36th Annual CSUN Assistive Technology Conference - Featured Presentation #3

36th Annual CSUN Assistive Technology Conference - Featured Presentation #3

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Hi, I'm Julia Santiago, the Assistant Director for the Center on Disabilities. I would like to welcome you to the start of our Friday programming. Now, it is my privilege to introduce this morning's feature presentation, by the US Intelligence Community. National Security and Accessibility, exploring the challenges and opportunities associated with information and communication technology in the Intelligence Community. Thank you, Julia. Hello, my name is Mike Washer and I'll be monitoring today's panel.

I have served in the office of the Director of National Intelligence for three years. And last January, I was selected as the acting Intelligence Community Chief Information Officer or IC CIO. As my office is a component of the office of the Director of National Intelligence.

All of us here serve under the Director of National Intelligence. (indistinct) Director Haines, serves as the head of the US Intelligence Community, overseeing and directing the implementation of the National Intelligence Program and acting as the Principal Advisor to the president, the National Security Council, and the Homeland Security Council for intelligence matters related to national security. The DNI works to effectively integrate all national and Homeland Security Intelligence in defense of the Homeland and in support of us national security interests.

The mission of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence or we call it ODNI and I is to lead and support, IC integration, deliver insights, drive capabilities and invest in the future. The ODNI is staffed by officers from across the Intelligence Community and is organized into directorates, centers, and oversight offices that support the DNI role, as head of the Intelligence Community and manager of the National Intelligence Program. The office I currently lead, the office of the Intelligence Community Chief Information Officer, is organized to respond to the mission, business and technology needs, of the broader Intelligence Community. Ensuring Intelligence Community collectors and analysts have the secure services and capabilities they need to effectively do their jobs.

I'd like to welcome everybody to today's panel which is entitled National Security and Accessibility, exploring challenges and opportunities associated with information and communications technology within the Intelligence Community. As background (indistinct) of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 forms the cornerstone of government information technology inclusion efforts. However, the Rehabilitation Act provides a National Security exemption from compliance for military command and control, weaponry, intelligence, and crypto analytical information technology systems. And agencies reliance on this exemption as a rule, puts Intelligence Community and agency's core values of inclusion diversity and equal opportunity deeply at risk. If we did not do everything possible to be as inclusive as possible, and to provide a central products and services to promote those who have assistive technology needs, we weakened our collective ability execute our intelligence mission.

To execute our mission more successfully, requires we train, organize and equip our workforce to enable intelligence collection, analysis production and dissemination or distribution of that which we seek. Risks that our crew, if we do not exercise distress responsibility effectively, we may fall victim to the anathema of the IC. Group think, shared conscious or unconscious biases, homogeneity of background, education or life experiences can lead us to think alike. And then perhaps missing key nuances of adversary behavior.

Having a broad, eclectic diverse and multi-faceted workforce definitely helps us identify adversary anomalous behavior, and find clues to adversary intensions and capabilities. Failing to sense these nuances can lead to intelligence failures. Flawed analysis, failure to warn the president or other senior political or military leaders adversaries in time to address and mitigate those risks. The only way to avoid this trap, is to get as many perspectives as possible from the widest selection of mission partners, to gather and synthesize them the fullest possible operational picture. Doing that effectively includes ensuring those with accessibility needs are equipped with assistive technologies, that they are practiced in their use, and they are readily available to contribute their unique knowledge, skills, abilities, emotionally intelligence, maturity, and other strengths. This is our game to our Intelligence Community, ethos and a shared and widely held belief.

I would note for example, that Intelligence Community Policy Guidance 110.1, entitled Employment of Individuals with Disabilities, states that IC elements shall be model employers for individuals with disabilities. That statements does an extremely important goal for the Intelligence Community. As someone who has spent his career in the IC. I know we can meet the challenge of providing assistive technology to our workforce.

After all the IC is the early warning system for them numerous rapidly changing threats to our nation, and we pride ourselves and being agile, flexible and innovative in addressing our nation's greatest challenges. These attributes are the community's core strength we have successfully adapted to meet the challenges of the current pandemic, just as we have met countless other national security challenges. I don't think I need to remind all of you that it's been exactly one year since the world shut down to address the threat of Covid 19. Like every other organization, the Intelligence Community had to quickly adapt to the pandemic. We had been exploring telework for our workforce for some time.

In a number of respects expanding telecommuting opportunities for the IC, was just a member of a matter of accelerating implementation of previous decisions and leveraging existing capabilities. There is no one size fits all approach in regard to the challenges of telework, given the diversity of functions of the Intelligence Community, we're implementing multiple diverse strategies and technologies for enabling teleworking very viable. This is also true of our ability to develop and provide assistive technologies for people with disabilities within the Intelligence Community. We can, and we must demonstrate the same level of commitment as we've demonstrated in adapting to the pandemic. Getting to the right trusted agile skilled workforce is a mission imperative for the Intelligence Community.

