Providing all employees with access to work and communications tools improves an organization’s productivity, responsiveness, and ability to attract and retain the most qualified people, regardless of disability. It also increases the organization’s service levels to a distinct segment of its customer base, increasing customer satisfaction and revenue.

Cisco is committed to designing products and services that are accessible to people with disabilities. Since 1999, we have actively promoted and implemented technologies that enable user accessibility. The Cisco Accessibility Team monitors ongoing compliance with Cisco accessibility standards and worldwide regulations, reporting to Cisco’s Corporate Quality Compliance & Certification Organization.


Accomplishments to Date

In FY04 Cisco launched the Accessibility Initiative to help ensure that our products, facilities, websites, and documentation can be easily accessed by users with disabilities. As of FY08, accessibility is implemented into all Cisco business functions, subsidiaries, and acquisitions. In all, we have provided accessibility training to more than 6000 employees.

Additional accomplishments for Cisco’s Accessibility Team in FY08 include:

  • Supporting and assisting more than 250 Cisco customer accessibility inquires
  • Establishing the Cisco Disability Awareness Network
  • Deploying the Cisco and IP blue softphone solution for visually impaired workers in the Colorado Department of Labor

The Cisco Disability Awareness Network was established this year as one of 11 employee resource groups sponsored by Cisco. To promote an adaptable work environment to support Cisco employees and our partners, the eight charter members of this network are developing a global plan to start chapters worldwide. Duncan Mitchell, executive sponsor of the network, formed a People With Disabilities advisory board to prioritize and take action on issues raised.

Breaking New Ground in Telephone Accessibility

Tenacity accessaphone is the first comprehensive set of computerized telephony accessibility provider solutions. The accessaphone employs input options such as keystrokes and voice commands that allow for easier and quicker control of the telephone. For instance, keystrokes D, H, and T can be used to perform dial, hold, and transfer. Keystrokes can also be mapped to voice commands, enabling hands-free telephone use. The accessaphone makes full use of text-to-speech technology, and convenient verbal prompts guide the user through advanced features such as conference calling. For example, Cisco provided accessaphone with a handset lifter to a disabled professor at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. With the accessaphone technology, the professor can now make or receive telephone calls using keyboard controls or alternative input devices, and also has full use of an audible voice message system.


Accessibility Partners

Cisco works closely with our vendors to improve accessibility and usability in our products. Some examples:

  • Cisco worked with Tenacity to certify their accessaphone™ as a Cisco Preferred Solution. Tenacity accessaphone allows users to operate the phone from their PC keyboards and enables text-to-speech for caller ID, calls on hold, voicemail notification, and missed, received, and placed calls. The product is also compatible with leading speech-recognition software that lets dexterity-impaired people control the phone with voice commands.
  • Working with NexTalk, we are developing solutions that connect Cisco Unified Communications Manager to NexTalk NXi Telephony Services (NTS), enabling features that serve the hearing-impaired community. NTS provides advanced text communications over IP networks, transforming the PC into a teletypewriter (TTY) device for sending and receiving messages. NTS also provides automated attendant, interactive voice response, and messaging options such as email, fax, digital paging, and instant messages.
  • ARC Solutions’ attendant console assists visually impaired users by supporting the Job Access with Speech screen reader. This provides access to information displayed on the screen using text-to-speech or a Braille display.


Meeting and Setting Standards

Cisco participates in committees that set accessibility standards within the International Telecommunication Union, the Internet Engineering Task Force, and the Telecommunications Industry Association. We require our equipment to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 255 of the U.S. Telecommunications Act, and the U.K. Disability Discrimination Act. Our products also conform to Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act and similar legislation, and we are participating in efforts to help the United States Access Board rewrite and update the Section 508 requirements.

Internally, Cisco’s employee intranet complies with the Web Accessibility Initiative, an independent consortium working with organizations worldwide to develop strategies, guidelines, and resources to help make the web accessible to people with special needs.


Plans for the Future

In FY09 our goals are to:

  • Extend the Accessibility Initiative to our most recent acquisitions and subsidiaries
  • Complete the curriculum for Accessible Rich Internet Applications and testing methodology
  • Create and deploy the Cisco Sales/Reseller Accessibility Outreach Program

For more information, visit our accessibility web page:

A Special Phone for the Visually Impaired

An accessible software-based phone for the Cisco unified communications system, the VTGO-PC 508 Compliant softphone from IP blue can be deployed alone or in conjunction with the Cisco Unified IP Phone 7960G. Users choose which phone to use on a call-by-call basis. With built-in text-to-speech translation, the VTGO-PC 508 Compliant softphone provides audio assistance for all phone features, including caller ID, call hold, line status, call directory, missed calls, and even prompts and messages from third-party applications. IP blue also supports Cisco Text Relay, which allows the softphone to receive and place TTY calls without the need for additional TTY devices.