Accessibility and inclusion challenges and strategies can vary greatly across countries and regions. To support greater accessibility and inclusion worldwide, G3ict’s Global Policy Center has developed an extensive network of Country Representatives – accessibility experts and disability leaders who partner with local and national governments, civil society, and private sector stakeholders to create more inclusive societies and communities. This session will explore the current state of accessibility and inclusion with the G3ict Country Representatives from Kuwait, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
Session Chair: James Thurston, VP, Global Strategy and Development, G3ict
- Zainab AlMeraj, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Information Science Department, Kuwait University, G3ict Country Representative for Kuwait
- Thalagodage Janitha Rukmal, Co-founder, Enable Lanka Foundation, G3ict Country Representative for Sri Lanka
- Yulia Sarviro, Senior Project Manager, G3ict
- Mohammad Atif Sheikh, Executive Director, Special Talent Exchange Programme, G3ict Country Representative for Pakistan
OCTOBER 24, 2022
1:30 PM ET
PANEL DISCUSSION: ACCESSIBILITY POLICIES & PRACTICES FOR INCLUSIVE ENTERPRISE METAVERSES
Services Provided By:
Caption First, Inc.
P.O. Box 3066
Monument, CO 80132
This text, document, or file is based on live transcription. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART), captioning, and/or live transcription are provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. This text, document, or file is not to be distributed or used in any way that may violate copyright law.
Ladies and gentlemen, kindly take your seats. Our program will begin in two minutes. Ladies and gentlemen, kindly take your seats. Our program will begin in two minutes. Thank you.
FRANCESCA CESA BIANCHI: Good afternoon. Good afternoon and welcome back. I hope you enjoyed your lunch. I would like to introduce our afternoon panel here and the panel discussion today is about Accessibility Policies and Practices for Inclusive Enterprise Metaverses. And chairing the session is, Bill Curtis Davidson, Co Director, Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology, PEAT. I welcome Bill and his speakers on the stage. Please, Bill. Panelists include Monica Desai, Vice President and Global Head, Connectivity and Access Policy at Meta. Jacque Madison, Director of Product Accessibility at Accenture, and Jourdan Saunders, CEO of The Resource Key and LinkedIn Top Voice. Welcome, and the floor is yours. Thank you.
BILL CURTIS-DAVIDSON: Thank you, Francesca. Thank you, everyone, for joining us. My name s Francesca, and as I said this is Bill Curtis Davidson. Excited to discuss here with the panel about the M word, metaverse, as we'll discuss today.
First, we start, I want to discuss the theme. Before we get started, I want to start by having the panelists each introduce themselves. I will start and just say I am a White middle aged male, I think definitively middle age, wearing glasses, I natively work in Atlanta, so delighted to be here. And again, my work at PEAT, is I work for the Wheelhouse Group, a Federal contractor that supports this important initiative aimed at helping make sure that workplace and technologies are inclusively designed, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy. Monica?
MONICA DESAI: Sure. Hello, everyone. My name is Monica Desai. Thank you so much for having me here today. Happy Dewali for those who celebrate. I am of Indian heritage so wearing Indian some Indian clothes for the occasion. And it feels like it's appropriate for me to be here on Dewali at M Enabling because it in part celebrates the human ability to overcome. So, I very much appreciate the opportunity to be here today, especially on the 10th Anniversary of M Enabling, which is super exciting.
As background, I'm the Global Head of Connectivity and Access Policy at meta that focuses in part by access policy. I spent a decade at the Federal Communications Commission including service as Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau which develops all policies and rules in connection with accessibility. As well as Chief of the Media Bureau which oversees all captioning policies. I was also previously at a law firm where I counseled clients on accessibility issues. So, that's just a long way of saying, accessibility has been a very significant part of my career, and so again I'm very grateful to be here.
BILL CURTIS-DAVIDSON: Jacque?
JACQUE MADISON: My name is Jacque Madison Director of Product Accessibility at Accenture. A White woman in my 30s with blond hair wearing a black top today and excited to be here and worked closely with Bill over the years and this is the first time we've actually gotten to meet in person.
BILL CURTIS-DAVIDSON: Thank you. Jourdan.
JOURDAN SAUNDERS: My name is Jourdan Saunders, CEO of The Resource Key. My pronouns are she/her. Brown skin, African American woman, a pink tweed coat with black shirt under and black skirt. My background has been over 10 years of speech, language pathologist doing direct services. And then I transitioned to starting my own business to ensure that businesses were including people with disabilities in the area of marketing.
Two things that you probably won't see on my bio are I have aphantasia, which is image free thinking. So, if I close my eyes right now, I wouldn't be able to visualize a horse or cat or really anything, so I create using words and word clouds, and I worked in over 7 different industries ranging from the funeral home industry to hospitality. Thank you.
