Samantha Estoesta’s chronic migraines were so painful they forced her to work on her computer at least once a week with no external artificial lighting and her screen's brightness set to the lowest possible setting.
For years, Estoesta, Product Manager – Social Innovation Specialization at TD Bank Group (TD), suffered from migraines caused by the blue light being emitted from her screen. When she felt them coming on, she had two options: Take a sick day or shut off all the lights in her home, turn her screen’s brightness to the lowest possible setting and hope that the migraine reliever she took every four hours could get her to 5 p.m.
But for the last four months, Estoesta has had a new option to help handle her symptoms. She's been using the TD Accessibility Adapter, a tool she helped create to address the online accessibility preferences of her TD colleagues, by helping to reduce the blue light emitted from a device. During these four months, she estimates that using the tool has helped reduce the number of her migraines by almost 75%.
The TD Accessibility Adapter, which made such a difference for Estoesta, is now available to everyone in Canada and the United States at no cost via the Chrome Web Store.
“Accessibility should be embedded everywhere — it should be something we strive to have as a standard,” said Estoesta, who is the TD Accessibility Adapter's product owner.
“I believe that the TD Accessibility Adapter has made an incredible difference in my life and I believe it could help thousands of others, whether they identify as having a disability or not. Offering the tool to the public at no charge is just the right thing to do. It's a great example of how the innovations we make here at work for our colleagues can be shared with our customers and communities."
The TD Accessibility Adapter allows users to personalize their online experience tied to individual accessibility preferences. In addition, the tool can co-exist with any other assistive technologies that may be on a user's device, such as JAWS, a screen reader. The tool also enables users to apply reading guides, larger and dyslexia-friendly fonts, and monochrome, dark mode and low saturation features to their device, to help meet a variety of accessibility needs.
According to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in May 2023, up to 1 in 4 adults in the U.S. have a disability. The non-profit group WebAIM reports that only 3% of the Internet is currently accessible to users with disabilities. According to a 2021 Pew Research Center survey found that people with disabilities are three times more likely than those without to never go online.
A commitment to inclusive innovation
The TD Accessibility Adapter was developed by TD Lab, an innovation group at TD that collaborates with businesses across the Bank, as a tool to help address colleague accessibility preferences that TD colleagues could use on their own without the need to first disclose their accessibility concerns to their managers.
After Estoesta and her team developed the tool, it was piloted by the Bank's technology team with over 6,000 U.S. retail colleagues at TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank (AMCB), as well as Disability:IN, a regular collaborator with TD, to test that the tool was ready for broader consumption. In June, the TD Accessibility Adapter launched globally to more than 95,000 colleagues enterprise-wide at TD.
For some TD colleagues, the TD Accessibility Adapter has already proven its worth.
Edi Martinovic, AMCB Assistant Store Manager in Albany, New York, said the tool has helped him stay focused at work. Martinovic, who identifies as having Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder, uses the low saturation mode to help mute his screen’s appearance.
"It helps my concentration, things are not jumping out as much," he said. "I can just get in and do what I am trying to do without having my focus taken away to other things. It makes a difference. This is the first time that I have seen anyone consider online accommodations for people with ADHD. It is amazing to see TD make an effort to consider different peoples' needs."
After seeing the impact of the TD Accessibility Adapter during the pilot stage and its colleague launch, the Bank decided to release the tool to the public at no cost.
John Pluhowski, AMCB’s Chief Communications Officer and Executive Sponsor of the AMCB's disabilities employee resource group, said the release of the TD Accessibility Adapter to the public in Canada and the U.S. is a significant step to go beyond the walls of the Bank to help drive inclusion on a broader level.
"Advancing disability inclusion is one of the Bank’s core values," Pluhowski said. "Once we saw how much the adapter benefitted our colleagues, we wanted to share it with everyone."
This isn’t the first time that decision has been made with inclusive innovation technology developed at TD.
In 2022, TD developed the Equity Resource Hub, a tool that was designed to help the Bank's colleagues address unconscious bias and incorporate an equity lens into their projects. As with the TD Accessibility Adapter, the feedback from both TD colleagues and external pilot collaborators was so powerful that the Bank decided that the tool should be released to the public.
Both tools were developed utilizing the Bank's human-centered design approach to digital innovation, which focuses on understanding and exploring what customers say, what customers do, and how customers feel, to improve design models, gain deeper insight and look to focus on supporting customers and colleagues in new ways.
Taking the mission of inclusion beyond the Bank
Estoesta said her team prioritized working with disability communities throughout the development process. It was important to design the TD Accessibility Adapter to help meet their needs and to do so in a way so they'd want to use it.
Her team built the TD Accessibility Adapter so it wouldn’t be designed as an overlay, which is automated software that detects and fixes accessibility issues by modifying the code of a web page. These products don’t always work as intended and can create further accessibility issues, said Estoesta.
Instead, the TD Accessibility Adapter is a Cascading Style Sheets, or CSS switcher, which alters how content like font type and colour display, appears on a web browser. This design function also allows the TD Accessibility Adapter to be used alongside other accessibility tools.
Estoesta also understood from her own lived experience that people with disabilities are often hesitant to disclose them. Only 3.2% of U.S. employees disclose their disabilities to their employers, according to a 2017 study published by the New York-based Center for Talent Innovation.
Because of that, Estoesta worked with the TD technology team to ensure that all colleagues across the Bank would have access to this tool on their computers as a day-one accommodation. She hopes that by making the tool public, other organizations can also do the same for their employees.
Ultimately, the TD Accessibility Adapter has changed what accommodation means to her.
“I’ve unlocked something that allows me to work in a way where I feel good at the end of the day,” Estoesta said. “Not only does that make me a better worker, it makes me a better person after hours too.”