ePolicyWorks is an innovative and collaborative approach to federal policymaking that leverages Web-based technology, stakeholder involvement and real-time information-sharing to advance employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Launched by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) in 2008, ePolicyWorks utilizes new technologies to better coordinate the flow of ideas and information between federal policymakers and key stakeholders and has become a model for national policy-building efforts. The centerpiece of this initiative is a suite of customized accessible communications tools that enable federal agencies, non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders to work together on policies supporting the employment of people with disabilities.
Since 2008, Concepts has been instrumental both in the conceptualization and development of the ePolicyWorks workspaces and provides ongoing support to continue growing the platform, focusing on topic areas such as Health Care, Transportation and Accessible Technology. Within the ePolicyWorks collaborative workspaces, Concepts manages the creation and administration of 40 workgroups and nearly 100 sub-workgroups, which work together on a diverse range of topics related to disability and employment. Following a comprehensive needs assessment, Concepts designs each group’s unique workspace providing guidance and suggestions for its layout, features, trainings and other factors key to its successful implementation.
Through ongoing trainings, demonstrations and regular outreach to participants, Concepts engages and motivates program and policy experts from federal agency partners and key stakeholder groups to add relevant information to the appropriate ePolicyWorks workspaces. Concepts also works directly with members to facilitate online discussions within ePolicyWorks, outline best practices and provide suggestions on how to engage other members for meaningful and informative interactions. To guarantee the accessibility of documents and other materials posted to the workspace, Concepts conducts ongoing usability testing and provides complementary training resources, including accessible and printable user guides.
In May 2013, Concepts introduced an accessible crowdsourcing tool to compliment the ePolicyWorks online workspaces. Since its inception, Concepts has hosted more than 30 ePolicyWorks online dialogues, several of which have received accolades for their successes. To date, these online dialogues have included more than 11,000 participants, 1,200 unique ideas, and 5,000 comments.
To ensure the success of each ePolicyWorks crowdsourcing event, Concepts established and follows a standard methodology for setting up the dialogues, training participants, collecting metrics and reporting outcomes. An important component of this process is the metrics and analysis report, which is developed by Concepts and provided to all participants, as well as the general public, at the conclusion of each dialogue. In addition to the stats from the event, Concepts also provides a policy analysis, working with the dialogue hosts to review the participant submissions and assess the potential value and other implementation factors for each idea. As with the workspace itself, all supporting materials are tested for accessibility and usability and meet all requirements set forth by Section 508.