Samantha Estoesta’s chronic migraines were so painful they forced her to work with no artificial light at least once per week.
For years, Samantha, Product Manager – Social Innovation Specialization at TD Bank Group (TD), suffered from migraines caused by the blue light being omitted from her screen. When she felt them coming on really badly, 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 setting and hope that the Tylenol she took every four hours could get her to 5 p.m.
But for the last four months, Samantha has had a new option to help mitigate 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, to eliminate the blue light from her browser. Since then, she estimates her migraines have been reduced by 75%.
The TD Accessibility Adapter, which made such a difference for Estoesta, is now available to everyone in the United States and Canada 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 Samantha, who is the TD Accessibility Adapter's product owner.
“I believe that the TD Accessibility Adapter has made such an incredible difference in my life and I know it could help thousands of others, whether they identify as having a disability or not," Samantha said. "Opening the tool to the public is just the right thing to do. It's a further example of how we can innovate here at work and share the benefits of what we're doing with our customers, colleagues and communities."
The TD Accessibility Adapter personalizes websites to match its users’ accessibility preferences while co-existing with other assistive technologies, such as JAWS, a screen reader. Users can apply reading guides, larger and dyslexia-friendly fonts and monochrome, dark mode and low saturation features for 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. For these individuals, only 3% of the Internet is currently accessible to users with disabilities, according to the non-profit group WebAIM. It’s likely why some have stopped using the Internet altogether, even as the world around them has increasingly moved online and in some regards, left them behind. 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 Samantha and her team developed the tool, it was piloted by the bank's technology team with over 6,000 retail colleagues from TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank (AMCB), as well as with longtime collaborator, Disability:IN, to ensure that the tool was ready for broader consumption. In June, the TD Accessibility Adapter launched globally to more than 95,000 colleagues at TD Bank.
For some TD colleagues, the TD Accessibility Adapter has already proven to be a solution.
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 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 taking my focus away on 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.
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 the U.S. and Canada 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," John 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
Samantha 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 do so in a way they'd want to use it.
Her team built the TD Accessibility Adapter so it wouldn’t be designed as an overlay, 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.
Instead, the TD Accessibility Adapter is a CSS switcher, which alters how content, like font type and color display, appears on a web browser. This design function also allows the TD Accessibility Adapter to be used alongside other accessibility tools.
Samantha also understood from her own 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.
Samantha 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,” she said. “Not only does that make me a better worker, it makes me a better person after hours.”