Funded by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy's (ODEP), ePolicyWorks is a collaborative approach to federal policymaking that leverages Web-based technology, stakeholder involvement and real-time information sharing. The program encourages national experts and stakeholders to shape policy and address specific barriers to employment faced by people with disabilities and establishes a model for future national policy-building efforts. Additionally, ePolicyWorks gives policymakers use of accessible engagement, productivity and crowdsourcing tools through its online dialogues.
ePolicyWorks helps modernize government, heighten transparency and maximize efficiency through it's open network of stakeholders and constituents. Beyond simply providing a space for contributors to share information, online dialogues also drive policy development. Because everything is hosted on the Web, more people can participate, less logistical planning and funding is needed, accessibility is built in and participants can access the dialogues and data at any time of the day.
ePolicyWorks connects with stakeholders through its crowdsourcing platform and online dialogues hosted on Ideascale, and the ePolicyWorks Twitter account, @ePolicyWorks. These strategies allow ePolicyWorks to not only broadcast information to stakeholders and constituents, but also gain their input and engage in productive conversations.
Crowdsourcing is an interactive collaboration tool that encourages community participation through online voting, idea submission and commenting. Crowdsourcing is commonly referred to as an "online dialogue" or "virtual town hall." It is the practice of soliciting ideas or contributions from stakeholders and constituents to solve problems, make decisions, and generate new ideas using online tools. Here at ePolicyWorks, our main crowdsourcing efforts are online dialogues.
The host decides on the issue and presents the challenge to stakeholders or citizens through targeted outreach. They then set up a participatory, self-moderated community and determine a timeline for participation. Participants in the dialogue submit ideas, vote and post comments and can communicate the status of an idea through email, Twitter or Facebook. Moderators of the event interact directly with the community and can assist the conversation to maximize participation. Eventually, the top ideas emerge and results are provided at the end of the event for analysis and next steps are determined.
The benefits of crowdsourcing include connecting agencies to stakeholders and citizens, providing cost benefits and efficiencies and serving as an outreach and awareness tool. Crowdsourcing helps drive innovation and ensures the correct issues are being addressed by engaging a broad group of people of varying backgrounds in the conversation. When a diverse group of people is at the table, more needs can be addressed.
Gathering feedback from stakeholders limits participation because it operates as a one-way street; participants can only submit responses or surveys but can't directly interact with other users or moderators.
Crowdsourcing ideas from stakeholders and constituents is more interactive and drives social participation through submitting ideas, voting and commenting. It is more transparent and community driven, and allows users to be flexible in their level of engagement. It is also value-driven in that concrete results are achieved.
Crowdsourcing and hosting online dialogues promote the public's input on key policy issues related to the employment of people with disabilities. Government agencies benefit tapping into a diverse group of people who bring unique skills, talents, and knowledge to the task at hand. It is also easier, cheaper, faster, more flexible and accessible than traditional input tactics such as in-person interviews and intensive studies. Crowdsourcing encourages interaction among users and expands the reach to groups who may otherwise be inaccessible. Lastly, it provides valuable quantitative and qualitative data.
ePolicyWorks hosts dialogues on a number of different topics around the area of disability employment, including workplace accommodations, advancing state policy, careers in the arts, accessible transportation, promoting inclusion, and hiring and retaining people with disabilities. Themes differ for each dialogue, so be sure to check back periodically for new topics.
Yes, other government agencies have started using online dialogues as a collaboration tool as well. Some examples include:
ePolicyWorks is committed to making sure everyone can access the dialogues. All online dialogues meet Section 508 web accessibility requirements and aim to meet WCAG 2.0 guidelines. For more information, please refer to our Accessibility Statement.
It is important to ODEP and ePolicyWorks to aim for the most accessible and usable experience for everyone. To do this, ePolicyWorks continuously tests and improves the platform's accessibility features. We also provide ongoing support and training and listen to our users to provide open communication on any accessibility concerns that arise. In addition, ePolicyWorks partners with top vendors in the accessibility arena to stay ahead of the curve on new technologies and trends relating to Web accessibility.
There are a number of assistive technologies people use to access websites and online dialogue platforms. Some of the most common are screen readers, live captioning, JAWS (Job Access With Speech) and VoiceOver.
Dialogues are typically two to four weeks long, but are sometimes shorter or longer depending on the need.
Online dialogues are held approximately 10 to 12 times a year.
ePolicyWorks uses Ideascale for all online dialogues. The IdeaScale crowdsourcing tool offers first-rate accessibility features and is a proven way to receive input from the community.
Most online dialogues are open to the public and everyone is encouraged to participate. Occasionally, dialogues will be reserved for government agencies and/or stakeholders.
To participate, go to our Dialogue Library on the ePolicyWorks website and click on a dialogue you would like to join. From there, you can sign up for an account to access the dialogue.
Registration is free and everyone is welcome to join.