Diversity is an important component of our goal of having the best possible workforce. And this includes people with disabilities. It's essential that the IC foster diversity of thought experience and background, this broadens all of our perspectives and is utterly essential. Through today's session, accessibility representatives from the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence will discuss information technology, accessibility improvement efforts, and experience as an IT accessibility user. Let me introduce my four distinguished colleagues. First Debra Kertscher, who is Senior Executive Intelligence Community accessibility next, Dr. Paula Briscoe,

who's Senior Executive Management Officer in the office of the Director of National Intelligence. Also we have with us today, Shannon Pasho, who is the Information Technology Accessibility Program Manager, at the Defense Intelligence Agency, the preeminent military intelligence organization within the United States. And finally, we're fortunate to have with us Dan Hetrick, the National Security Agencies, Information Communication Technology, accessibility team lead within the department of the chief information officer. Now I'd like to recognize Deb Kertscher, Senior Executive Intelligence Community Accessibility, who will discuss her role in IC accessibility as well as her perspective on assistive technology.

Debra. Good. Thank you so much, Mike. Good morning, everybody. It's an honor to be here to be a part of the conference. So thank you very much for the invitation.

Again I'm Deborah Kertscher, I'm the Intelligence Community Accessibility Officer. This is a new role. A new role to the organization and to me, obviously, because the IC leadership finds a lot of worth and merit in this. Overall, my job is to lead inter-agency changes towards greater inclusiveness.

Each IC element, and again there's 18 organizations that make up the Intelligence Community. Each of them take the accessibility issue very seriously and that they have their own initiatives that they're working on. What we're trying to do is, look at overarching ways that we can perhaps get some shared services, that we can bring some of these services together to build and to accelerate a diverse workforce.

What we find is a lot of the IC agencies already have strategic plans in place for accessibility. And again, they have a number of initiatives that they're working out. My role again, is to look at those best practices. What, how can we bring those two together collaborative, only to strengthen them. A lot of them to have independent accessibility councils and or working groups. One area that I'm looking to do is maybe bring all those people together that we can maybe have one Intelligence Community accessibility council, that we can get this group together so that we can speak with one voice.

Is Mike had mention, COVID the pandemic put a whole special emphasis, the work the way National Security works in general and even more so those with persons with disabilities. So a lot of the IC agencies are always look already looking at avenues that they can help support telework. But again, to these certain initiatives and new paths they're gonna need a lot more work. As we go forward. As far as Intelligence Community goals, we wanna leverage the strength of every individual.

We want to foster the inclusive environment, and we want to do everything possible to remove those barriers especially for persons with disabilities, because at the end of the day everybody wants and needs the opportunity to fully contribute. Areas that we're looking at obviously there's a lot of tentacles to this there's physical side, there's facilities issues. There's this technologies, a lot of what we're gonna be talking about today, reasonable accommodations which is all encompassing IT, sign language interpreters.

We wanna make sure we're giving everybody the right professional opportunities from the minute that they're applying for the job, once they come on board throughout their career, we wanna do everything possible to offer those same opportunities to everybody in the workforce. And again, to bring those barriers down. Another area that's very important that we always need to work on. And every organization to including Intelligence Community is to increase communications. Even more so now that we have people teleworking because it's a very different environment as we're all experiencing.

So it's more important, how do we get those communications out to everybody? To include training opportunities. Training if there's gonna be changes and technologies or reasonable accommodations, that communication is even more important to get to the workforce, and then to offer us training to the employees and certainly to the managers. Another important role that I'm planning to take on is take a look at the current review of IC Intelligence Community policies and procedures. We have to make sure that they're current and make sure that they're aligning with the current environment.

We wanna make sure like you said, that we are doing everything within our power to promote the recruitment and the retention of Intelligence Community persons with disabilities. And as Mike had mentioned, the ICD Intelligence Community Directive 110.1, the employment of individuals with disabilities we wanna be the model employer. That's our goal.

And that also talks about the development for each organization to develop IT systems especially those for persons with disabilities which you're gonna hear about today from a lot of our colleagues. So I'm very honored to be in this role. It's a great job with a lot of opportunities and to be a part of this process as we move forward. Thank you.

Thank you, Deborah. Our next panelist is Dr. Paula Briscoe, Senior Executive Management Officer in the office of the Director of National Intelligence. Paula will share her unique perspective as a Senior Intelligence Community official living with a disability.

Paulah. Thank you, Mike. Thanks. Appreciate that. And really, I want to echo what Mike have already said. I'm really honored to be here.

