How to make remote working inclusive for the deaf and blind
As remote working takes a greater hold amid the coronavirus pandemic, a wealth of opportunities can open up for people that may not have existed before.
For example, less of a focus on the office can draw more people with disabilities into the workforce.
For companies there are still many considerations when it comes to creating an accessible remote environment for the blind and deaf.
Martin O’Kane, of the Royal National Institute of Blind People in U.K. stated that people who have lost sight may rely on public transportation to reach their office. Employers may be able to offer remote working, however it could put their inclusiveness commitments under pressure.
Many companies used video calling to maintain operations during the epidemic. This was for both team meetings and recruitment.
RNIB and Deafness Cognition and Language Research Center, University College London, have provided guidance for employers regarding best practices when remote working with those who are hard of hearing or visually impaired.
These guidelines change with changing work environments.
O’Kane stated that if you have sight loss you will likely use technology to enable you to see information. This could include magnification, speech-reading software or magnification.
An employer should make sure the software you use can be used with any system that they have.
DCAL spokesperson said that the company is currently “working out” how to handle this mixed way of working.
Deaf people need to be heard and taken into consideration in any tech innovations. Not what hearing [people] think they want and need.”
Technology tools, especially for communication and video conferencing, present ways for employers to keep their staff engaged but it’s not always a straightforward option.
Gilles Bertaux is the CEO at Livestorm. This French platform for videoconferencing and webcasting offers a better service to the visually impaired.
Bertaux stated that “in our online meeting, we’re trying t meet the standards blind people based upon the ARIA specifications,” Bertaux referred to the set of web accessibility standards from the World Wide Web Consortium.
It is primarily targeted at blind and visually impaired people. Practically, anyone can use it to navigate Livestorm with their keyboard. It will be improved next year. We are going to continue to work on it.”
Its design team was also busy creating filters that increase the contrast between colors on calls to make objects and people more easily identifiable.
Real-time captioning on video calls for staff who are hard of hearing or deaf is still an emerging technology. Major platforms such as Zoom and Google Meet have implemented live audio captioning.
Simon Lau, vice president of product at Otter.ai, a transcription software company, told CNBC that live captions can help reduce so-called “Zoom fatigue” for people that rely on lip-reading while on calls.
Josh Miller, the CEO of 3Play Media’s video transcription company, stated that technology is progressing in this area, but it can still be “still pretty confusing.” However, companies shouldn’t be afraid to try out new tech with employees.
It’s not the price, but the complexity that people are hesitant to use these kinds of services. This is because it’s not clear how these services will be actually implemented. Miller mentioned that one of the many things we are most excited about is simplifying this process.
Technology may bridge certain gaps in keeping a remote team functioning but there are still old school considerations to make by not relying on tech to have all the answers.
O’Kane, RNIB’s director of diversity and inclusion, said companies should train their employees better on disabilities.
This means that videoconferencing with visually impaired people requires more thoughtful etiquette. These include avoiding too many visual cues and clearly spelling your name on group calls.
O’Kane explained that it is difficult for people with sight loss to see the speaker and can make it confusing trying to decipher who’s saying what.
It all comes down to ensuring that everyone involved in remote calls has access to good information about sight loss as part of their equality-discrimination training.
All of this gets to the heart of a lingering problem with digital services. Softbank-backed tech company Contentsquare found that 70% of web pages are difficult to access for people with vision impairments.
Following the acquisition of AdaptMyWeb in France, the company created Contentsquare Foundation. The foundation works with companies to identify and fix accessibility bottlenecks and issues on websites. This plug-in allows people to modify and enhance the reading experience online.
CNBC’s Chief Marketing Officer Niki hall stated that companies often don’t know how accessible their websites or digital services really are. She also said that they need to be told by CNBC.
Accessibility issue reports are provided to all. Hall stated that some people are unaware they have accessibility issues. They can take a look at their website and find out what is wrong and how to improve it.
She added that while identifying problems with accessible tech is one thing, companies should be looking at creating solutions as well as building services that take all users into consideration.
The minimum requirement is for everyone to have equal access. Everyone has a responsibility to make sure that customers and employees have a great experience.