The Chief Accessibility Office’s internal Accessibility Corporate Resources website serves as the go-to accessibility resource for product development across the company. These combined efforts allow the Chief Accessibility Office to support the growth of organizations’ awareness of, skills with and implementation of accessible technology.
Tools and processes provided by the Chief Accessibility Office are also used to determine when accessibility gaps or needs should be addressed, what additional functionality should be added and whether accessibility enhancements were successfully implemented.
The WarnerMedia Accessibility Center of Excellence, as part of the WarnerMedia Technology Governance and Policy Office, works in collaboration with AT&T’s Chief Accessibility Office to introduce Accessibility by Design into WarnerMedia processes and services. This includes a WarnerMedia hub for accessibility resources with access to AT&T’s accessibility resources.
HBO Max has added nearly 1,500 hours of audio descriptions for select content, third-party videos, HBO and HBO Max originals, and Warner Bros. movies, including prominent same-day theatrical releases, for a range of web, mobile and streaming TV platforms. HBO Max has also added a featured audio description category in the navigation menu on web and mobile devices so users can rapidly access the media with audio descriptions and see what has been added on an ongoing basis. In addition, HBO Max mobile apps and website have received new accessibility improvements to work more effectively with screen reader software.
Culture of Accessible Design
Our commitment to inclusive design begins with our employees. Our Accessibility and Inclusion initiative consists of volunteer teams that evaluate and improve accessibility for AT&T employees and prospective employees. The effort implements changes to further ingrain accessibility within the AT&T culture, provide better tools for employees and make it easier for all individuals, including those with disabilities, to pursue employment and career advancement at AT&T. In 2020, we updated evacuation plans and training, created an accessible return-to-work plan for employees post-COVID-19, and made our internal training platform more accessible. We also brought our job accommodations process in-house, simplified it and improved the employee experience. Our culture of inclusion helped AT&T score a 100 on the Disability Equality Index, making us one of the 2020 Best Places to Work for People with Disabilities.
AT&T also has an Accessibility in Action Award to inspire employees to think differently when working on solutions for consumers and each other. In 2020, 3 awards were issued to recognize employees going above and beyond to promote accessibility.
The att.com/accessibility website provides a platform for accessibility education, awareness and support. Designed to spark curiosity and dialogue, the site focuses on AT&T’s philosophy, approach and leadership in empowering the disabled and aging communities. Examples of the products, services and resources visitors can find include:
- Products and services that support those with disabilities related to vision, hearing and speech, cognitive, mobility and aging
- Customer support services like Braille billing and complimentary dialing assistance
- Assistive technologies such as real-time text, closed captioning, text-to-speech apps and other wireless accessibility features
We also operate dedicated customer care centers to assist our customers with disabilities. The AT&T National Center for Customers with Disabilities provides specialized customer service for AT&T wireless customers with disabilities. In addition, our Disability and Aging call center provides specialized wireline customer service for older customers and those with disabilities. 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, cognitive, mobility and/or speech disabilities about equipment, accessories, features and calling plans. Learn more at about.att.com/sites/accessibility/support.
Outreach & Education
AT&T is committed to raising awareness and supporting organizations that make a meaningful difference in the lives of those with disabilities. In 2020, our support included:
- The Oasis Institute: AT&T has provided more than $6 million since 1998 to support the Oasis Institute’s Connections program. This program educates adults over 50 on how to protect themselves online and helps them build skills and confidence using computers, the internet and portable devices.
- Specialisterne: AT&T supported Specialisterne with an $80,000 contribution to support a 6-month, 5-stage program helping develop personal, social and professional skills for people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The pilot hiring program for individuals diagnosed with ASD examines traditional AT&T recruiting, training and onboarding practices to drive cultural, managerial and procedural change. Specialisterne helps AT&T redesign the current talent acquisition process to best source, assess and potentially hire candidates.
- My Possibilities: Over the last 2 years, AT&T has supported My Possibilities with contributions totaling $200,000 to provide 7-week internships for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The internships focus on job-ready skills and provide tools, training, coaching and placement support to help prepare participants for employment.
AT&T understands that culture change must start with authentic voices. Guided by this belief, we were the lead sponsor for ADA30 Lead On: A Celebration of Disability Arts, Culture, Education and Pride, an online event engaging paid talent with disabilities both in front of and behind the camera. This event celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and raised awareness of the need to create employment opportunities in the entertainment field. AT&T also supported ADA30: Lead On in efforts to promote the 75th anniversary of National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
We participate in ongoing work with the disability community, including the AT&T Advisory Panel on Accessibility & Aging (AAPAA). Comprising national leaders in assistive technology, aging and cross-disability issues, AAPAA provides disability and aging-related advice and counsel to AT&T leadership teams. This expert panel meets with AT&T leaders from across the business and the Chief Accessibility Office and provides ongoing input on accessibility efforts.
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