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Key Takeaways: For many individuals with disabilities, remote work comes with a lot of benefits. But accessibility can still be a concern. Keep reading to learn more about how to provide accommodations to those who need them, and ensure that remote workers are able to participate, collaborate, and communicate effectively.
More than one billion people across the globe have a disability. In the US, that translates to around one in four adults.
Working from home has many benefits for workers with disabilities – but it also has its own challenges. Accessing digital content and resources remotely may be more difficult, and some workplaces may be equipped with tools like Braille displays that workers don’t have at home. This may leave employers wondering: how do I ensure accessibility and productivity for remote employees with disabilities?
Does the Employee Have the Right Tools?
Working from home usually requires remote access to electronic information systems – such as a common server or files – and communication tools. A laptop, cellphone, or other electronic devices may be required to do a job effectively.
What equipment is provided to a remote worker is determined on a case-by-case basis, and often depends on whether working from home is considered a benefit of employment or a reasonable accommodation for an individual with a disability. For instance, a laptop may be provided, but an office chair or desk may not.
The best way to determine whether your remote workers have access to the tools they need? Ask them. And if you need help determining whether an accommodation request is reasonable or not, the Job Accommodation Network is a fantastic resource to consult.
Here are a few digital accessibility products that can help ensure all members of your remote team have access to the necessary resources:
When employees who are blind or living with a visual impairment require a little extra assistance, apps like Be My Eyes and Aira can help. Both connect users to sighted volunteers who offer assistance via a live video call. The Seeing AI app from Microsoft has a similar concept, although it depends on artificial intelligence to narrate and decipher everything from currency to familiar faces.
Individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can benefit from apps like Live Transcribe & Sound Notifications, which performs real-time speech transcriptions. Plus, it notifies the user of surrounding sounds, such as fire alarms or doorbells.
Remote workers with mobility issues may want to try Google Voice Typing, which is built into Google Docs and Google Slides. There's a version for Microsoft users, too: Microsoft Dictation converts spoken word to text on a PC using Windows 10.
Make PDFs accessible with programs like Adobe Acrobat Pro. The software’s Accessibility Checker ensures that PDFs have accessible elements like alternative text on images, and appropriate color contrast.
When employees work remotely, effective communication can become a hurdle. Thankfully, in the digital age, there are many tools to help.
Zoom is one of the most popular video conferencing platforms out there. It’s easy to use, and offers benefits like annotation and interactive whiteboarding. Most importantly, it offers accessibility features like closed captioning and keyboard shortcuts.
In the Google suite of products, Google Meet is another great video conferencing option. Screen sharing is one of the most popular perks of the platform, and live captions, screen readers, and keyboard shortcuts help make it accessible for all employees.
Collaborating, even remotely, is still possible with Google Docs. Multiple users can access and edit a document at the same time using the application, allowing for real-time feedback and collaboration. The accessibility features include screen readers, braille display, and voice typing.
Virtual Meeting Tips
With more and more employees working remotely, virtual meetings have become the norm. Wondering how to ensure these meetings are accessible to everyone? Here are a few pointers from DisabilityIN:
Enable captioning. Most virtual conferencing platforms have this option.
Identify yourself. It’s especially helpful if you do this each time you speak.
Avoid idioms and acronyms. They can be difficult to understand, or may not show up correctly if an employee has enabled captioning.
Share information in multiple ways. For instance, any graphics being reviewed should be shared verbally as well.
An Accessible Workforce
Employers can help build more inclusive workplaces by ensuring remote workers are part of a larger focus on accessibility through universal design.
If you have questions about accessibility, or are in search of job applicants from various backgrounds, feel free to get in touch with the team at Galt Foundation.
You can reach one of our qualified experts here or by calling us at 1-877-361-1277.