How CIOs Can Make Technology Available To All

Technology is only valuable if everyone can use it
Technology is only valuable if everyone can use it Image Credit: Michigan Municipal League

As a CIO, you understand the value of technology to the company that you work for. Technology has the ability to make things move faster, make work easier, and to allow the company to be more successful in its marketplace. However, what we often don’t spend a lot of time thinking about is that not everyone responds to a given technology in the same way. In fact, there will be situations where some people are not able to gain the benefits provided by a given technology simply because they can’t use it. What should a CIO do in situations like this?

The Problem With Inclusive Technology

Many CIOs struggle when it comes to providing inclusive technology in the workplace. What many of us don’t realize is that workers with disabilities routinely face challenges in navigating technology in the office. These challenges can range from websites that aren’t properly designed for visually impaired individuals to computer setups that require a mouse and videoconferencing technology, but which lack captioning. What CIOs need to realize is that when it comes to making technology an asset for their company, it’s a combination of having the right technology and the right people in place to make sure that technology is accessible to all who need it.

CIOs have to understand that workplace technology needs to change to make it more broadly available. A good example of this is that all videos used in the workplace—whether they are embedded in a platform or on a website, used in training or whatever – need to have captions in order to be inclusive for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Another technology, which became more prevalent during the Covid-induced shelter in place, was videoconferencing. The platforms that companies use today vary a great deal in terms of accessibility features. CIOs need to determine, for instance, if someone who uses a screen reader can navigate through the controls and how well someone who can’t see can still participate.

CIOs should also consider whether a given platform supports the addition of captions. On many platforms, real-time captions can be provided through voice-recognition technology. However, what we need to realize is that the accuracy of those captions varies greatly. Simply having the technology will not get you all the way there. When holding virtual meetings, CIOs should consider having a live transcriber adding captions in while the meeting is happening. By doing this you know that the accuracy is higher than if you were using a computer-generated system. Another good option is to go to the effort of employing sign-language interpreters at times when you have deaf or hard-of-hearing participants.

Making Changes To Become More Inclusive

If a CIO wants to make the technology that their company is using more accessible to more employees, then we need to realize that many of the issues around accessibility have to do with the technologies’ interface, which tends to more disproportionately affect people with sensory disabilities, such as sight or hearing impairments. However, we need to keep in mind that there are many different kinds of disabilities, including people who have dexterity problems. If a worker can’t detect and press the right place on a screen, then they can’t operate it, so they might need something like a switch they could flip. Currently there is still a lot of technology coming out which supports only one way to do things. There needs to be greater focus on giving workers the ability to do the same task in a way that can be best suited to their needs.

The goal that CIOs should have is for every piece of technology to be accessible in many different ways. The designers of technology can’t assume users are going to do things only in one way. A good example of this would be a keyboard. Workers who can’t easily use a keyboard may be able to benefit from voice-recognition software or the ability to use the tab key to move the cursor around on a given website. Another example would be website imaging. Not all workers can see images, so technology designers need to allow for another way for people to get this information. The good news is that there are ways to customize technology, but it’s not seamless. Workers have to go into their system’s settings to do so, and CIOs have to understand that not everyone is comfortable to do that.

A key part of any modern business is the use of webpages. This is where a lot of problems can pop up. The problem is that too many webpages are designed by people who aren’t familiar with the World Wide Web Consortium’s guidelines for web accessibility. These are the guidelines can help companies make their website and web tools more accessible to all. However, many designers are unfamiliar, so websites continue to be inaccessible or just clunky, at best. A good example of this is that if you don’t use the proper tags so that screen-reading software can easily navigate to specific sections of a website, a blind person could have to sift through 20 pages to find what he or she is interested in. Another common way many websites fall short is because they use poor color contrast – dark gray on light gray, for example, is really difficult to read, and anyone with low vision may not even know that some of the text is there. The frustrating part for CIOs is that developers have tools at their disposal to measure the contrast and determine whether sections of their website are accessible or not, but many don’t know how to use them or what they are for. Website developers need training in order to know how to do that.

What All Of This Means For You

CIOs are the ones who are responsible for evaluating and selecting new technologies for their company to use. When we make these selections, we are focused on what the technologies can do for our company: speed things up, make life simpler, allow us to remain in compliance. However, we need to be careful to not overlook that challenges that new technologies can bring to the people that work in our company. Workers with disabilities may not be able to use the new technologies to do their job. What does a CIO have to take into consideration?

CIOs need to understand that what they need is a combination of the right technology and the right people in place to make sure that technology is accessible to all who need it. To make technology usable, it is important that it can be used many different ways. A good example of this is video systems that need to support the addition of captions. A big problem that comes along with many technologies is that the technologies’ interface tends to more disproportionately affect people with sensory disabilities. A CIOs goal should be to make every piece of technology be accessible in many different ways. Since webpages are such an important part of every company, these pages have to be designed with disabled workers in mind.

There is no question that new technologies are the key to helping any company move forward. The CIO is the one who is responsible for identifying and implementing new technologies. We need to be aware that not all of our workers are the same. When a new technology gets implemented, it is the responsibility of the CIO to make sure that everyone is able to get the most out of each new technology. If we can keep this in mind, then our company will be able to get the most out of each new technology that we adopt.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
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Question For You: How can a CIO determine if there are workers who are not benefiting from a given technology?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Let’s face it, not all people with the CIO job are the type that are constantly seeking to be in the spotlight. In fact, there are a number of CIOs who prefer to go unnoticed and unrecognized. However, we all realize that we are living in the 21st Century and what this means is that one way or another because of the importance of information technology we all have to have an online presence. For the CIOs who are shy, this can be a daunting proposition. Somehow they are going to have to overcome their shyness and take steps to become known online.