BILL CURTIS-DAVIDSON: Great. Thanks again for each of you joining us today. Before we get started, it's always a part of these sessions to say, what the heck is the metaverse, right. The metaverse is not one thing, not developed by any one organization or entity. It is really indicating a new kind of way of thinking about digital content and experiences that is specialized and physically embedded in our world. It's about people and places and digital content being experienced in different ways, often with different dimensionality, three dimensional, four dimensional, audio visual, et cetera. Also, the concept of digital twins or replicas, if you will, of the real world or different people coming together from different places who may not physically be in the same place but may appear to be so.
So, there is like headsets or something that you've seen, VR headsets or virtual reality or augmented reality, different hardware, input, but really the technologies are becoming a part of even our conferences tools and our two dimensional screens; right, so going into a web browser into virtual reality is possible today. And it's being done with increasing frequency.
So, today what we wanted to do is give you a sense of how our enterprise is really adopting this. We're trying to focus on the world of the workplace, thus PEAT organizing this session because hybrid work is really a jump start for these technologies, and you're going to hear some great examples from Accenture, Meta, and Jourdan today about what they're experiencing and observing. As you heard earlier today, the DEIA, plus the A is really important, and these technologies are having some interesting intersections with DEI A. Then we're going to talk about the challenges be that are happening. We're sharing some examples of what people are experiencing as they try to implement these technologies that are already we're riding the train as it's being built.
And then also the imperfections, obviously, accessibility is a journey and always will be. There are some interesting examples of how employee resource groups and accommodation teams as well as accessibility programs are evolving to support these and other technologies, and we'll wrap up with some resources and time for questions.
So, as we get started I'm sorry, I need to go backwards here. I'm not sure how to do that.
Just to get started, I would like to ask each of the panelists to talk a little bit about how enterprises are using these technologies within hybrid work specifically, and perhaps Jacque, if I could ask you to start?
JACQUE MADISON: Yeah. So, the metaverse has been really critical to our kind of future of work strategy, and the pandemic was really a launch point, a real catalyst for getting into this space and making it what it is. The hope is really to create this omni connected experiences, things that are truly human, to kind of bridge that gap when you can't be in a physical space with your partners, with your peers, with your clients. Right. So, we want people to be able to socialize and to learn and to collaborate, and so it's been it's been a wild ride.
Accenture nth floor, metaverse as we call it. we believe is the largest enterprise metaverse in the world which is super exciting, and our initial use cases were really around in collaboration and learning and then our on boarding process which has grown immensely over the last few years.
But the metaverse continuum, you know, it's going to change the way we operate all business. I mean it's not just about how we work in our day to day, but it's going to, you know, impact the products that we offer and how we distribute them. It's going to be really exciting.
BILL CURTIS-DAVIDSON: Great. Monica, would you like to add on?
MONICA DESAI: Oh, sure. Yeah. I'm glad you're raising this topic. It's something that, you know, all companies should pay attention to right now. There is a recent survey of 1500 employees and 1500 employers, and it was interesting that 77% of employers and 57% of employees expressed an interest in immersive work environments, such as the metaverse. And the top reason why, not surprising, is having home flexibility, of course, but as finding that it would be an easier way to collaborate with their colleagues, and also to increase job opportunities.
Interestingly and not surprisingly for the youngest responders in the survey, Gen Z contingent, 66% say they foresee working in the metaverse environment within the next few years. We're already seeing how these types of technologies can transform the way we work, including benefiting employees with disabilities.
For example, one company in Belgium called Malenstein, I hope I pronounce it right, has been for the past several years using augmented systems for augmented aids for several hundred employees with developmental disabilities. The device provides employees with realtime continuous feedback and guidance on how to complete tasks in their various types of work. Additionally, the system can help these employees identify and address mistakes in realtime. The gains have been really clear. There have been productivity increases, exponential productivity increases, and quality issues, or quality defects have substantially decreased.
I think equally important if not more important, the employees themselves have reported a much greater satisfaction with their work and greater confidence with their ability to work.
You know, we've also seen other examples as well, MGM is letting applicants try out hotel rooms in virtual XR. The idea is that, you know, employees really experience before jumping in to know what to expect. It's also part of the way to kind of help stem the Great Resignation that we're hearing about as well.
Research bearers in Oslo are using mixed reality systems to turn two dimensional medical images into 3D augmented reality models for planning surgery, for training, for navigating around organs during operations, and so the benefits are very real, and I'll stop there. Those are just a few examples.
BILL CURTIS-DAVIDSON: Jourdan, please.
JOURDAN SAUNDERS: Yeah. So, one of the pilots I was reading about recently is one entitled Skill Immersion Lab, and it was a partnership with Jobs for the Future, JFF partnered with SAP, a software vendor and Tailspin Immersive Learning Platform. What I love is the pilot was focused on softer skills like empathy and leadership and those type of things. And they piloted it with 14 to 20 year olds, and in the Phase 1, we were doing the pilot and Tailspin was the one that was creating the virtual reality scenarios.
