Jim Tobias has more than 35 years of experience in accessible and usable technology in both public and private sectors. His work has focused on how technologies are designed and used for seniors and people with disabilities in employment, education, and civic participation. Currently, Tobias heads Inclusive Technologies, a technology analysis consulting firm specializing in accessible information and communication technologies. Tobias also works with PEAT, the Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure project, and Raising the Floor, an international consortium on advanced usability.
How to Know When It's Time for a TechCheck
If you're an employer about to take a leap into an accessible workplace technology effort, you might be wondering where to begin. It's a question I'm often asked by people who understand the "why" behind accessibility, but who are daunted by the "how." But getting started is actually pretty simple. It's all about assessment—taking stock of your workplace ICT and the systems and processes you have in place to implement accessible technology practices.
Why do systems and processes matter? Because accessible technology efforts don't just relate to the technology itself. They involve organizational change, which can often be the heavier lift. And that organizational approach to ICT accessibility was the genesis behind the interactive tool I helped PEAT develop called TechCheck.
If you're not already familiar with TechCheck, we hope you’ll take a look. It's a free, interactive resource that helps organizations gain an overall picture of how well developed their accessible technology efforts are—and find tools to develop them further. Best of all, it generates a confidential, personalized TechCheck Readout that can serve as a foundation for making organizational improvements leading to a more accessible workplace.
Can TechCheck help you? The answer is a resounding “yes.” During a recent webinar I walked participants through the tool's functionality and used the following scenarios to illustrate when it's time for a TechCheck:
- You're always playing catch-up. Picture the company that fixes some accessibility problems on its intranet; but then six months later, an intranet redesign causes new, additional accessibility issues.
- Your organization's “silos” are breeding inconsistency. Such is the case when your CIO office implements a new, inaccessible job application platform the same week that an HR director attends a job fair about diversity and inclusion best practices. If only both departments were on the same page!
- Your systems are incompatible with accessibility features. Imagine a new employee who has to wait six weeks to get a sign language videoconferencing tool she needs due to a network security misunderstanding.
- Your accessibility efforts are ad hoc. If there's no consistency, continuity, or strategy behind your accessible technology efforts, they are likely to be high cost and low impact.
If any of these profiles sound familiar, I hope you'll check out the TechCheck tool and attend one of our virtual walkthroughs. (You can subscribe to PEAT's email updates to learn when the next one will take place). And if you're still not convinced, consider our top five reasons to give it a try:
- TechCheck is the best tool of its kind out there. If you’re just getting started on accessible technology, TechCheck will give you a snapshot of where you are and a roadmap for moving forward.
- You get rapid feedback. The Readout you receive shortly after completing TechCheck provides a high-level indication of where you stand across several dimensions, such as team building, internal training, procurement policies, accessibility testing processes, and measurement of your efforts.
- You walk away with something to show the top brass. We at PEAT know one sure thing about accessibility efforts: they go nowhere without support from management. So take your TechCheck Readout to an interested executive to spark a discussion about your strategy and recommended activities to move the accessibility needle.
- It's quick and easy. TechCheck is as simple as an online survey and takes about 10 minutes to complete.
- It's anonymous and risk free. TechCheck is a no cost, no commitment kind of endeavor. It's possible you may need additional resources down the road to build your accessible technology program, but for now, TechCheck empowers you to get started without any investment. And PEAT wants you to know that we will never publish any of your answers, or share that you have participated in TechCheck without your explicit permission. PEAT does not retain your answers except to create your customized Readout.
The bottom line is that an accessible workplace is ultimately a more inclusive and productive workplace—one where all employees can access and use the technology within their job environment to perform to their fullest potential. So what are you waiting for?