I look forward to the day when I can actually attend the CSUN conference in person. I've attended a few events where you can put your hands on some of the equipment that might help if you require an accommodation. And there's just nothing like the in-person experience.

So I appreciate everybody's flexibility with our presenting this way this year. And I think you're all gonna find it valuable. I certainly have. So I wanted to, my job today is to talk to you for about five minutes, about my experience in the Intelligence Community as a person with a disability. So I am legally blind by both definitions in both eyes. I was a premature baby.

So I've had this condition for all of my life. I fortunately didn't have to adapt to it at some point in my professional career, which also means that I came into my career with some idea of what sort of accommodations I needed. Fortunately, I had the wonderful experience more than 20 years ago, entering DIA, Defense Intelligence Agency Shannon Pasho organization. and an individual helped me acquire and install the accommodations that I needed because in a large bureaucracy I didn't know how to go about doing that. So I was very grateful that there was a person assigned to me that helps me, that listen to what I said in terms of here are the things I need to accomplish. And here are the technologies I think would help me accomplish those.

So he did listen to both sides. I understand that today, oftentimes we approach accommodations by asking the individual simply to state, what task is it you're trying to complete? And then the folks we'll provide the accommodations, make decisions about the piece of equipment or the piece of software or the accommodation that would accomplish that. Now my message to all of you is that I value that approach, but I also wanna implore all of you to listen to the individual who comes to you and says, I think this piece of technology or this piece of software would be most helpful to me because what they're really communicating to you is that they have used it in the past. And they think that it would be helpful in the future. And they do, they are the subject matter expert on what's works for them. So I joined DIA more than 20 years ago.

I've had an amazing career. I have not in any way shape or form been limited by my disability. And I'm not here to to give you an artificially positive story.

Yes, there've been challenges, but it's it is absolutely true, that I was able to go from a pretty junior GS all the way up to a Senior Executive in a pretty short time. And I've been given the opportunity to demonstrate again and again, what my contribution can be to, whatever the mission is at the time, regardless of my disability. So I really appreciate that in the Intelligence Community I have never run into, a situation where somebody simply says, you have a disability, I'm not going to give you an opportunity.

I'm not going to pay attention to you. I'm not going to listen to your point of view, you're not as valuable a contributor exactly the opposite. I have found again, and again, people go out of their way to try and make sure that I have the accommodations that I needed. And I really, really appreciate that.

I have not been behind a desk for all of my career. I have, for most of my career been on the mission side. Doing all that, was just glad. But I also had the opportunity to work overseas. I have to Europe, I've been to the Middle East. I've been to South Asia, I've had some wonderful opportunities in the Intelligence Community.

I use ZoomText and JAWS. For those of you who have low vision you'll understand what I'm talking about. I also use Magnification. I traveled to and from work, not when I was overseas but in the DIA Headquarters, I used to guide a dog. And I have found that the folks in the IC have both from facilities to IT, to the folks that I work with have been very, very receptive to any time I've raised an issue, raised a need for an accomodation, its been, it's really been a wonderful experience.

For those of you who are like me who are the receipts of or who require accommodation. I think the message that I would have for you, is the people who you were asking to accommodate aren't as familiar as you are with what your needs and requirements are. And you can help a lot by being an advocate for yourself. You're making the agency better or the organization that you're in better, when you ask for accommodations that you need to do your job, because it's not just you there are folks who will come after you. And also it helps when you can articulate individual things that you need, instead of talking about anomalous challenges that you're having helped me part of the solution that I have found to be a very effective way of working with the accommodations folks to help them help me.

I look forward to the day when a driverless car will take me to work. And I don't need to I won't need to use trains and buses and things like that. But for now in the age of IT and social media and the internet, it has been, I think a real boon, particularly for folks with visual impairments. It has opened a lot of doors. It has increased the earning potential of folks who have or who poor eyesight or who are legally blind. So I think that we're in a truly wonderful time for folks with disabilities.

So all of you who provide accommodation, all of you who are in the business of ensuring accessibility, I commend you, you make so much possible. I, want to just talk about one particular period in my life, because I want you all to leave with this one understanding if there's nothing else. That the work that you do is, it is akin to giving vision to a to a blind person right? Up until I was 29, I always had to rely on books on tape or a person to read things to me. When I entered my PhD, at that time the CURT's file reader was out and computer technology was coming along so that I could for the first time in my life, I could pick up any book and I could scan it, and I could listen to it. What that meant for me or article or whatever.

What that meant for me was it for the first time in my life I could read at will. I could read what I wanted to, when I wanted to. Without very much of a delay. At the same time the internet was, it went from 2 million to 4 million, I am not old, I'm dating myself now. But all of a sudden this gateway of information was available to me, which had been it had been limited before in the in the world that I lived in just because of the visual impairment, right? I couldn't just pick up a newspaper and read it.

