Making Technology Accessible to All
By: Mark Balsano, Executive Director – Compliance
Modern communications technology has proven to be a great equalizer for millions of Americans, providing access to information, enabling communications with people around the globe and making it possible to "visit" almost any place in the world. Yet for millions of people with disabilities, access to these benefits has been restricted due to inaccessible devices and software. At AT&T, we have a longstanding commitment to making modern communications technology available to all of our customers, both with and without disabilities, and our labs have been at the forefront of developing technologies to further improve accessibility. AT&T's commitment extends not just to offering devices with "accessibility features," but also to creating an ecosystem of accessibility that incorporates principles of universal design. In 2012, AT&T created an environment for this ecosystem to flourish in a number of ways.
In 2012, AT&T introduced the new Corporate Accessibility Technology Office ("CATO"), which is led by AT&T's first Chief Accessibility Officer. The CATO works with the various business units within AT&T to facilitate the accessibility of AT&T's products and services. This centralized office enables the sharing of best practices from different parts of the company and adds defined accountability into the corporate governance structure to advance AT&T's efforts in this important field. The creation of CATO has ensured that AT&T's commitment to technology accessibility remains a top company priority
This year, AT&T also gave developers access to the cutting edge AT&T Watson™ speech recognition technology by introducing the AT&T Speech API. This new API enables developers to add speech recognition to their application and, thus, has the potential to improve accessibility for devices and services that we can only begin to imagine. AT&T itself took advantage of AT&T Watson™ speech recognition technology by incorporating it into the recently introduced U-Verse Easy Remote app. This app enables U-Verse customers to control their televisions with their smartphone or tablet and includes a voice initiated remote control and other accessibility features such as multiple screen color, button and font size choices, gesture commands and one touch access to closed captioning.
AT&T also continues to work with the disability community to create accessibility solutions. Close collaboration and consultation with disabilities groups, such as the AT&T Advisory Panel on Access and Aging (AAPAA), which is comprised of national leaders in assistive technology, aging and cross-disability issues, and persons with disabilities has played a crucial role in AT&T's efforts, and success, in bringing modern communications technologies to persons with disabilities. It is only through frank conversations and meetings between the panel and business leaders from across the company that we have been able to make needed changes and identify new opportunities.
At AT&T, accessibility has always been one of our core values and in 2012 we took a number of steps to both further our own commitment and empower others to improve accessibility and make sure that the next generation of technology is available to people with disabilities. We will continue to strive for these objective in 2013 and beyond.