My Adaptive Workplace - Delivering on Accessibility


Posted on: March 14, 2014 by Neil Milliken

Every couple of years the media spotlight falls upon the Paralympics and the amazing achievements of the athletes. As the games draw to a close and focus turns away from sport back to normality, I thought it would be good to highlight what we are doing to support people with disabilities in the workplace.

Providing and supporting assistive technologies (AT).

I head up the Accessibility and Digital Inclusion (A&DI) team where our primary focus is to ensure that there is equality of access to our products and services, (Disclosure - I am dyslexic so have a personal interest in making the tools that I rely on work).

Did you know that a study by Fortune found that the cost of making reasonable adjustments for people in work was 40 times less than the cost of replacing and training workers? [1]

And that “Gartner predicts that by 2015, 50% of organizations will have technology projects underway that support enablement of disabled people in the workplace.” [2]

A large part of the A&DI team’s role focuses around supporting assistive technologies, both for colleagues and for our customers. Screen readers, magnifiers, speech recognition tools and weird and wonderful hardware like one-handed keyboards and head pointers might seem out of place in a corporate environment but it is the remit of the A&DI team to ensure that not only do these products work on users’ computers but that that other products and services we offer work with the ATs we have provided.

Where possible, we look to standardise the ATs that we offer as it is easier to deploy and support a known quantity. We’ve just finished compiling our latest catalogue of AT products and are turning our attention to our future technology roadmap.

Compatibility and interoperability.

Ensuring that AT’s work in an enterprise environment is challenging, unlike the personal computing environment where you are usually an administrator; there are lots of other considerations at play. Corporate systems require higher levels of control and security; balancing this with the needs of AT to hook deep into the operating system is a challenge but one that we relish.

Often new technology adoption outstrips the capabilities of established assistive technologies, when this happens we have to provide scripting for interoperability where the programs cannot support ATs. Scripting is a last resort for us and we prefer to work with technical teams and in cooperation with vendors to improve accessibility in the products we buy.

Looking forward

It’s this desire for forward engagement with the manufacturers of products that we supply that has led to a number of initiatives:

  • Creation of Internal Accessibility Standards & Guidelines (adopting recognised standards)
  • The launch of Accessible Procurement Policies and Monitoring of Suppliers using our Ecovadis tool.
  • Working with the Business Disability Forum Technology Taskforce to use the collective purchasing power of the members to convince suppliers of the demand for improved accessibility of future versions of their products.
  • Contribution to the W3C’s Cognitive Accessibility Taskforce

Digital Inclusion is not an off the shelf item I prefer to think of it as a journey where we all continue to learn, I hope that you will join me and others on the road to a more accessible future.

You can find out more about the work we do on our Adaptive Workplace Accessibility website.

_________________ [1] - P. Digh. "America's Largest Untapped Market: Who They Are, the Potential They Represent," Fortune, March 1998, posted on Disability World.

[2] - Andrew Johnson - Gartner: What IT Leaders Need to Know About New Rules and Opportunities When Hiring People With Disabilities 10/03/2014

Picture: Olena Iurkovska by Clay Oquot. Licensed under CC-BY-SA 3.0

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About Neil Milliken

Head of Accessibility & Digital Inclusion and member of the Scientific Community
With over a decade of experience in the assistive technology industry, Neil is the subject matter expert on Accessibility and Assistive Technology for Atos, delivering consultancy, expertise and supporting bid and delivery teams across customer accounts and internally. Neil is the Atos representative on the Business Taskforce For Assistive Technology which has members across industry and government. He also sits on various advisory bodies including the e-accessibility forum for the UK Department for Culture Media and Sport. Previously Neil ran the operations for one of the world’s leading Assistive Technology suppliers where he was instrumental in the creation of industry standards and Supplier SLAs for the Disabled Student Allowance. He was also a director of a Joint venture company that developed an award winning Mobile app for dyslexia. He has a passion for his subject matter and loves mobiles, technology and music in no particular order.

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