We remain committed to increasing digital inclusion for rural areas and undersubscribed populations and to offering innovative and accessible products and services to meet a variety of disability- and age-related needs.
1 Consistent with the requirements of the FCC DIRECTV Merger Order
Digital inclusion is a core consideration in all our business decisions, including the products and services we offer, our ability to meet the internet connectivity needs of rural and undersubscribed populations and the way we hire, develop and engage employees, prospective employees, and customers with disabilities.
Whether we’re requiring manufacturers to build accessibility into their products, ensuring consumers have access to affordable internet, or working to provide consumers and employees with accessibility solutions, we create an inclusive experience for customers and employees.
Connectivity for Rural & Undersubscribed Populations
As innovation introduces new opportunities every day, we are helping to increase access to and affordability of communications technology for rural areas and undersubscribed populations.
Through our participation in a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program, AT&T has been helping to meet the connectivity needs of customers in largely rural areas and to expand the opportunities enabled by internet access. By the end of 2020, AT&T will have used funds from this FCC program to help deploy, maintain and offer internet access and voice services to 1.1 million mostly rural homes and small business locations in FCC-identified areas.
Low-Cost Home Internet Program
As part of our Access from AT&T program outreach efforts, we’ve connected with national, state and local groups that work with low-income individuals and families for their assistance in educating potential participants. These organizations include social services groups and organizations representing veterans, seniors, non-English speakers and other groups. We also are collaborating with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on its ConnectHome USA program. In 2019, we held enrollment events to help increase awareness of our program among HUD residents in ConnectHome USA locations within our wireline footprint. AT&T also held community and promotional events at a number of national conferences and community locations for local families and organizations, and we hosted webinars with school administrators and national organizations in an effort to promote the Access from AT&T program.
Affordable Internet Policy Advocacy
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 toward updating its high-cost universal service programs to 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 access. 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.
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. Our goal is to create solutions that meet their varying needs. AT&T Mexico is also committed to using Universal Design principles in the design of new and redesigned physical and digital environments.
In the U.S., this commitment is in alignment with applicable laws, such as Sections 255 and 713 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the 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).
The AT&T Chief Accessibility Officer leads our accessibility efforts, responsible for retaining and growing a culture within AT&T that advocates accessibility for our customers and our employees. In fulfilling that mission, the Chief Accessibility Officer engages with the disability community and helps ensure that AT&T understands and is responsive to the community’s issues and recommendations.
Our Chief Accessibility Officer also oversees the Chief Accessibility Office (CAO), a team that helps ensure AT&T products and services are designed to address the needs of those with disabilities in accordance with our Universal Design Statement. The team defines corporate standards, offers training and provides accessibility tools and resources for use by project teams throughout the company. They also provide guidance on accessibility for pay TV set-top boxes, over the top streaming services and content-driven apps and websites.
The CAO oversees internal training programs, tailored to different employee roles, designed to help developers think about accessibility from the beginning of the product lifecycle as well as help customer-facing employees better serve the needs of customers with disabilities. The CAO also works to identify and train Accessibility Champions and Coordinators, who work with their teams across the business to enhance accessibility at all stages of product development. The Accessibility Center of Excellence serves as the go-to accessibility resource for product development across the company. These combined steps allow the CAO to track the growth of business units’ awareness, skill and implementation of accessible technology.
We also test accessible products and services that are covered by applicable accessibility laws to determine if accessibility was properly addressed. As an example, the testing verifies web pages were constructed to allow blind and low-vision users to utilize screen-reader software that successfully conveys what is on the page. Tools and processes provided by the CAO are used to determine when accessibility must be addressed and what accessibility functionality needs to be included, and to test whether or not accessibility was successfully implemented. When a deficiency is identified, a plan is then established to remediate the issue.
Culture of Accessibile Design
Our commitment to inclusive design begins with our employees. Our Accessibility and Inclusion (A&I) Initiative consists of multiple volunteer teams that evaluate and improve accessibility for AT&T employees and prospective employees. The effort aims to implement changes that will further ingrain accessibility as part of the AT&T culture, provide better tools for AT&T employees and make it easier for all individuals, including those with disabilities, to pursue employment and career advancement at AT&T. In 2019, the A&I program included implementing major accessibility improvements to AT&T’s internet meeting platform, refreshing our public-facing accessibility website and enhancing our job accommodations process.
We also have an “Accessibility in Action Award” to recognize employees who go above and beyond to promote accessibility and inclusion. This award is a way to inspire employees to think differently when working on solutions for consumers and each other. In 2019, we introduced the “Accessibility in Action Award” to AT&T Latin America and WarnerMedia.
AT&T maintains att.com/accessibility, which is designed to provide accessibility education, help customers find AT&T resources and identify products, services, features and applications that help meet their needs, including:
- AT&T Wireless Accessibility plans
- Real-time text
- Closed captioning
- Braille billing
- Text-to-speech apps
- Amplification apps
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 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.
In 2019, the CAO, along with representatives from advocacy groups, government, academia and vocational rehabilitation centers joined the AT&T Foundry for Connected Health to discuss how AT&T can continue to create accessible, healthcare-related advances using Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. The dialogue centered on how the innovation process can help ensure the needs of people with disabilities are included from the beginning of the product development process. We also discussed the need to address specific applications, such as medical devices and prosthetics, aging well at home, smart cities, and emergency communications between first responders and people with disabilities.
We also participate in ongoing work with the disability community, including the AT&T Advisory Panel on Access & 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 regularly with AT&T leaders – from the CAO to AT&T Labs to Marketing to Human Resources – and provides ongoing input on accessibility efforts.
We’re also committed to raising awareness and supporting organizations that are making a meaningful difference in the lives of those with disabilities. In 2019, our support included:
- Accessibility Awareness Lab: The Accessibility Awareness Lab provides a guided experience to build understanding of and empathy for persons with disabilities. It consists of a shippable collection of common assistive technologies that demonstrate how AT&T products and services are used by people with disabilities, as well as a website that can be used alone or in conjunction with a physical lab. In 2019, more than 1,900 participants experienced the lab in showcases across 9 U.S. cities and Mexico City.
- Global Accessibility Awareness Day: On May 16, 2019, AT&T celebrated Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) with a 90-minute company-wide event featuring a number of speakers and demonstrations of assistive and accessible technology. Speakers from across AT&T discussed their experience as a person with a disability and how those disabilities impacted the way they perform their jobs. We also set up our Accessibility Awareness Lab near the auditorium to promote employee awareness and encourage involvement at the GAAD event.
- Shape Up Your Accessibility: The CAO hosted “Shape Up Your Accessibility” as part of the AT&T SHAPE Hackathon in April 2019. The goal was to expose designers and developers to the benefits of accessible design, as well as how to make technology that is accessible to people with disabilities.
- The Oasis Institute: AT&T provided $6 million over the last 20 years to support the Oasis Institute’s Connections program, which helps adults over 50 build skills and confidence using computers, the internet and portable devices. The Oasis Institute, a non-profit educational organization, currently offers the Connections program in 18 states and 28 cities and reaches 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.
- American Association of People with Disabilities: In 2019, AT&T provided $95,000 to the American Association of People with Disabilities to support scholarships, enabling a diverse group of students with disabilities to participate in a 10-week summer internship program in Washington, D.C. The program addressed employment disparities within the disability community. The funding also supported a new academic certificate program on disability.
- The Washington Center: AT&T provided $50,000 to The Washington Center (TWC) in 2019 to support scholarships helping students with disabilities 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 communities.
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