2004 Conference Proceedings

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RBC ROYAL BANK: USING ACCESSIBLE TECHNOLOGY TO SUPPORT GROWTH & INNOVATION

Presenters
John Taylor
A. Martha Johnson, M.Ed. R.P.R.
BC Royal Bank, Systems and Technology
315 Front Street West
Toronto, Ontario Canada M5V 3A4
Phone: 416-348-5135
Email: john.taylor@rbc.com 
Email: martha.johnson@rbc.com 

INTRODUCTION

As a corporate leader in Canada, RBC Royal Bank values its clients and employees alike. Inculcated into the corporate structure of RBC Royal Bank is the respect for diversity specifically the appreciation of similarities and differences among individuals. Recognizing that respect and inclusion form the backbone for success, RBC Royal Bank's accessibility initiatives are framed within our commitment to embrace diversity. Identified as a core value and in this instance focused on individuals with disabilities, diversity incorporates accessibility initiatives including adaptive technology. Strategic initiatives have been implemented into the corporate structure across functional groups and corporate platforms to address the need for accessibility, including standardized processes pertaining to adaptive technology. Described within this paper are core initiatives RBC Royal Bank has implemented relevant to accessibility and adaptive technology. Accessibility and adaptive technology differ from one and other but serve to compliment a common purpose. That is, minimizing the barriers for individuals with disabilities in the work place.

With the changing market place reflected in part by the maturing population, our commitment does not change, that is, "to always earn the right to be our client's first choice for financial services". Critical to success within the global marketplace is the ability to recognize growth opportunities. Diversity helps us create and capture innovative strategic plans as a result of pooling perspectives. In turn, we are than a better business partner and provide a more rewarding workplace for our employees.

SECTION ONE: ACCESSIBILITY: INCULCATED INTO THE CORPORATE STRUCTURE
A. Martha Johnson - RBC Royal Bank Accessibility Consultant

UNIVERSAL ACCESSIBILITY

Accessible information is information that may be accessed by all individuals. Presently however the primary focus is on providing accessible information and technology for individuals with disabilities. As an example of accessible information technology, an application or web page is considered accessible when end users can access the application through a multitude of devices such as a mouse, keyboard, speech recognition or screen reader software to name just a few.

For the corporate environment, when browser or non-browser based development is accessible to the largest end user population possible, the business benefits improve as the potential for increased client growth is heightened. Implementation of accessible information is achieved not only through requirement and design considerations for the information on the screen, but also when consideration is accounted for relative to the various technologies that may be used to access information.

SYSTEMS AND TECHNOLOGY: BUILD ACCESSIBILITY INTO THE INFRASTRUCTURE

Accessibility Guidelines

Historically, individuals with disabilities have experienced barriers to employment. From a building-code perspective Barrier-Free standards and accessibility regulations have served to minimize the "physical barriers" to employment for individuals with disabilities. However that is only part of the equation. Presently an ideological shift is occurring from physical accessibility to "role specific" accessibility. Corporations are asking themselves "How do we leverage the competencies and skills of individuals with disabilities within our workforce?" Corporations are recognizing the increasing demand for common processes and guidelines surrounding accessibility.

As a corporation we use our intranet as a primary channel of communication. RBC Royal Bank has a dedicated web site to describe and detail accessibility and related guidelines within Systems and Technology. Accessible to intranet users, the Systems and Technology site identifies the RBC Royal Bank guidelines for accessible application development. We have based our Web Accessibility guidelines on the W3C WAI benchmarks as that particular body of work is commonly recognized as the industry standard.

It is common corporate practice to follow standards and guidelines as they relate to any specific process or role. Accessibility is no different. Equipping our developers with the appropriate information through providing them with a baseline from which to initiate their work is a critical factor that mitigates success for accessible information.

As part of our centralized source of information we also provide developers with examples of how to design for accessibility, and provided relevant links for additional information such as examples for coding alternative text in an image when using HTML. Creating accessible software requires planning at the requirement phase through adhering to simple user-interface guidelines during development, and testing for accessibility before project implementation.

Project Lifecycle: Certification

Certification is standard process required for many projects within Systems and Technology. The purpose of accessibility certification is to ensure that accessibility of browser or non-browser based development has been accounted for, planned for, and incorporated into the individual project's life cycle. The goal is to provide end users with the highest quality experience when accessing information through the use of adaptive or non-adaptive technologies. The certification process itself affords both the certifier(s) and project team with a standardized process that outlines various requirements and service level agreements throughout project development cycle. Accessibility as a certifying group is integrated into this process. A major focus for accessibility services is that of consulting with project teams throughout the gathering of business requirements to production deadlines. Consulting takes various forms such as, advising on guidelines, specifics of coding, or project reviews.

Dedicated Roles and Responsibilities

Many individuals within S&T and across platforms have championed accessibility to support project development being accessible.

Systems and Technology (S&T) serves as an integral part RBC Royal Bank's infrastructure. S&T has dedicated three roles to accessibility.

Accessibility Consultant (mandated 1999) focuses on:

  1. Implementing, maintaining and monitoring RBC Royal Bank's accessibility requirements.
  2. Promoting awareness and educating management and project teams on the importance of accessibility and on the resources in place to support their work in this area.
  3. Provide "hands on" practical consultation services to development groups throughout the organization to support their work in designing for accessibility.

Adaptive Technology Analyst (mandated 2001) focuses on:

  1. Specializing in the hardware and software used within RBC Royal Bank for the purposes of adapting an individual's work environment to accommodate a disability. This role will be fully addressed further on in this paper.

