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Avaya Broadens Its Support for Accessible Communications Solutions for People with Disabilities

12-04-2006
  • Avaya IP Office Accessibility Suite helps small businesses tap into new labor markets and broaden their customer base; Enables two leading professional services companies to protect privacy and improve worker productivity

A new Avaya IP Office Accessibility Suite from Avaya enables small and medium companies to have the communication tools they need to make their systems easily accessible by employees and customers with disabilities. 

BASKING RIDGE, N.J. – According to the National Center for Health Statistics, more than 54 million inpiduals in the U.S. struggle with hearing or vision challenges. This group represents a significant and untapped portion of the nation's potential workforce and consumer market.

 

Now, a new Avaya IP Office Accessibility Suite from Avaya (NYSE:AV), a leading global provider of business applications, systems and services, enables small and medium companies to have the communication tools they need to make their systems easily accessible by employees and customers with disabilities. The Suite includes the same kinds of industry-leading accessibility features pioneered by Avaya for the communication networks used by large businesses worldwide.

 

"The unemployment rate among people with disabilities is one of the highest in the nation," said Patricia Hume, global group vice president, Small and Medium Business solutions, Avaya. "A contributing factor is that many companies lack the specialized communications tools needed to help workers with disabilities become integral members of their team. Making communications systems accessible can help businesses draw from a broader pool of skilled workers. Plus, accessible communications also can help small businesses achieve new, more effective ways to differentiate themselves in the market by improving the ways they deliver customer service to clients with disabilities."

 

Avaya IP Office is a secure and easy-to-use converged voice and data system. The Avaya IP Office Accessibility Suite introduces significant new features:

 

For employees who are blind or vision-impaired – The status of several dozen features enabled by IP Office now can be announced audibly over PC speakers. These features include caller ID, lines in use, calls on hold, voicemail waiting and, for contact center staffers, the number of calls in queue. Functions for which immediate notification is desirable - such as a party on hold who disconnected, or the arrival of new voicemail - are announced automatically when the event occurs.  These new capabilities are based on patent-pending software developed by Avaya Labs. Users with visual impairments may choose the features that will be announced by using the arrow keys on their computer keyboard to navigate a specially-designed configuration screen. Each time the user moves to another item, the name of the item is announced by voice, as is whether the checkbox for that item is checked or unchecked.  Users may change the status of the checkbox by pressing the space bar.

 

For employees or customers who rely on TTYs – People who are deaf, hard of hearing, or unable to speak clearly often rely on specialized text terminals, commonly referred to as TTYs, to communicate via telephone systems. In order to interact with typical voice mail and self-service automated attendant systems, TTY users must enlist the assistance of operators who provide text/voice telecommunications relay services. Now, Avaya IP Office allows customers and employees to access voice mail systems and to use automated attendant features directly via their TTYs. Privacy is enhanced as a result, especially when transactions involve credit card numbers, account numbers, medical information, privileged legal communications or other sensitive data.

 

The Avaya IP Office Accessibility Suite is now generally available globally. U.S. companies purchasing the software may be eligible for a federal tax credit (Form 8826, Disabled Access Credit, available at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8826.pdf.)

 

Companies use accessibility features to protect privacy, improve productivity
The Avaya IP Office Accessibility Suite has been rigorously tested by the SSB BART Group and TecAccess, two companies that are experts in the needs of inpiduals with disabilities.

 

Based in San Francisco, SSB BART Group (http://www.ssbbartgroup.com) is a leading provider of call center accessibility solutions for government agencies and some of the world's largest corporations - helping them gainfully employ inpiduals with disabilities and turn accessibility into a competitive advantage.  

 

"The capabilities of the Avaya Accessibility Suite allow organizations to provide equal utility to all members of their team, including those with disabilities. In addition, this is the only solution we know that offers a way to protect the privacy of workers with hearing impairments by eliminating the need for a third party to be involved in relaying information," said Paul Rosenfeld, SSB Bart Group's senior vice president of Federal Accessibility Solutions.

 

"In fact, the new features of IP Office have prompted SSB Bart Group to upgrade its system to this suite. While working with our customers, we tested other telephony solutions and have found that Avaya offers accessibility capabilities missing in other systems, including accessible documentation and installation guides. Even better, Avaya's accessibility features provide companies the opportunity to sell products and services to a broader range of customers," Rosenfeld added.  

 

Virginia-based TecAccess (http://www.tecaccess.net) is a woman- and minority-owned professional services small business that also specializes in accessible information technology solutions for industry and government agencies. The majority of the company's associates are disabled—many with hearing, vision or mobility issues. 

 

"As baby boomers retire, we expect to see dramatic shortages in the workforce," said Debra Ruh, president and founder, TecAccess. "It is more important than ever for companies to accommodate employees who are willing to stay and to hire those who are willing to come. Accessibility solutions help organizations do that – achieving a positive return on investment by widening their employee and customer base to include people with disabilities."

 

As a technology company, Ruh said it is important for TecAccess to have the kinds of sophisticated phone features that Avaya IP Office offers. She also reports that the new Accessibility Suite is benefiting all employees, not just those with disabilities. 

 

"Many members of our team are using the call status announcements as a convenience," she said. "It can be great to hear the system announce who's calling when you have your back to the phone, for example. So the features become applicable to everyone. It's just like the curb cuts for wheelchair access that now are also used for rollerblading and maneuvering shopping carts. That's cool, and that's progress."

 

About Avaya
Avaya Inc. designs, builds and manages communications networks for more than one million businesses worldwide, including over 90 percent of the FORTUNE 500®. Focused on businesses large to small, Avaya is a world leader in secure and reliable Internet protocol telephony systems and communications software applications and services.

 

Driving the convergence of voice and data communications with business applications - and distinguished by comprehensive worldwide services - Avaya helps customers leverage existing and new networks to achieve superior business results. For more information visit the Avaya Web site: http://www.avaya.com.

 

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