Now, the second piece I love about this is the fact that they took the information and feedback from the 14 to 20 year olds and rolled out a Phase 2. And in this they co created with the 14 to 20 year olds. And I think this is a very powerful example because it shows partnership, collaborating outside of different industries, and also younger generation and the co creation. These are some of the core things that as we look to the future are going to be very imperative because technology is moving so rapidly.
BILL CURTIS-DAVIDSON: Great. Thank you for providing all of those key points and examples. I think what we're observing is, again, these are causing a sense of urgency for there to be more inclusive design. They just bring up so many different design challenges and implementation challenges, even if you're dealing with products you're acquiring, right, from hardware to the software or consultants. And so, I'd like to talk a little bit about like the role of DEIA and accessibility programs and like what you've seen happening there. Which one of you which one of you to start?
MONICA DESAI: Happy to start with our approach in the workplace if that's helpful and then we can talk about tech after. So, what we're doing in terms of accessibility in the workplace, we really we try hard to leverage our learnings and keep applying them moving forward, and at Meta, we have a dedicated centralized accessibility team which I think is really important to have in the workplace.
That team really drives and coordinates and disseminates disability related user research for engineering teams, including collaborations with universities and disability advocacy organizations, and also defines, develops, distributes, accessibility training, best practices, tools, technologies, metrics, and offers support in the workplace as well. Everything from the hiring process, the interview process, recruitment process, through onboarding, through you know through staying through Meta.
And then at the same time, its accessibility, is treated as a horizontal function in the workplace. So that means that it's embedded into the different departments that touch the product lifecycle, including design, research, engineering at different phases. Also, in policy and legal which results in important automatic kind of cross functionality so that the goal, of course, is that products and technologies are born accessible.
BILL CURTIS-DAVIDSON: Jacque?
JACQUE MADISON: Yeah. So, the transformation of the web here, it comes with a lot of responsibility. Right. So, there is massive change that's happening already, but we've got to take a step back and really kind of learn. So, the current implementation of the Internet, we've done it, we know that there is challenges, and we're starting off new from scratch. This is an opportunity for us to really start from the right place if we take that intention now.
Looking at it from, you know, the practical DEI lens, accessibility is just arm of disability and inclusion in the workplace. We do have accommodation support that is absolutely critical. Do we have the right people, the right cultural DNA, really, to support people with disabilities. But technology is how we work now, so we have to make sure that we are enabling people with it and people aren't being left behind.
BILL CURTIS-DAVIDSON: Right. Jourdan, would you like to add some thoughts.
JOURDAN SAUNDERS: Sure. I can speak to the bigger picture of this. So, one of the biggest things I think is when we're looking at what we're rolling out, we can't roll out the same thing that's not working that's excluding people right now into the metaverse, and so I think that's something really important.
When I look at the workforce, a lot of times companies are hiring and wanting to diversify and include, but there is a lot of different key barriers that are knocking people out before you even get to the actual interview. So, when I look at the application tracking systems that maybe the website is accessible, but when someone goes to go to apply for a job, it's not accessible. There is a disconnect.
Accessibility is going to be key and it needs to be embedded in every single aspect. It can't just be in one aspect and not the other.
The other thing that comes to mind is the way we're leveraging partnerships, even there needs to be a circular. At no point should someone that's applying for a job be dropped off. So, like what I mean by that is, if the technology can really leverage, and I see it leveraging as if someone is maybe not qualified for an opportunity, maybe there is partnerships that you have in place where it says, hey, Jourdan, these are some other opportunities or partners that you may be better qualified for this position or this may be a better fit. or maybe there is a skill set that someone can work on utilizing this technology to be able to get the job.
So, I think there is ways with onboarding and off boarding. If you're laying someone off, they're quitting, you're firing them, whatever it is, there needs to be a point of contact where you're engaging and figuring out what happened, what went wrong. Because there is a lot of hybrid work that is a great example. When everything shut down with the pandemic and everyone started working from home, and then companies are saying, hey, we need everyone back in now or we want to go to hybrid. Well, people's lives have adjusted based off of the model that you've provided, so we really need to be cognizant because there are some ways that we can fix with getting feedback from humans, right, people. We have to talk and collaborate.
Before we even get to the actual interview process, there needs to be a lot of look at processes before. Transportation, if you're expecting someone to come in hybrid, can there be stipends or partnerships with Metro. And then the off boarding and taking the opportunities to see if this person you're about to layoff, maybe there is a partnership that you can provide them for an opportunity to transition into something else.
BILL CURTIS-DAVIDSON: I think what we're hearing with the hybrid. Jacque, it strikes me that Accenture, again, has one of the biggest examples probably of adapting to the new hybrid workplace and the significant challenges that were brought on by all of us being restricted in travel, and then you still have hundreds of thousands of employees in different locations, different countries with different workplace rules, so there are a lot of challenges confronted here while at the same time the technologies do hold a lot of promise.