Adaptive Technology Scripting Consultant (mandated 2002) focuses on:

  1. Developing and supporting customized code for internal applications that are being used with screen reader software.

All three roles work across lines in the bank to enhance the corporate initiative to provide accessible products to all end users.

Over the past two and a half years accessibility within S&T has grown. The expansion of this area has not only been with increased personnel but also within the scope of responsibility including working across platforms outside of S&T. To this point, the Systems and Technology Executive identified the Accessibility Consultant as "Subject Matter Expert" for RBC Royal Bank. As such part of this mandate is point of contact for accessibility initiatives within S&T for internal or external inquiries.

SECTION TWO: ACCOMMODATION: INCULCATED INTO THE CORPORATE STRUCTURE
John Taylor - RBC Royal Bank Adaptive Technology Analyst

SYSTEMS AND TECHNOLOGY: ADAPTIVE TECHNOLOGY IMPLEMENTED INTO THE COMMON TECHNOLOGY STRUCTURE

Adaptive Technology Analyst

The role was formed within RBC Royal Bank's, Systems and Technology infrastructure to integrate Adaptive Technology (AT) into the common operating environment thus becoming a base component of all systems that are either purchased externally or developed within the organization.

Prior to this position, support for AT components was scattered and inconsistent. RBC Royal Bank identified the need to create and effective, end-to-end approach to accommodation.

Centralized Funding

One of the more significant perceived barriers to hiring a person with a disability (PWD) at RBC Royal Bank has been the cost associated with the purchase of the technology. Fraught with the lack of knowledge about PWD and the uncertainty relating to the costs and our ability to accommodate, groups could avoid hiring PWD altogether.

Further, when a group did hire an individual and paid for the accommodation, they would want to maintain ownership of the equipment even if and when that person left the organization or moved to a different group within the company. In many cases the technology would sit around in a closet collecting dust until another person was hired who needed that same equipment. This did not make good business sense since, in other parts of the company, other people were being hired who could use that equipment.

Last year, RBC Royal Bank implemented a new strategy for funding this equipment. Systems and Technology created a centralized funding source for all Adaptive Technology purchased throughout the organization nationally. We are currently working on similar solutions for all of our International subsidiaries with consideration to the laws of those countries.

As a result of the centralized funding initiative, the individual business unit no longer pays for the equipment. The equipment now follows the individual from one role to another within the company. Surplus technology is managed centrally and is used before any new equipment is purchased. This also helps with version management of software tools. We no longer have to encourage groups to upgrade the software components. The Adaptive Technology Analyst now manages this.

Process and Technology Standards

Though we understand and accept the importance of individuality and accommodating an individual rather than a disability, we have implemented both technology and process standards which to date have successfully accommodated most staff in RBC Royal Bank. Exceptions are made where necessary, but these standards help to minimize costs associated with the work effort and resources.

From a technology perspective, we've generated an 'approved list' of computer system related hardware and software that have been qualified through S&T's existing testing process to ensure compatibility with RBC Royal Bank systems. As with other standard, approved technology within the organization, we've setup a dedicated adaptive technology test lab to ensure that all of the equipment and software is tested on an ongoing basis in an effort to minimize unforeseen outages. Another existing process allows us to easily add and remove items as required with minimal impact to the time required to accommodate an individual.

This list of approved technology is available to all RBC Royal Bank staff for reference and is also used by the Canadian Council for Rehabilitation and Work (CCRW) as a reference when performing RBC Royal Bank's workplace assessments. The CCRW is a service provider that is contracted by RBC Royal Bank to perform in-house workplace assessment with each individual as required.

Support Infrastructure

Easily overlooked but integral to the process is the ongoing maintenance and support of the equipment. Initiatives have been implemented to ensure continued operation of the technology, such as:

While working with technology vendors who supply the equipment we also align ourselves with internal groups such as Human Resources, Recruitment and Diversity committees as well as service partners. As well as the implementation and maintenance of the hardware or software, communication across the organization must be factored into the initiative for its' success. As an example, Recruitment Services prior to hiring, partners with S&T regarding technology while being cognizant of Human Resource policies and procedures.

RBC ROYAL BANK SUCCESS FACTORS FOR AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO ACCESSIBLE TECHNOLOGY

Senior management support is a critical success factor when working towards a universally accessible environment. As a corporation the endorsement from our executive management team underscores the ability for initiatives to move forward. Through open communication and partnerships formed across groups within the organization initiatives are strengthened and success more easily grasped. Partnerships with vendors and service providers create opportunities for processes and procedures to be shared and streamlined. With senior management support for funding accessibility and adaptive technology, initiatives may move forward having guidelines, policies and standards entrenched into the corporate culture.

IN SUMMARY: ACCESSIBILITY AND ADAPTIVE TECHNOLOGY

Having diversity for growth and innovation as a core value, RBC Royal Bank staunchly supports accessibility including adaptive technology as an agent of change and profitability. Current demographics illustrate a growing population of work-aged individuals with disabilities that constitute an underrepresented population within the general work force.

Demonstrating universal accessibility of information technology through product design works to support RBC Royal Bank's goal of sustaining ones leadership and being the employer of choice among individuals with disabilities. Not withstanding always earning the right to be our clients' first choice.

Through RBC Royal Bank's initiatives, support, and attention to the skills and competencies individuals with disabilities not only possess but also contribute to the workforce; society is impelled to align through recognition of this perspective and vision towards the future. Employment is a strong variable, a common experience for many and a daily endeavour to most work aged individuals. As a bottom line, when focus is given to recognizing the similarities and differences of individuals in an effort to continually better serve our clients, the foundation we form frames an expanding community accessible to all.


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