TD Bank Group supports a culture of inclusion with assistive technologies
TD Bank Group, headquartered in Toronto, Canada, is strongly committed to accessibility. To complement work being done in the bank’s Assistive Technologies Lab, TD is currently in the process of rolling out Office 365, and Windows 10 is deployed to all employees to empower everyone with the built-in accessibility features. TD Bank believes that empowering a diverse workforce can drive innovation and help create inclusive customer products: a definite business advantage in an industry that banks on good customer service.
There is one slide in Erika Faust’s presentation on accessible communications that shows an empty picture frame. The caption reads, “Check out this great picture from our recent event.” Faced with this slide, people who are blind or have low vision do not have an inclusive experience. A Communications Analyst at TD Bank Group, Faust says her presentation is as much about building empathy between colleagues as it is about presenting new accessibility tools—and how they can be used to empower people to do more. The emphasis on a culture of inclusion at TD has evolved over a decade-long journey. It began by initially providing technology accommodations to employees and has transitioned to creating a culture in the workplace where celebrating diversity is a core value for all 85,000 employees—and it’s good for business.
“Over the past 10 years, we have learned that accessibility goes beyond compliance,” says Bert Floyd, Senior IT Manager, Assistive Technologies at TD. “Today, understanding and supporting diversity is a strategic advantage. It means we can hire the best and the brightest. And when everyone at TD is thinking in terms of inclusivity, we have that edge when it comes to creating accessible web content and mobile apps for all our customers.”
Along with establishing the Assistive Technologies Program to process accommodation requests from employees and consult with colleagues on “just about every IT project in the company,” TD created the Assistive Technologies Lab. Here, staffers research the latest in assistive technologies and developers can learn how to meet the bank’s internal standards, which align to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, published by Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium, at the AA level. And employees can visit the lab for one-on-one support and training.
“We provide an assistive technologies lab to employees,” says Julie Branscombe, Senior Inclusion and Diversity Lead at TD Bank Group. “Approximately 6 percent of our employees have self-identified as having a disability. This climate of inclusion reinforces a sense of shared responsibility in collaboration for everyone and generates a sense of confidence as we all work together to drive success at TD.”
Today, TD is taking another step toward becoming what Branscombe calls a “disability confident” organization by deploying Microsoft Office 365 to all employees. It has also deployed Windows 10 on all corporate workstations. “In a disability confident organization, everyone recognizes the unique skills and talents of each other. It’s about being comfortable acknowledging each other’s differences and realizing that we have a shared accountability for inclusion,” she explains. “By using Office 365 and Windows 10, we’re making it simple for our employees to create inclusive content for each other and for our customers, opening a new world of opportunity.”
Building a culture of accessibility
TD is on a mission to embed principles of accessibility and inclusive design into its everyday practices, because it believes that an inclusive culture benefits everyone.
“Our approach is to build in universal design features throughout the work environment,” says Branscombe. “It’s the same principle we see with Windows 10 and Office 365, where accessibility features are embedded in the software, making it easy for people to adopt the tools into their work styles.”
With a passion for creating a fully accessible workplace, Faust champions the benefits of Office 365. In her role as a Communications Analyst, she prepares official communications, such as newsletters and presentations, to encourage everyone to create content that can be consumed without barriers. She finds the Accessibility Checker helpful when creating her communications using Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. Accessibility Checker evaluates output created in authoring apps within Office 365 and suggests ways to make the content more accessible.
“The Accessibility Checker is intuitive and powerful,” says Faust. “This new feature will flag potential accessibility issues before sending an email. That’s going to be life-changing, because it will encourage employees to think about how the recipient will consume the information. As we spread the message of accessibility and why it’s so important, the Accessibility Checker is going to change how we do our communications at TD.”
TD Bank also uses employee feedback when developing customer services and products, and it runs a training course that helps managers learn more about their employees’ needs in the workplace. The supportive atmosphere means TD employees are sharing their stories and learning from each other’s experiences at work at unprecedented levels.