As you mentioned the nth Floor project that you were speaking about is largely about on boarding, right, and making sure that everyone can kind of participate. So maybe we can talk a little bit more about challenges that, again, especially with these large scale because once you start getting involved, you really understand as you each alluded to, the different parts of the organization that have to be involved, and all of the technology combinations. It's not just one technology. It's many, many different technologies that often are highly in transition themselves. So, Jacque, would you like to start?
JACQUE MADISON: Yeah. So, you're right. We've got over 700,000 employees, and if the last fiscal year we really rapidly scaled our digital on boarding up to 150,000 new hires, so that comes with some challenges. The technology is new. Right. It's not familiar to everyone. The learning curve is already a challenge to begin with, but when we think about accessibility, that challenge can become a lot more significant. Right.
I think it's important for, you know, just to kind of call out and recognize that there are so many different inputs to create an immersive experience like that. You know, our partnerships with Meta and with Microsoft are just a small piece of it as well, right. We've got our world builders and users and creators and the different groups with the peripherals and all of the games that are out there. Just so much stuff.
We're all working toward the same goal. We're all on the journey together, but we're all at very different stages of maturity in the accessibility view, so that can definitely be a big challenge in trying to navigate what does accessibility mean for this technology.
We see a lot of innovation happening with like cultural diversity, which is really amazing, you know, realtime language translation. It's a lot of fun, but we've got to do a lot more work to make sure there is equity in the systems, and I think it's going to come down even more so with the devices. We're on that path with software, but it's going to be, you know, kind of a challenge to figure that out.
At Accenture, we try to capitalize on the existing technologies to help make these things more accessible as we're going through this, so that is, you know, going through these experiences in 2D or leveraging some of the different peripherals that we've used for X Box gaming for a decade. It's something that we're working on to try to stop the gap for now, but at the same time we're spending so much, investing so much with our partners really trying to provide feedback from our users so that we can start to build these things into roadmaps to really kind of change tomorrow. That's kind of it.
BILL CURTIS-DAVIDSON: I love what you were just saying. I was talking to someone else earlier and I think when you undertake these significant efforts, and we know there are a lot of accessibility challenges, so you have to approach from a learning perspective and never stop that. Also, we have to have direct involvement of people with disabilities, and of course all of us live and breathe that, most everyone here, but that is like even more critical to figure out the proper ways to do that and then also working with your partners, like you mentioned Meta and maybe Monica if you have some comments, then we'll go to Jourdan as well. Challenges or working together in combination with it?
MONICA DESAI: I wanted to point out a fundamental foundational challenge. On the technology side we found accessibility is just not taught consistently enough, or just enough in computer science and design and user interface programs at the college level or university level. And if future technologists aren't trained to think about accessibility as they're building products, it's a problem. You know, we need future technologists to, you know, to be focused in that way and to be oriented that way. So, we've tried to take accessibility knowledge and disseminate that in order to accelerate accessibility through, you know, through university types of programs. That includes through XR technologies.
Let me expand on what I mentioned before about, you know, developer guidelines and technical recommendations that we've worked on in collaboration with the XR Association, we've worked with some disability groups and industry organizations to develop and launch XR Accessibility Guidelines for Developers, and that guidance for those of you who are not familiar with it, offers developers a set of industry backed best practices for developing accessible XR software that enhances experiences for all users and not just those with disabilities.
We've also issued our own set of technical recommendations designed to help developers create more accessible VR apps. These are called Accessible Virtual Reality Checks, which I'm sure you're familiar with. They're a set of technical recommendations designed to help developers create more accessible VR technologies, but we think that should be more of a focus and needs to be more of a focus at the college level or university level.
BILL CURTIS-DAVIDSON: Jourdan, would you like to add in.
JOURDAN SAUNDERS: Yes. So, some of the challenges are a lot of this information is very technical, and so when you're talking across different industries, how do you pull information together so that anyone you're talking to is able to understand it. Because what one person's definition of as other panelists stated, of accessibility and in finance may be different than when we're talking about building out technology, so I think it's going to be imperative because of this challenge that we're talking outside of our industries because as a speech and language pathologist, I can go to someone else and tell them an abbreviation or something technical and they can understand what I'm talking about. But if I use that same acronym or word in another context, it may be something different. That's going to be huge when we're thinking about building out, as well as this technology is moving rapidly, so how do you stay relevant? If you're building something out today and a year later it's no longer relevant, and then you're building out a new system, it's very difficult, especially when we're talking about accessibility if these interfaces are platforms are completely different and someone is having to learn an interface. So, I think really integrating and thinking about simplicity on the front end and maybe it's more complex on the back end as we build out these different technologies.
