Learning about life with a disability
The AT&T Accessibility Lab isn’t just a location. It’s a mobile destination dedicated to sharing glimpses into the lives of people with disabilities.
One in five Americans has a disability. That’s more than 60 million people. To properly serve this important population it’s critical our AT&T team members develop a keen sense of its needs. “We have employees who interact with all types of customers. They need a degree of awareness of how life works for people with disabilities,” Mike Barry, Director, Compliance, said. “Then there are developers. As they’re developing our products and services, they need to ensure universal functionality to as many people as possible.”
The traveling lab ships in two cases which hold everything from laptops to devices used to simulate disabilities, demonstrate assistive technologies and, most importantly, offer participants a new perspective. Participants visit 10 stations in about 30 minutes, exposing them to a variety of scenarios highlighting cognitive, visual, hearing and motor disabilities.
The lab supports AT&T’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. “We started with the AT&T mission statement: ‘To inspire human progress through the power of communication and entertainment’,” Mike said. “I assert that you don’t have human progress if you’re not including all humans.”
Crystal Baker, Lead Compliance Analyst, was responsible for bringing the lab to fruition. It wasn’t an easy job. Design and approval were among its challenges, but nothing compared to implementation. For Crystal, who is blind in one eye and mother to two children with learning disorders, it was personal. “Pretending to have a disability does not really compare to a lifetime of disability. It’s not intended to. The lab is about generating awareness and understanding,” she said.
So, Crystal worked to ensure sensory focus was alive throughout the experience.
Originally intended to bring greater awareness to AT&T employees, the lab’s reach extends all around the country. From a Girls Who Code hackathon in Dallas to a presentation for Chicago high school students, more than 1,000 people have experienced the lab since it launched in December 2017.
Nonprofits and other companies – including competitors – have even called to get a peek. And while there is no official plan to share the lab outside AT&T, greater outreach is something that will likely evolve with the lab itself.
“This is a conversation starter, not the end of the discussion,” Crystal said.