Once it's online, and you have the ability to have Text-to-Speech and to listen to the texts. Suddenly the whole world is open to you. And I will tell you that , I probably more in my 29th year and that I did in my first 28 because I just became a voracious consumer of information. So please understand that the work that you are doing not only allows people with disabilities to contribute fully, but it is truly like giving the gift of hearing, or giving the gift of sight to somebody. Because I think that I can speak for all of the people in my community.

We all want just as you do to come to work, to contribute, to be part of something larger than ourselves to give and to give back. And so I really wanna commend all of you for the work that you do. And I want to encourage all the people out there who are recipients of, or who need accommodations to be your own best advocate. And don't, don't be afraid to ask for the things that you need, but hope yourself by being articulate and conversant and helping, helping the folks who are providing the accommodations help you.

So that's all. Thank you, Dr. Briscoe. Thank you for your remarks and thank you for service. You're a joy to work with each and every day. Next I'd like to recognize Shannon Pasho, Information Technology Accessibility Program Manager at the Defense Intelligence Agency or as we call it DIA. Shannon we'll discuss the Intelligence Community's information technology accessibility priority initiative.

The progress made in the last few years within the IC and then share some insights into DA's progress in this area. Good morning, everybody. I will echo my colleagues and say that I am so very happy and excited to be here. Again, my name is Shannon Pasho I am the Information Technology Accessibility Program Manager at DIA, and I will refer to DIA as DIA moving forward in this.

Prior to this position I served as the acting Deputy Chief Data Officer for DIA. And prior to that role, I served on a joint duty assignment at the Federal Bureau of Investigations as an Intelligence Analyst. For those of you that are not familiar with DIA, we provide military intelligence, to warfighters, defense policy policymakers, and force planners. We embarked about two years ago as Mr Washer indicated, on an improvement, an accessibility improvement effort within the IC and within DIA to improve information technology accessibility.

Over the last two years within the IC, we have focused on kinda four major things. We've wanted to make sure that we had identified accessibility program managers at each of the Intelligence Community agencies. It was important really to make sure that we had dedicated primary support in this role, which we thought was critical to driving that maturity that we keep all talking about.

We wanted to make sure that we were representing ourselves at federal accessibility forums. So general service administration, I have to give a shout out to them. They provide exceptional training and quarterly accessibility forums for the Federal Government and entities. And we had not been taking advantage of this opportunity.

And so we wanted to make sure that we were representing ourselves at those. We also wanted to make sure that we were providing to the US AccessForward. You know, the challenges that we have particularly working in a secure environment with accessibility compliance and really seek their support in helping us to overcome some of those challenges.

We collectively agreed and we adopted a centralized scorecard within the Intelligence Community that had been developed actually by the National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency. To ensure that we were majoring IT accessibility and compliance against the latest web content accessibility guidelines. These two agencies had partnered up and created this scorecard, and we wanted to make sure that as we, you know, we begin to measure and we report forward that compliance that we were doing it consistently amongst the group. And then finally, you know Deb talked about establishment of communities of interest.

And, and we did that at least on the IT side of the house. So we developed a accessibility community of interests within the Intelligence Community. That's represented by the IC agencies, and we meet by monthly to share best practices, to do in common where we can, to help other agencies that may not have as much maturity as some of us do, to bring them up to speed. Within DIA, we focused on four priority areas. We wanted to again, establish our program and mature it. We started to document our processes and our workflows.

We started in engagement and education and informing campaign. And then we really started to test and evaluate and remediate issues of non-conformance and any new capability that we were, that we were gonna develop for the agency. Some of the accomplishments that we've had over the last two years, we realigned resources to ensure that we were integrating accessibility into our governance into our acquisition, into our development process. We trained our workforce on testing over-remediation to begin evaluating compliance. And in fact, Mr. Washer talked about

these standup of capability in the telework environment and there was a lot of development and innovation that was created to do that. So over the last year, since COVID this team the team within DIA doing IT accessibility, remediated over 9,000 deficiencies and accessibility compliance prior to implementation, you know, on our network, which wouldn't have been caught if we didn't have kind of the robust team that we do. This included evaluation and implementation of Microsoft teams, which was really critical for us, and being able to telework and support telework activities. We were the first IC agency to implement coast captioning via teams, which again was very important. We submitted over the last year, our first ever response to the office of Manpower and Budget and the Department of Defense, quarterly accessibility compliance reports. This was important because this is how we hold ourselves accountable, right? We don't want to not submit that in the past.