I think the last piece that I'll say, or two more pieces, are there are different disabilities that present differently. There are also multiple disabilities, right, and so I think we need when we're building things, a lot of times we're building from maybe personal experiences or maybe one side of the problem. But we really need to be looking at everything as building beyond. This is going to be ongoing because accessibility doesn't stop after you implement one area. So, we have to look at that.
The last piece I'll say is the education. Everything is moving fast, so it has to be a connector point between the education system and the workforce, so I think more partnerships need to be developed earlier on by I think middle school on to be able to prepare our future leaders to be able to take the reins and continue on in the work.
BILL CURTIS-DAVIDSON: Great. Yeah. A lot of these challenges, too, cause us to have to think about, for example, workplace accommodations, right. Most organizations have some established processes for this, but what happens whether you're implementing virtual reality-based systems and what are the fallbacks, right. Is that equivalent to have someone to be able to access something in a headset and then someone else on a screen? How do we navigate this process brings new challenges in the workplace.
Procurement as well. The discussions again, just like other technology paradigms, you buy the hardware and the software is provided by different parties and the operating systems, so I think in some ways, we have to be looking at it and it does cause challenges, right, where even in an established program where you're used to looking at something like an accessibility conformance report from a supplier who has the responsibility of producing those in some level of reliability, what does that look like in this space. Right. That's different.
I'm glad you mentioned, Monica, the guidelines. We'll talk about resources later, but in fact there are people in the room here working on standards for things like immersive captioning, work that the W3C is doing, and then partners like the XR Association who PEAT also collaborated with on some of its work, so there is a lot going on that we'll leave some resources with you. I think it's imperative to kind of look at all of this because we're all going to be facing the same challenges. Right.
So, maybe next we can talk about those evolving practices, like anything you want to point out with what you've experienced actually getting those different stakeholders involved, such as like the HR teams, learning and development, obviously on boarding, Jacque as you mentioned is a key purpose of Nth Floor and people becoming new employees, you know, it requires these different collaborators inside the internal ecosystem as well as suppliers. Maybe touch on some of those angles, if you can.
JACQUE MADISON: Yeah. So, I run the Accessibility Center of Excellence within our kind of corporate business programs, and we partner across the entire organization. So up through global IND, through our EOGs, through the accommodation support process, human resources, with purchasing, and then within our own IT frameworks, we've got our design groups and our engineering groups and our testing and our operations. And so it's really, I mean it's embedded everywhere.
So, when we see these challenges, we try to we try to adjust as quickly as we can. Right. I know that the technology is never going to be perfect. Right. But our attitudes to solving a problem for a human being, that's the goal. Right. We've got to make sure that that culture is there and that we're thinking about it every day. The EOGs have been a lot of fun in that space. It's a very symbiotic relationship that we have with them. We have a dedicated metaverse, an inclusive metaverse product team and they are solely set up to make sure that our enterprise metaverse is accessible and inclusive to all Accenture employees, and if that means getting on the phone and figuring out where the vote is or sitting down and going through design demos with our own builders or world developers to make sure we're touching on those points and getting in conversations with our ERG members and really bringing them into the conversation early on has been a really great way to get things started.
BILL CURTIS-DAVIDSON: I really want to punctuate with what you just said. I was fascinated, Jacque, when I first started collaborating with you and then we met some of your team. To have an inclusive metaverse leader, right, is a new that's a new role. Right. It's not it's not entirely new because we have inclusive design leaders, we have and then you think of the technical roles, there are people that develop virtual reality, you know, like content and things that are more technical. But to have dedicated roles is something that we do see happening, and I think I would encourage each of you to think about your own organizations, or if you're in policy or influence roles, this is something that we see happening. There are new roles coming into being.
Another company I was working with has virtual greeters, so think of the Walmart greeter, but you're not in Walmart you're in the metaverse helping people navigate into it properly, and then being a support resource if there is a problem funneling that back through the team. These technologies are causing new roles to come into being. It's not just in technology. It could be in human resources, right. If there is an on boarding team, clearly if you're using immersive technology for on boarding, you've got to have someone on that team whose job it is to bridge change and adapt the organization or learning content if it's becoming more immersive.
We'll definitely see, I was glad you mentioned that, because we're seeing actual new roles come into being. And then Jourdan, maybe I could ask you. You do a lot of work in DEI broadly, but I love the topic of ERGs because it's near and dear to my heart in my previous role before this one, I was magically a company that was in augmented reality and I was really fortunate to start their Disability Inclusion ERG and I will tell you that we were very busy working with our product teams because these technologies require they're built for people to spatially experience technology and digital content around them, it's embodied, and I think we all recognized whether it was in that ERG or all the other ERGs. By the way, that there was a kind of table steaks going on that this is more important than it's been because embodying the physical technologies.
And I love what was said, I don't know if he's in the room, but he said earlier that we are great and we have these great perspectives and that's one of the things that I think is really exciting here is to get diverse teams involved, get people with disabilities of all different kinds involved because it can really help to make the technology so much better, and people who are really excelling in this space are really trying to do that more, I think.
