By Dean Farmer, The Council of State Governments
The Council of State Governments (CSG) will host a webinar on the importance of accessible transportation and workplace technology for workers with disabilities on Oct. 15, 2020, from noon to 1:30 p.m. (ET). In partnership with the State Exchange on Employment and Disability (SEED), this will be the fifth webinar in a CSG series commemorating the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
This webinar will cover the potential impact of autonomous vehicles on individuals with disabilities, how advancements in technology can be used to facilitate telework and provide workplace accommodations and how changing and emerging technologies can create a more inclusive workforce.
Josh Christianson, project director for the Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology (PEAT), will serve as the webinar’s moderator. Christianson advocates for the implementation of technologies, such as artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles and various other technological innovations to improve digital accessibility for workers with disabilities. Before joining PEAT, Christianson led Deloitte Consulting in implementing technology and human capital initiatives to help serve individuals facing disadvantages in the workplace.
The webinar will feature a panel of expert contributors including Florida state Rep. Jason Fischer, Dr. Aaron Bangor and Thomas J. Wlodkowski.
Rep. Jason Fischer has represented the state’s 16th District in the Florida House of Representatives since November 2016. He is the vice chair for the Florida House Commerce Committee and the alternating chair for the Florida Joint Legislative Auditing Committee. He is the author of Florida House Bill 311, which included countless provisions that promote the usage of autonomous vehicles on Florida highways. HB 311 has been endorsed by the Florida Council of the Blind, who claimed it will provide independence for individuals with disabilities.
Dr. Aaron Bangor is the chair of the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities, chair of the CSG Future of the Workforce Automation and Technology Sub-Committee and the director of Accessibility Solutions Engineering for AT&T. He is an instrumental player in the rights of Texans with disabilities, and he has led AT&T in creating and providing technology to reduce barriers for people with disabilities. As a member of the CSG Future of the Workforce Task Force, Bangor utilized his technical expertise to help shape conversations on how emerging technology can create new opportunities for meaningful employment for people with disabilities.
Comcast’s Vice President of Accessibility, Tom Wlodkowski is blind and has worked to improve the usability of mainstream internet, mobile, broadcast and cable television technology for individuals with disabilities. At Comcast, Wlodkowski is responsible for developing and executing the company’s strategic plan focused on the usability of its products and services by people with disabilities. Most significantly, he led Comcast to implement Voice Guidance for its X1 Entertainment Operating System, which enables those who are blind or visually impaired to manage their DVR and access Video On-Demand and settings with eye gaze and other assistive technologies. Wlodkowski and his team recently opened a dedicated support center for customers with disabilities and established a direct American Sign Language (ASL) number for deaf customers to communicate with deaf customer service representatives. He is responsible for driving the design and development of inclusive experiences through product innovation and superior customer support.
Ultimately, this webinar promises to provide significant insight into the importance of technology in improving working conditions for individuals with disabilities. Previous webinars in this special ADA series have covered a variety of topics including the legacy of the ADA, states serving as model employers for workers with disabilities, the transition of youth with disabilities from school into employment and stay-at-work and return-to-work best policies and practices. To register, learn more or to view previous webinars, transcripts and program materials, visit seed.csg.org/ADA30.