And so now we've set a standard that we're gonna make sure that we hold ourselves accountable. We implemented an unclassified telephone regular capability within the agency. Our deaf and hard-of hearing officers would actually have to leave the building to use like their own cell phone for telephonic services or they'd have to rely on interpreter service to help make that call or receive that call for them which quite frankly, wasn't always available. You can imagine in a top-secret environment the having to implement a capability with a video in that environment is very challenging, but we were able to work really through that, work with our physical security folks to kinda accept some risk, which I think is important, you know, for the Intelligence Community. And then we were able to deploy that capability which I think is really important for us.

Finally, we realized that our dependency on the Department of Defense Computer Electronic Accommodation Program, or as some of you are familiar with CAP, prevented us from providing on demand services and resulted really in multiple versions of capability on our networks. It also prevented us from being able to develop and deliver a comprehensive IT asset management strategy. So we were thinking, why, you know, why are we managing kind of our arts ICU hardware and software assets any differently than we would handle any other it asset in the agency? So we baselined our hardware and our software.

IT accessibility delivery and we we invested in those areas. We now have written that into our programming budget. We've procured them, and we can provide them on demand and virtually. So I don't have to wait on a disk for an analyst that may go to Europe or Europe Command for TUI, take the disk have it installed. It just, you know from a service perspective, it service perspective. it just wasn't a good optic.

I'll end my, my kind of speech really just providing some advice. Some to the IT accessibility program managers out there. For me, the ability to obtain some research and data helped me engaging advocacy for my leadership.

So whether that's help, you know, service dealt desk ticket resolution, time, frames whether that was customer service, satisfaction surveys you know, whether that was retention data that I was able to get from EO, I used this, to justify the need for the additional resources. So you here, you know there's even some questions that have been posted to the chat, you know, how do you get advocacy within your agency? And for me, the ability to have the data and present that data to leadership in a way that just they can't say no is really what helped us. The other recommendation I would have for you is expand your Rolodex. I would not have the program maturity at DIA when I have have the program maturity that it does without the help from General Services Administration or US AccessFord. And my fellow counterparts sitting at the table.

So my advice to you is, you know, get the, you know even if it's virtually, you know, get as many business cards as you can from events such as this, because these are the people that are really gonna help you to gain your maturity and really educate you. So that's all I have, but thank you. Terrific, Shannon. Thank you very much, Shannon, that as usual, your aspiration and your perspiration to move the ball forward, to push capabilities, to push people and push organizations is terrific. And we appreciate it very much.

I look forward to working with you again. Last but not least. We'll hear from Dan Hetrick, the National Security Agencies Information Communication Technology, Accessibility Team Lead in the Department of the Chief Information Officer or CIO at the National Security Agency. Dan will discuss NSA's trailblazing efforts to implement Information Technology Accessibility within and across the Intelligence Community. Dan.

Thank you, Mr. Warsher. I would like to echo the comments made by my other presenters and how excited I am to be here today. You know, you see the same faces popping up at these events and it just makes you smile knowing that they continue to carry that real fire forward through, some of the most resilient testing situations you can imagine, especially when it comes to this kind of work trying to change hearts and minds of people who have been stuck in the same rut for a long, long time. I'll preface my prepared remarks with a little bit of my story since I have the liberty to do so, which will probably drive our poorer interpreter a little crazy, but that's okay.

He won't be able to respond I'm sure. So I was not, I did not start off my journey at the NSA, as a person with a disability. I began my journey 30 years ago as a co-op student from the university of Akron. It wasn't until 20 years after that, that I really became personally aware of just how broken the accessibility was within the agency that I loved so much and having acquired a disability on a Sunday morning in August, 2011 when I survived any major stroke in the right hand side of my right hand side of my mind, took out my left side rather neatly. The doctors told me that it would be six months before I could return to work and I'd beat their estimation by about three months.

So I'm one that, you know, you'll find out if you've ever done any work with me, I am not one to slow down, stop. I'm more likely to go bullying through, jump over run around if I can to get my point across to help you understand why I'm right and you're not. So with all that said, you know there's not gonna be too many you're gonna find at the place that I work at that have the same drive that I do, the same passion for making this happen, but I've been able to bring a lot of people along on my journey. Like other federal agencies, designated as producers of national security systems, the NSA freely operated for years under the exemption provided for NSS within section 508 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, permitting acquisition development and deployment of capabilities that fell short of being accessible to people with disabilities. This wasn't really seen as a significant issue, until executive orders, 13 163, delivered in July, 2000, and 13 548, signed in July, 2010. That resulted in a major influx of persons with disabilities into the federal workforce.