Jourdan, would you like to comment more a little bit on DEI A, ERGs, anything in that nature since you do some work there?
JOURDAN SAUNDERS: Yeah. So, I think it's important to have a lot of times when we think of all of these different initiatives, we think solely in HR. But at this point, I think it's going to be necessary to have a point of contact in every department, and then we're meeting back together to discuss and get on the same page in a simplistic way because, really, everyone needs to be on the same page if we're really building out in this new space. Right. We need to understand what's going on.
A lot of times, you know, sometimes it's very challenging to be able to figure out what one department is doing versus the other. It's very disconnected. Right. The example that I bring up is like someone's accessibility on the website might be accessible, but internally the documents they're sending out is inaccessible. We want success internally and externally, and it really needs to be aligned across all areas, up, down, left, right, every single aspect needs to really be considered as we continue to build out.
Then as well as like co creating and building with people with disabilities, you don't have to always be a user tester. Right. Like you can co create together as you continue to build out. And with the jobs, I really think it's going to be important, too, to not just assume what position you want someone in, but to really leverage technology to be able to say, hey, you know this person when they applied, they had stated that they want a leadership role in this area. These are some of the skill sets based on the position that they're in that would allow them to be able to move up. So, providing that within the technology of trainings or things of that nature so that you have employees that want to work and not employees that don't feel heard or seen.
So, that would be my call to action.
BILL CURTIS-DAVIDSON: Great. Monica?
MONICA DESAI: Yeah. Sure. I would say disability inclusion is one of our top priorities at Meta. I'm not just saying that as an internal representative of Meta, but we have been named for the past five years in a row as one of the best places to work for disability inclusion by the American Association of Persons with Disabilities and Disability:IN's Disability Equality Index.
And so, you know, I touched before on our recruiting process and our accommodation process and recruiting teams, and also touched on the Employee Resource Groups or focused on this area. We offer support and community for people who identify with having a disability, and/or an ally or caregiver. I can tell you it's a very active and vocal group within the company, and they really had an impact on, you know, the development of our products when they have seen an issue with a product and they have, you know, they are very strong in speaking up not only in our workplace group but as in monthly meetings where we've sometimes had guest speakers come in and speak from disability organizations representing people with disabilities, and they can speak to issues that their constituents have had with their products, and you know allies within the company, we work with the product teams to try to address those issues. That's been exciting.
We have established an AX Accessibility Champions program to complement the employee resources group, and this voluntary program provides progressive technical training and engagement to advance accessibility through our product teams and to provide mentorship opportunities for people who identify as having accessibility people with disabilities.
And then during, you know, we have programs throughout the year during October for National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we had a number of different programs for employees, including those to create empathy among the workforce. For example, we had an educational event that was like a blindfolded cooking class with a chef who has a visual impairment. We had panel discussions on topics like disabilities and how to be an ally as well. We had a lot of programs to raise awareness about stereotypes and just to raise awareness generally and how to be a better advocate.
I mentioned we have a dedicated centralized accessibility team that is also very active in the company.
BILL CURTIS-DAVIDSON: Great. Thanks for all of those. I think in order to save time for questions, I did want to provide just some resources, and there is a QR code hopefully that is scannable up there.
We have touched on a number of topics today. It's important to note that there is a lot happening in the increasing efforts ongoing, and here I'm just providing some resources from our collaborators here from Accenture, as well as Meta and PEAT. One of the things that I can talk about that PEAT has been focusing on is hybrid work. We launched during the last year, since last year's M Enabling on inclusive XR and hybrid work toolkit which talks about some of the themes that we've talked about today; for example, when you're looking at doing more immersive meetings, there is a whole chapter on that. What do you think about before the meeting, during the meeting, after the meeting. How do you think about the layers of content, right. So, Jacque, you touched on all of the pieces from like the hardware to the building out of digital content objects, like a learning object, for example. We touch on a lot of that in our work at PEAT. We are focusing pretty much our XR work, is really focused in hybrid work because this is really driving adoption, as you can see the scale of adoption, not just with Accenture, but Accenture of course has a lot of clients, Meta has a lot of parties working with them, and then all the other parties as well. There is really a lot of traction.
We're also seeing traction in areas like training for workforce development. For example, you might have people training for clean energy jobs and learning how to do solar installation, and some of these technologies because of their physical nature or simulation nature, they can overlay content directly in a physical environment and someone could do something like a safety briefing, they could be learning how to manipulate actual physical objects. So how do we make that training that's immersive multimodal and usable by everyone? Right. We're seeing a lot of work in that area. There is a lot at stake there because we're training people for next generation jobs as well, so that's something that PEAT has been really focused on.
