Abstract: This publication presents a detailed description of how the Cisco Systems 7900 Series Unified IP Phones (Technology 1) are more accessible when augmented by accessaphone™ software (Technology 2). AFB Consulting (AFBC) verified this conclusion through the findings of the laboratory testing of the two products working together and through the responses of the interviewed end users of Cisco VoIP telephony working in conjunction with accessaphone™. AFBC also evaluated in the testing laboratory the overall accessibility of accessaphone™ as a standalone software product and verified its conformance to the technical standard of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.
An Overview of Telephony Accessibility Issues 3
Accessibility the accessaphone™ way 6
General Concepts 6
Accessaphone™ and End User Accessibility 7
The Connection between accessaphone™ and Cisco VoIP Telephony 7
laboratory Testing conducted by AFBC 9
Test Methodology 10
General Observations from the testers 11
the testing of 18 specific use cases against 5 test modes 12
SUMMARY AND Conclusions 19
Appendix A – Results of End User Interviews 20
APPENDIX B – Accessibility Matrix for accessaphone™ 23
Appendix C – A Diagram of Accessaphone™ communicating with CUCM 27
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As part of a joint project with Cisco Systems 1 and Tenacity Operating LLC, AFB Consulting (AFBC) was asked to evaluate Tenacity’s accessaphone™, a PC based telephony software product that enables users with disabilities to access commonly used features present in Cisco System’s Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony offering.
This white paper presents a detailed description of how Cisco 7900 Series Unified IP Phones are more accessible when augmented by accessaphone™.
Accessaphone™ is a software package complete with its own accessible interface, forms, and controls. The software interacts with an end user’s Cisco telephone in real time mode and transfers actual Cisco telephony functionality and information over to the accessible and flexible PC environment.
The AFBC evaluation included controlled laboratory testing of 18 specific use cases against 5 test modes, resulting in a grand total of 90 common end user based scenarios. An example would be a telephone user with a screen reader (the “who”) setting up personal speed dial numbers for the Cisco phone (the “what”).
The evaluation employed five general categories or types of use cases:
Perform simple actions such as place a call.
Perform complex or multi-step actions such as open the missed call dialog form and search for all missed calls in the previous 5 days. Select and dial one of the missed calls.
Access system information such as a list of placed or received calls.
Look up accessaphone™help information by topic.
Set or change personal preferences such as the Cisco Unity mail box password for the end user.
AFBC also interviewed actual field users of accessaphone™ in order to validate and document the day to day usefulness and effectiveness of the product in real world office environments. The results are shown in Appendix A – Results of End User Interviews.
This white paper provides a discussion on the conformance of accessaphone™ to the technical standard of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. This standard in particular has become an accepted and widely used benchmark for many organizations as they research and perform due diligence on available telephony solutions. Separately, it should be noted that accessaphone™ as assistive technology is central to the Section 508 conformance of the Cisco 7900 Series Unified IP Phones. 2
An Overview of Telephony Accessibility Issues
Unchecked accessibility issues can significantly alter the productivity levels and workflow habits of affected users and the entire organization, and this is especially true in the case of telephony, given the telephone’s relative importance in an office or agency setting. It is a common misconception that accessibility problems affect only the end user or party who has the specific accessibility issue.
In many cases accessibility advancements have not kept pace with technological developments and trends. A case in point is the telephony industry’s development of “soft” keys.
The reality is that accessibility roadblocks have a multiplier effect. Conversations are a two-way street, so two parties instead of one are affected no matter where the accessibility problem originates. Communication opportunities can be forgone or sub-optimized on several fronts - between the worker and a co-worker or between the worker and the general public or the customer.
While the telecommunications industry has ushered in many well publicized developments like VoIP and others, in many cases accessibility advancements needed by end users have not kept pace with general technological developments and trends.
A case in point is the industry development of “soft” keys, which serve to increase (multiply) the usefulness of the physical push buttons located on the telephone unit. Soft key technology means that one push key can represent more than one function, a valuable technological advancement since it multiplies the contributions that can be made by a given key or button.
For example, pressing a soft key on the telephone unit may “redial” a previously dialed telephone number. But once the telephone call is connected, the representation of that soft key may change dynamically on the telephone interface to a totally different function or meaning such as “end the call”.
Soft keys also serve as pathways to important information (such as call log information) or they can be used in the setting of personal preferences like call forward or send a call to voice mail. Depressing a soft key(s) will usually provide the user with a linearly progressive menu of helpful selections and information. But each menu offering is vision based only.
This vision only format highlights the primary accessibility issue with soft keys. Little or no comparable sources of access are provided. And the traditional accessibility workarounds that worked with older telephones do not work in the case of newer telephones that have soft keys.
In addition to soft key issues, there are additional telephone accessibility problems that can be traced to a lack of comparable means of access for end users.
This problem can be illustrated by comparing the physical makeup of telephones without soft keys with that of telephones that use soft keys.
Older telephones (with or without a visual interface) typically used hard wired buttons or keys that had only one function or definition that never changed. So end users who are blind or who have low vision could often achieve some level of accessibility or comparable access by memorizing the relative location of the hard-coded keys and buttons on their telephone base unit. Or specific hard keys could be identified or tagged through the use of Braille markers or raised tactile characters.
But soft keys because of their complexity and dynamic nature preclude the effectiveness and practicality of such quick accessibility fixes.
In addition to soft key issues, there are additional telephone accessibility problems that can also be traced to a lack of comparable means of access for end users. Telephones have traditionally been designed with the abilities of the so-called average end user in mind. Consequently, important information such as incoming caller identification or missed call notification is generally provided in one context (visual) only.
Another common accessibility issue is the difficulty that many people have in physically handling the telephone unit and handset. For example, placing a call by grasping the telephone handset with one hand while simultaneously dialing the telephone number with the fingers of the other hand can be difficult or impossible for many end users to perform.
For more information on common telephony accessibility issues and how they are addressed by accessaphone™ - refer to Appendix B – Accessibility Matrix for accessaphone™ and the Cisco Series 7900 Desk Phones and Soft Phones.
There are of course societal costs to be paid due because of the lack of accessible technology. Employment censuses ad studies have documented for years that employment rates for workers with disabilities are significantly lower than that of the working population in general. 3 This problem is not coincidental to the lack of commercially available workplace telephones that can be used by all workers, regardless of physical ability.
Due to shifting workplace demographics, businesses and agencies will need more and more to recruit workers from the ranks of the disabled. This will be partly due to the effects of the upcoming Baby Boomer retirement bubble, which will likely lead to worker shortages in a number of industries. 4 In addition, the much publicized aging or “graying” workforce will itself call for better workplace accessibility.