And of course that immediately exposed the gaps in access and opportunities to people with disabilities and the tools, the services, the resources, the training, career development and opportunity provided to people with disabilities in Information and Communication Technology Accessibility the NSA, leveraging the people with disability community through the employee resource group, program, build a team underneath the office of the CIO to effect quick gains through the spreading of awareness of gaps, and influencing the development organizations to incorporate system remediation, to an accessible status into their development and maintenance efforts for some of the more ubiquitous tools, services, and resource. The efforts of this team which would become my team, were facilitated by the co-development with our IC partners, have an ICT accessibility score sheet, Shannon's already referred to that. To help development organizations navigate the internationally accepted accessibility standards. Some early efforts were more successful than others. While many development organizations citing the section 508 exemption as a justification for not meeting accessibility standards for mission in some business systems. NSA took a bold step forward in July, 2019, by issuing NSA's inaugural policy on ICT accessibility.

The policy made it very clear that except under very limited circumstances, NSA would no longer invoke the exemption for any tool resource system or program for meeting NSA ICT Accessibility standards based on the section 508 criteria and then dating that all Information Communication and Technology produced, acquired and developed four and by the NSA be assessed for and to the greatest extent possible, be remediated to accessible status. NSA has identified accessibility of Information and Communication Technology and facilities as a primary focus area for the NSA directors big six focus areas for equality. It's really number one with a bullet on his list. Since the issuance of the policy, NSA has developed a new ICT accessibility strategy penned to by my team and signed by all the stakeholders that were involved in the policy.

Underpinned by the authority of that policy. And it's established the following new advancements in accessibility. A strict well-defined guidance and process by which it's section 508 exemption waiver can be requested and adjudicated by the CIO or his designee the establishment of an accessibility curriculum. At the National Cryptologic School, hosted by NSA for educating the workforce about accessibility, updates to the standard acquisition language, to hold contractors to a tighter standard of accessibility and their deliverables to the agency. Establishment of accessibility advocates, at the higher organizational levels across the enterprise for spreading awareness and diving deep into the organization and other development organizations the operational organizations, helping every affiliate at the NSA understand why this is important and why each one of them has to take action to make accessibility one of the things primary on their mind instead of an afterthought.

We also established an enterprise accessibility council comprising all the aforementioned advocates and key membership stakeholders. So with all of that, I'm so proud of what we're doing at the NSA right now, accessibility. It's a treat to go to work. I smile every single day as I see things lining up and falling into place, just as satisfactory as pushing the very last puzzle piece into a into a jigsaw puzzle.

We're drawing, NSA's driving accessibility as a core requirement into everything we do, to achieve our goal of accessibility and inclusion throughout the enterprise. With, you know that's pretty much everything I can say about what we've done. It's been, you know nothing really short of a miracle, getting all of these organizations. That for a long time, just didn't understand why this was so important to really embrace it, grab a hold of it and make it theirs.

I'm very proud of our acquisitions folks who have been working with us, closer than they've ever worked with us to make sure that the language that's included in our contracts makes it very clear to our vendors, that we're not taking delivery on things that are anything short of being accessible to our folks with disability. It's an exciting time. And I can't wait to see what's next. Thank you.

Thank you, Dan. That's true. NSA is a true exemplar of an organization that has brought that home, but it's champions and exemplars, people in leaders like you that are the catalyst for that kind of organizational change. And so thank you for your service, sir.

I do appreciate it. And I'm sure all of us here do today as well. So those are our prepared remarks. We have gotten some questions that have come in and with the group's indulgence here I think I'll read a question and whoever would like to answer it if you'd raise your hand and then take off and go ahead and do that.

That would be great. Okay. Starting, in your experience, dealing with the Intelligence Community's efforts to enhance assistive technology for our workforce what do you believe is the single greatest impediment to getting us where we need to be? I'm happy to jump in. Okay Shannon, thank you. So for DIA, you know, I talked a little bit about our our maturity, you know, we're two years into the effort to improve Information Technology accessibility.

We leveraged the national security exemption again, prior to that, where we could, the biggest, I think challenge for us is the lack of skilled resources made with the necessary skills needed to make the changes and to conduct the remediation and testing, right? So I can put processes in place and develop processes, you know, within the organization but I've gotta be able to implement that into an overarching governance strategy, right? I've gotta be able to implement that into training and development into, you know, my IT help desk, right. It's easier to do that if the agency had hired those skills from the beginning, but because it wasn't you know, it wasn't something that we focused on. It's a little bit more difficult. So what we've done is we've advocated for some additional resources on the contracting side it just initially to get, to bring those skills in house so that if we can do the train the trainer model, I can get their help to integrate accessibility and you know, into governance.

I can get their support in helping us to integrate accessibility and design into acquisition and they have the skills to be able to do that. And then they can help to train our folks and being able to to implement that, you know, a little bit later down the road, almost working themselves kinda out of the job. But so that's been I think the biggest challenge for us is that not having the skill sets necessarily to be able to tap into within a particular area, to be able to remediate and and address those challenges right away. And then of course just training the folks that we have invested now into the program and getting them up to speed. And so for (indistinct).