And then, Jourdan, your team has produced some work on metaverses and been at places like gatherverse.org which is a large global convening of people thinking about the human part of the metaverse that we recommend. And then of course XRaccess.org is a community effort, and it's about four to five years' old that PEAT co founded with Cornell Tech and Verizon Media now Yahoo, and this effort is ongoing and tries to collect resources from around the world and provide resources and programming for to educate and help people understand this topic a lot better. The XR Association as well, XRA.org is also a great place to look for resources. So, with that, I think we will Jacque, would you like to provide any final remarks in.
JACQUE MADISON: Thanks so much, Bill. I think my big takeaway any chance I get to speak is I hope that everyone here will ask themselves every day if everyone else is doing the thing that I'm doing right now, would I want to live here? Really make sure that we're not just kind of sweeping something under the rug because it's not a big deal right now. But if the whole world is doing it, you know, those practices can get messy quick.
BILL CURTIS-DAVIDSON: Great. Monica.
MONICA DESAI: Yeah. I appreciate the topic, you know, the next generation of competing platforms is where people are already starting to work in it and benefit from it and I agreed to make sure that everyone can benefit from. And I love the work of the XR Association, and I love the work of PEAT and organizations that are focused on making sure that these technologies are built and expand that they are expanding in an inclusive way. I think we need to keep the focus there as we move forward.
BILL CURTIS-DAVIDSON: Jourdan?
JOURDAN SAUNDERS: Yeah. I would just say that there is a sense of urgency, and I think we have to keep that in mind. All of these resources that are provided are wonderful ways to start, but like what is the action that you're going to do with the resources. And think M Enabling for putting on this. This is a great opportunity to leverage spaces like this. We're all passionate and here because some part of inclusion accessibility and DEI A, any part of it, you're maybe very excited, too. And so I think it's important to leverage and utilize these events to connect with four, five, one person and continue to keep in touch and allow other people to amplify what you're doing.
Because if we're building out all of these great tools and marketing isn't involved and we're not moving these messages, no one going to know about it. It becomes irrelevant, and people only move when they feel a sense of urgency, so we have to create that. And I think this is a great opportunity for us to do that.
BILL CURTIS-DAVIDSON: Thank you. I want to thank all three of you for joining me today. I'm going to verbalize the URL for the shortened URL for the resources that's also in the QR code, it's bit.ly/m enabling22 inclusive metaverses.
And with that, I think we have a few moments for questions, so if anyone has a question, you can raise your hand and there is a microphone. Thank you.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hey, over here stage right. This is Alex. I'm the Founder of Enabled to Play, in the Enabled to Play Foundation and one of the things we've observed over the last sort of 30 years when we introduce new modalities and channels around accessibility is a lot of emphasis put on best practices and standards, and yet we've seen for example, in web the number was shared earlier that only 2% of websites are actually accessible. With the new emerging channel, how do we get beyond just best practices and standards and into more accessible implementations across the board?
BILL CURTIS-DAVIDSON: Would one of you like to take that or I can respond?
JACQUE MADISON: I think it's going to take this is Jacque Madison. I think it's going to take a lot of work in public and private partnership to make sure that policy starts to move. This is going to be a huge shift, and I think that the discussions are happening now kind of on the legal front where we're moving away from just best practices to mandates, saying you do the right thing. Right. It's going to take time, but you know like Jourdan was saying, we have to continue to amplify this and make people aware of how important it is.
MONICA DESAI: I'm guessing PEAT probably has a response to that.
BILL CURTIS-DAVIDSON: I also think what is interesting about the technologies is there are so many endless combinations. It's not even a technology or a few technologies. This is really a whole new way of interacting with digital, right, and the physical world. So, we're going to have a lot of different angles and there is never going to be one dimension to it, pardon the pun, multiple dimensions. So, I think it's going to take not only the standards, but then the standards are going to have to continue evolving, just like they do with all technology.
And then the practices as well, and you're never going to have it fully perfect. I think it's really, you know, I think what is best though is if you're in a certain setting, like let's say you're a content developer or application developer, I would encourage you in whatever role you're in to look at the spectrum you're connected to. Right. If you're building for certain hardware, look at the hardware parts of that in the operating system, look at what you're doing from an accessibility and inclusion lens.
So, I think all too often, builders will make something and maybe not see all the connections, or look at how it's being used, and then getting feedback loops. Right. We have to do that more because all too often, it's like a shiny object. I'm going to build the next X software that is going to be for meetings or something like that. It needs to be the case that everyone needs to look at the connection points with the pieces of whatever the use cases at that they're building for. Another question?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hi. Kevin Andrews from Georgetown University, and my challenge, I have a question, so my challenge is that I'm one person. They only have one of me right now, so one of the difficulties I have is getting people to even talk to each other. We talked about the silos, and how can I leverage the partnerships that we already have with human resources and counsel and things like, that so how can I make this applicable maybe to higher education. We talked a lot about business and Meta and marketing and that sort of thing, but how can I potentially get this in with higher education? I know they're starting an employee resource group, so I'm definitely planning on getting involved with that, so just wondering if any of the panelists have some thoughts on that? As one person sort of tasked with trying to keep everybody in step, which is very complicated at a decentralized place like Georgetown.