“This inclusive culture helps underscore the essential role of each person in the team and boosts employee engagement, productivity, and ingenuity,” says Branscombe. “The inclusive culture at TD makes it a great place to work for everyone.”
Accessibility empowers everyone
Kristen Luca, IT Solutions Developer at TD Bank Group, is among the approximately 6 percent of employees who identify as having a disability. Her story impacts her work at the organization in a positive way. “I lost my sight when I was 23, and in the intervening 10 years, I’ve learned how to adapt to everything from a different perspective,” she says. “I want to make sure that someone with a vision impairment has the same opportunities as someone who is sighted. That goal informs the entire process of development—from design to implementation. I’m extremely proud to work for TD because it really embodies its slogan—to be a better bank by including everyone.”
Luca visits the Assistive Technologies Lab regularly to engage with the latest technology and discover what she can use in her work, such as special attributes in code that facilitate how a web application can talk to a screen reader. For her personal use, she is excited about Narrator, a screen reader built into Windows 10. “The great thing about Narrator is that it’s embedded in the operating system, so it’s there whenever I need it, even in the sign-in screen,” she says.
Luca saves time and works more confidently since she began using the Alt+Q keyboard shortcut, which takes her to a search menu. Instead of tabbing through the Office 365 ribbon and listening to the screen reader to find the command she wants, Luca can change font size or add images with a couple of clicks. “Alt+Q and the search menu are game-changers for me,” she says. “I used to spend a lot of time just trying to find the right tool in the ribbon, but now I can work faster because I don’t need to know where the icons are located.”
Steven McNeil, Senior IT Program Portfolio Analyst at TD Bank Group, worked with the Assistive Technologies Team and now is part of the Infrastructure Technology Solutions Employee Enablement Group. Like Luca, his pride in TD comes from a sense of personal empowerment. “TD creates an inclusive environment for people with disabilities, which is absolutely fantastic,” he says.
McNeil has visual and attention disabilities that can make reading lengthy documents—a common task in his daily work—a challenge. After visiting the Assistive Technologies Lab to learn how vision and interaction assistive capabilities in Office 365 and Windows 10 can be assistive tools for reading, McNeil finds that these tools help him reduce stress while reading. “With Narrator in Windows 10, I can adjust the reading speed and the type of voice to help retain my concentration,” says McNeil. “I can also adjust certain visual aids, like the high-contrast support and the warm and cool background. All these flexible features at my disposal make my job easier.”
Mary Liz Gambrill, Senior Risk Manager at TD Bank, had not communicated her challenges with vision and color deficiency at work. She credits the increasing awareness of the accessibility needs of TD employees with disabilities to the Assistive Technologies Lab. “The word is getting out, and the more that people talk about accessibility, the more that we will benefit from Microsoft tools that can help everybody do their work with a bit more functionality,” she says.
With new Ease of Access settings in Windows 10, Gambrill can expand her cursor size, increase screen magnification, and use color filters such as Greyscale Inverted “to make the words pop out on the screen.” She’s also excited about Microsoft Office Lens. She can take pictures of whiteboards and printed documents with her iPad, and the app enhances the photo by cropping, sharpening, and straightening it and converts it into a scanned document with searchable/editable text. “Office Lens is fantastic,” Gambrill says. “I’m looking forward to seeing presentations clearly without leaning close to the screen. Having full access to the information on the screen will be a huge win for me.”
Diversity fuels innovation, drives business
Luca, McNeil, and Gambrill’s stories of personal empowerment reaffirm a culture of diversity. The inclusive culture at TD encourages an empathic work environment that helps increase employee loyalty and retention. It also helps drive innovation by promoting employees’ ability to mine great ideas from a wide variety of personal experience.
“Encouraging diverse teams is a winning recipe—and a business imperative,” concludes Branscombe. “The more that we can bring different perspectives, skill sets, and unique abilities together in one team, the better we’ll be at creating products and services that can help address our customers’ varied perspectives—and the faster we’ll get them to the market. At the end of the day, that’s going to help our reputation for great customer service for everyone.”
By using Office 365 and Windows 10, we’re empowering employees to create inclusive content for each other and for our customers.