So again, just trying to integrate and build those skills so that we can be much more quicker and our responsiveness. Excellent. Thank you, Shannon. We have a question from a participant in the audience, Mr. Kevin Chow, asks, please detail the benefits of a person with disabilities, considering the Intelligence Community, over private, other government, or nonprofit sectors.

Why should we pick you over? I'll take that one? Okay. Dr. Briscoe. Yep. Thanks. So there are a lot of benefits, for one thing the government, would almost always lose a case. If you said, I asked for reasonable accommodation it was indeed reasonable.

And so, you know we just don't have the resources to get him a new chair, a new keyboard, or a new computer or whatever. The government is a great place to work for that reason. They have very established programs.

They're very concerned about following the legal requirements, right? The Intelligence Community is also a fantastic place to work because, perfect example, I joined DIA, but then I moved to ODNI, you are not just joining the one agency, you're joining in fact, a community of organizations. And so your career can can go a lot of different directions. And you're very much in charge of where you wanna take that there are fantastic training opportunities. There are opportunities to work both all over the country as well as in a lot of foreign countries. But one of the things that certainly as I said in my remarks, that makes it a wonderful place for me to work is the fact that, in each of the roles that I've had, I've been able to get the accommodations that I needed to be successful. So yeah the Intelligence Community is a fantastic place to work.

If you are a person with a disability Thank you, Dr. Briscoe. Debra Kertscher. You wanna add something? I would welcome that. Thank you very much, Mr.Warsher, and to follow up with with Paula's comments, couldn't say enough. I think we all could speak highly about the Intelligence Community, the testament with each of our careers.

And with that said too, there are a lot of opportunities. As Paula mentioned, you can have a dynamic career within that one agency and then you have those opportunities to crossing over to other agencies. So you have unlimited opportunities throughout your career. The other thing I wanted to talk to them we have a joint duty program. Again, it's gonna facilitate that movement to give you opportunities to move to another organization learn about their mission, learn about their culture, and then you can return to your organization too. So you're gonna have different flexibilities that you may not necessarily have.

Perhaps in the private sector. We have a very unique mission. And I just wanted to say too, if you are interested and looking at opportunities we do have a website intelligencecareers.gov. And then you can also look at each independent website for each of the IC agencies, their website, talk to you about their qualifications and the process to get into the (indistinct) agency committee highly recommended. Thank you.

Let me say one more thing. Bouncing off with Deb's comments about mission is (indistinct) was really addressed. So there's nowhere else that you can work, except for probably in the military, where you have the opportunity to protect US interests at home and abroad. The mission is really, you know, I was, my office was in the Pentagon on 911, and I was able to be part of the the huge counter-terrorism effort that grew up after that to help, to go ahead and round up those bad actors, that had attacked the US, so it's a incredibly rewarding mission as well that we get to either participate in or support in the IC. Thank you, Dr. Briscoe. You're absolutely right.

When you wake up in the morning and we begin to commute we don't wonder why are we going to work? So it's a good thing. I have another question from the audience, please. Mr. Graham Mill asks us, what has been your greatest challenge with making accessibility products or services within your agency accessible to our community? Mr. Hetrick,

you wannna give us an example of a challenge that you've overcome? Sure. I can do that. Since I know Graham personally, he happens to be on my team. It's kind of a loaded question.

Graham they're very well knows what the answer to this is. He is great friend and he's probably listening to me right now. One of the biggest challenges that we've had to overcome and making these things accessible, is I think it's already been alluded to just the general dearth of knowledge right now, amongst the development workforce about how to build this stuff in from the beginning. For all of these mission applications, for the business applications, that we've put out.

Some of them have been around for years. And so when you go to an organization and you say you've gotta make this accessible. Their first question is what does accessible mean? How do I know what that means? And then you hand over the score sheet and say, here use this. And they look at it Jars. I've never heard of Jars except for that movie, with the little fish in it. And so getting people to understand first what accessibility means and then help them understand why it's so important particularly for some who have not entirely embraced the idea that people with a disability can contribute so much to an organization's mission simply by the diversity that they bring.

So it's really just changing hearts and minds, and that's gotta be the hardest thing. Right now the biggest challenge and it remains the biggest challenge in some way, just reaching into these organizations and saying, yeah you really ought to build this stuff in from the beginning because otherwise it takes a lot longer and it's a lot more expensive to bolt it on at the end and you're gonna ultimately have to do it anyway. Why? Because the directors said so.

And so, to the, you know and then it also helps answer that other question. Why should somebody pick the Intelligence Community over anything else. Right now You're not, I don't know that you're gonna find a bigger push anywhere in industry of a group that's really looking to find a voice for those people with disabilities and nearly every single one of the Intelligence Community components has got an employee resource group. That's dedicated to listening very closely to the voice of that community and acting on it in a very speedy, very directive manner, so that they can make those employees feel valued more than any other time in the history of the agency or the Intelligence Community.