MONICA DESAI: This is Monica. Yeah. You raise a good question. I know that, you know, at Meta, anyway, we work and this has taken time, but we work very robustly in cross functional groups, and I don't know the best way to start something like that the way the university, I don't know the how the university is set up. I wonder if there is an ally just at the highest level of administration that can help just put out the question and see how that can be how something like that can be set up. You know, if there are opportunities to set up or if like maybe start if there is an opportunity to get a voice in a board meeting, for example, or get five minutes in a board meeting, or to get the question raised in some type of group that meets that has a cross functional purpose and ask how that can be how something like that can be started.
I think that might be a place to start. I don't know if one of you have, Jourdan or Jacque, have more experience with a college setting?
JACQUE MADISON: I don't have experience in the college setting, but I do have the experience of being that one, so kind of looking back at that before you have the big sponsorship and everything is, you know, flushed out and you're operating a big program, you just really got to find people that are passionate at every level because accessibility is everyone's job. It doesn't matter where they are in the organization. Just find someone in marketing that you know is passionate about this who might be personally impacted by it maybe.
MONICA DESAI: This is Monica again. I just want to mention that I think Jacque raised a really good point. I know that we for Meta, anyway, we specifically sat at executive level sponsorship and tried to find people at the highest levels of the company that have a real personal interest, a personal passion for disability work. You know, people, we identify people who are willing to talk about their own disability and able to, you know, get people to listen by virtue of their position and make sure that processes are put in place or that, you know, prioritization is there. That might help as well. I'm sorry.
JOURDAN SAUNDERS: No, you're fine. This is Jourdan. I was in the disability statistics compendium every year and I still like data because data helps people move, even though the data doesn't reflect the reality a lot of times, or 98% of the time.
So, I would say that pairing the data, and then also getting leaders getting some case studies of leaders in the area that are implementing at the higher education level because there is a lot of universities that have made it a priority, so creating a sense of urgency and, you know, basically like you know you don't want to get left behind. Everyone wants to lead, and so you're providing them some use cases, the data, and then also there are leaders within that area or businesses that really do want to support. So, I think the sponsorship is great because sometimes that's a lot of times with higher education maybe, it's a funding or whatever it may be.
So, kind of creating those connections and providing a partnership and having those resources in place and presenting it to them, hey, I have this company that's interested in sponsoring this event, and you all could be the place that we would provide this type of because they're interested in accessibility inclusion and all of those different things, and so I think structuring it for them so that it's easier for them to implement. And then they can see it. Because a lot of times we don't build it until we see it already in place, so you're helping to set that up.
BILL CURTIS-DAVIDSON: One more question maybe.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hello. My name is Michelle Landis formerly Digital 360, a digital firm now part of Allyant. My comment is at a lot of conferences we hear how it easier to do it in a large company where you have the money and how difficult it is to do when you're a solo champion. Like data too, Jourdan, so what I would like to ask is are you seeing any of the grants or the money that Meta is providing, Monica, or within any other large corporations making inclusion a condition of receiving the grant?
Because back to the data, the deadline, the stick, we'd love everybody to do this for the care at reason, right, it's the right thing to do. In corporate America, the only things that get accomplished are those that get measured, and a lot of times accessibility is a really big initiative when there is a legal reason driving it, or there is a mandate, and so I'm wondering if you think we can gain some exposure to this through the grants that large corporations are giving in technology and make it a requirement?
MONICA DESAI: I think that's a fantastic question.
You know, I'm excited that we do, you know, I think we do have programs and initiatives that are not legal based, like around the globe. For example, we have a hack a thon associated with a grant coming up I think in November, I think in a few weeks in November, and that's grant based and some kind of prize, and that is not related to like any kind of legal requirement. I think we have similar programs in the Middle East and in Asia as well.
So, I think that's really a good point and something that companies should be thinking about and not it's like the United States is fantastic. It's so progressive compared to other parts of the globe and I didn't realize that until I started working in a more global context. You know, just there is always a lot of room for improvement, but now I see the differences between the United States on these issues where, and other parts of the globe. And, you know, I think it's important to, you know, to make sure we keep a focus elsewhere, even where there is not a legal requirement. I don't know if either of you wanted to speak to that?
BILL CURTIS-DAVIDSON: I think we're pretty much at the end of the hour, so I want to just, again, thank the panelists. If you have other questions, please feel free to reach out to us. We're here.
FRANCESCA CESA BIANCHI: Thank you, Bill and panelists. We appreciate your insights and we are just taking a 10 minute or 5 minute break. We'll resume at 2:45 sharp with Advocates Perspectives on Future Directions for Digital Accessibility Innovation. Thank you.
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