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Clear to See: How Jacobs Made Engineering Software More Accessible for Those with Color Vision Deficiency

When one of our employees noticed a way to make a daily tool more inclusive, our team found a way to extend the positive change across the industry.

The vibrant world around us is full of millions of distinct colors. From the blues in the sky to the greens of the earth beneath us, color brings what we see to life. Researchers estimate that the human eye can actually see 1,000 shades of light.

Everyone sees color a little differently, but for some 300 million people around the world distinguishing between different colors isn’t as clear. Color blindness, or color deficiency, affects about 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women globally who are unable to distinguish between certain colors. It’s most common between greens and reds, and sometimes blues and yellows.

In fall of 2020, Michael Monahan, a civil engineer at Jacobs, was invited to a review session using Bluebeam software. During the session, colors were used to depict the different steps of approval during the process. Michael, who is colorblind, was used to creating workarounds to be able to complete his workload. During the session however, he discovered that three of his colleagues were also struggling with the colors being used in the review approvals.

After the session, Michael reached out to our Bluebeam Network of Excellence (NoE) team with a challenge: What can we do to help individuals working with colorblindness?

“Bluebeam is used by more than 15,000 Jacobs users and is integral to our project execution and tapping into our full bench of resources,” says Jacobs Global Collaboration Coordinator for Project Collaboration Technology Gaurav Katyal . “Making sure all of our teammates can effectively and productively use these tools is a key focus of our Bluebeam NoE team.”

While initially we’d used profiles in Bluebeam designed around colors, Gaurav explains, after Michael’s challenge, the team began using profile customizations that include written notes to indicate status – making it more inclusive and accessible for all.

Our team then engaged Bluebeam directly and posed Michael’s exact question. We also shared with the Bluebeam team how our profile customizations seemed to help our teammates. Inspired by how we’d found a way to be more inclusive and cognizant of our users, Bluebeam set up a series of meetings with Michael to help them better understand the needs and the issue at hand.

As a result of the meetings, Bluebeam released a guidance document earlier this year showing their global user base how Bluebeam software can be tailored to users with color vision deficiency. The guidance even includes some of Jacobs’ customized figures and profiles.

At Jacobs, we value the unique insights and talents that people living with disabilities bring to our culture and business practices. Our foundational core value “We live inclusion” is supported by the strength of tangible leadership commitment and accountability, and we’re committed to making positive changes like this with help of our ACE employee network (Access, Connect, Empower) for people living with disabilities and their allies.

Furthering our commitment to living inclusion, our work with Bluebeam is nominated for one of the 2021 Bluebeam Extreme Awards, which celebrate the everyday innovators using Bluebeam solutions to transform the way they build. We’re nominated in the Business Transformation category of the awards, which will be announced during XCON September 29, 2021.

Our work with Bluebeam to make its software more inclusive for not only our own teams, but for others around the globe, is just one example of how we’re working to advance inclusion every day. For more on TogetherBeyond and inclusion and diversity at Jacobs, explore jacobs.com.

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