As I said, it's a very exciting time to be at the at my agency, as well as some of these other Intelligence Community components. So yeah, changing hearts and minds, getting the, understanding, the awareness the education in place, it's been a real challenge. And once it's, and it's really starting to lock into place now, we're seeing more and more people sign up for a course that, you know besides the score sheet was also put together by NSA and CIA and in helping make the WK guidelines understandable in a way that nearly everyone can understand and test against. So once we've gotten that taken care of things are really gonna start to move and there's not going to be much that we're not gonna be able to do. So, that's my answer.

Terrific. Thank you, Dan. I appreciate that very much. Let's look the crystal ball for a second here. In envision for the art of the possible going forward. Let's say over the next five years what developments technological and otherwise, can you envision significantly enhancing our ability to address accessibility challenges, any takers? I will. Okay. Shannon go ahead. I, have to kinda give a shout out again and I promise they haven't paid me, to General Services Administration.

You know, their section 5OT team has developed a partnership with industry and made investments in federally funded research and development. And they're looking at implementation of accessibility and future capability in IT design. They actually established an Innovation Advisory Board, which is made up of select IT Accessibility, program managers and experts across the Federal Government to include the US Access Board. And these experts propose topics for research, particularly in areas where there's a limit limited accessibility such as biometrics or geospatial capabilities. So I'm encouraged that we will see kinda development in these areas.

I also think that the most likely innovative ideas and accessibility and discoveries, come from applications that weren't necessarily developed with accessibility in mind. And so I use the example of Rideshare Capability Applications. These applications and services completely transformed a mobility for persons with disabilities. But they weren't necessarily accessibility, you know, the development that somebody, you know, said, let's do this because, you know, for accessible people. So I would just say that as as future capabilities developed I don't know that we would, we'd think about those types of things, you know, impacting us in the future. And so, I say that because I think it's gonna be something that we haven't even thought about yet.

That's gonna come out and totally transformed for us and open up windows and doors. So. Excellent. Thank you, Shannon. Yeah. So Dan, and to a lesser degree Shannon, you have emphasized the point of a coalition of the willing getting behind this work and pushing it forward to gain a coalition of the willing you've got to communicate effectively. What mechanisms have any of you used to bring accessibility awareness to your workforce? What works and getting the word out? Over.

I can take that first Shannon If that's all right? My team from the beginning, when we'd be when we were stood up, started, I mean, recognize that dearth of knowledge, that dearth of understanding about accessibility and why it was so important and that we needed to bring that message out to the workforce in a way that they could really understand and it could bring it home in a personal way, for, you know really highlighting the work that my team has done both before, during and now, when I've taken it taking control of it. We deliver a briefing. Anybody that wants it, called Accessibility 101. And really all it is is just a toe dip into the deeper pond showing people what those accessibility challenges are for those folks that come to work with a special circumstance every single day and the kind of things that they, that frustrate them and really caused them pause, making them wonder, you know is it really worth it? But we show them that with just a little effort on their part, the people that attend this briefing it makes a world of difference to the people with whom they interact. And then they work with, it's result, this briefing has resulted in entire teams of people. Attending an American sign language class.

So that they could effectively communicate in team meetings with a single person on their team who was deaf. And I think that that's just amazing. The feedback that we've gotten from this briefing has been such that since we include people from the community, looks like folks like Graham that can talk directly to the challenges that they have.

It opens the eyes up in a way that people just don't understand before they attend this briefing. So Shannon, I know you've got some comments too thank you. I think I have a minute left here. So we've done a couple of things. We developed a disability council which is represented from our service organizations but it's led and shared by employee volunteers. They host events, they've developed educational material and etiquette, you know, classes as Dan kind of indicated for example, they also propose accessibility improvements and advocate for advance enhanced services.

And so we then stood up a leadership disability council which is chaired by our equal employment office and represented by senior executives from across our support organizations that help enable most of those recommendations that are chaired. And what they do is they rack and stack those who put priorities and requirements and they help to drive them to fruition. So we've integrated into various councils to ensure that we can educate people on the importance of and then to help drive things improvements to fruition within the agency. Train the trainer, educate the educator and then have ambassadors that go out and help us. Thank you, Shannon.

I'd like to close with an invitation to all of you with us here today to join us by seeking employment within the Intelligence Community we are 18 organizations strong with a broad and eclectic mission set that drives our needs for personnel with an extraordinarily wide spectrum of skills as you've heard today. That absolutely positively includes personnel with accessibility needs and requirements for assistive technology. There is a place for you with (indistinct) if you so desire. You've heard before www.usajobs.gov or intelligencecareers.gov. Look into please.

Thank you.

2021-03-28 00:59

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