How to make remote work inclusive for the deaf and visually impaired?

How to make remote work inclusive for the deaf and visually impaired?

As remote working gains momentum amid the coronavirus pandemic, a plethora of opportunities could open up for people who did not exist before.

For example, less attention in the office can attract more people with disabilities into the workforce.

But for businesses, there are still many considerations to take into account when creating an inclusive remote environment for blind and deaf people.

Martin O’Kane of the Royal National Institute of Blind People in the UK said that in the case of people with vision loss, they can often rely on public transport to get to the office. Remote work may present an opportunity for employers now, but it will test their commitments.

During the pandemic, video calling has become a lifeline for many businesses, whether in team meetings or recruiting new talent.

Organizations such as the RNIB and the Deafness Cognition and Language Research Center at University College London have published tips for employers on best practices for working remotely with people who are blind or hard of hearing.

But these guidelines are constantly evolving with the rapidly changing future of work.

“If you have vision loss you are probably using the type of technology that will allow you to read the information so that it can be magnified or it is voice reading software,” O ‘said Kane.

“The important thing for an employer is to make sure that any system you use is compatible with this software.”

A spokesperson for DCAL said the organization was working on “how we are going to handle this mixed working method”.

“It is important that the views of Deaf people and their life experiences are taken into account so that any improvement in technology is truly what Deaf people want and need. Don’t hear. [people] Looks like they want and need.

Technical equipment

Technological tools, especially for communication and video conferencing, offer ways for employers to engage their employees, but are not always a straightforward option.

Gilles Bertoux, CEO of Livestorm, a French video conferencing and webinar platform, said it is currently making changes to its platform to better serve the visually impaired.

“In our online meeting room, we try to meet the standards for blind people based on the ARIA specifications,” said Bertoux, referring to a set of standards for web accessibility from the World Wide Web Consortium.

“It is mainly aimed at visually impaired or blind people. In practice, it allows anyone to navigate in a LiveStorm room with their keyboard. We are working hard next year to improve it again. are going.”

He said his design team is also working on filters to increase on-call color contrast that will make people and objects more apparent.

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For employees who are deaf or hard of hearing, real-time closed captioning and closed captioning on video calls is still an emerging but advanced technology with major platforms like Zoom and Google Meet implementing live audio closed 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 those who rely on lip reading during calls.

Meanwhile, Josh Miller, CEO of video transcription company 3Play Media, said that while technology is improving in this area, it might be “still too clunky,” but companies are afraid to test the technology with it. their employees. Will not.

“I think there is a reluctance to engage in this type of service because of the complexity and not necessarily because of the cost. It is not clear exactly how it is implemented. The Things We Really Passionate About One of them is to keep it simple, ”Miller said.

human contact

Technology can fill some of the gaps in keeping a remote team functioning, but not relying on technology for all the answers is still an old-fashioned idea.

O’Kane of RNIB said companies need to train employees about disability more effectively as part of their diversity programs.

For videoconferencing with the visually impaired, this means a more discreet etiquette during the call. This will avoid using too many visual cues when speaking on a group call to the explicit indication of your name.

“If you have vision loss and can’t see who is speaking, it can be very confusing trying to figure out who is saying what,” O’Kane said.

“This is to make sure that all employees involved in the remote call have good information about vision loss that is part of their equality and diversity training. ”

website inaccessible

It’s at the heart of an age-old problem with all digital services. According to data from ContentSquare, a marketing technology company backed by SoftBank, 70% of the web is largely inaccessible to the visually impaired.

The company established the ContentSquare Foundation earlier this year after acquiring French start-up AdaptMyWeb, which makes ancillary software. The Foundation helps businesses identify accessibility issues and barriers to their websites, especially for the visually impaired, and has developed a plug-in for users to adjust and improve their online reading experience. .

Marketing director Nikki Hall told CNBC that many companies still don’t know how inaccessible and often their digital sites or services are.

“We give people reports on accessibility issues. Some people don’t even know they have problems, ”Hall said. “They can look at it and see what’s wrong with their site and how they can improve it.”

He said that while identifying problems with accessible technology is just one step, creating solutions and services for all users should be a priority for businesses.

“The minimum is to create a level playing field for everyone. It is everyone’s responsibility to make sure that their employees, their customers, everyone create the best experience, not the disappointing one.

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