So there I was, and the car wouldn’t go “vroom”
This weekend, I had a bit of car trouble that required my car to be towed from my home to a local dealership to be fixed. Nothing special, happens all the time, right? Well, not exactly. I came out of my house to greet the tow truck driver to make sure he knew where to take the car, etc. In doing so, I noticed he didn’t have a mask on but didn’t worry about it because we were distancing ourselves (6 feet) per CDC recommendations, and we were outside. As we were talking, he shared with me the consequences of masks for those with a hearing disability. He shared that he cannot always hear well and relies on reading lips to communicate.
Accessibility is About More Than Just Blurred Lines
I am in virtual meetings and people comment on why I use a headset when I work from home and have a separate office. Sometimes, I’m not in the mood to explain, but most of the time I share that I also have hearing difficulties and my headset allows me to hear clearly. I also, when there are multiple people talking or background noise, read lips. I remember before COVID quarantine where I attended a meeting and there was an after-meeting dinner. The restaurant was very swanky and background music was piped in. I was unable to hear most of the time the conversations asking individuals to repeat themselves. If I hadn’t been able to read lips, I would have totally been lost and out of the conversations.
Imagine other impacts, suddenly a person who is legally blind is now working remotely at home. This individual relied on his manager to help him complete his training. He has a screen reader, but the content and/or learning platform isn’t accessible, so his screen reader doesn’t work. What does he do? His manager isn’t next to him to help read the training to him. He can’t do what the business needs him to do.
We Are All In This Together, So Let’s Act Like We Are
As we are doing our best to comply with requirements, please remember that others may rely on things such as facial cues, lip-reading, or working in an office relying on others to assist. This made me think about what other consequences are there as an impact on those with disabilities due to the protection that is here to save our lives. How is that making individuals feel and are they able to work remotely?
Fast forward well into post-COVID (sometime in the future), we will continue to meet virtually and in-person in the future. When you have a meeting where you are expecting people to contribute their ideas and not just listen, use your camera. Many excuses I’ve heard are that “I’m not camera-ready” or “I don’t want people to see my house”. With technologies today, you can blur your background, and let’s be honest – no one is looking like a prince or princess these days. Turn on your camera – it may be a life-line for those who have hearing difficulties.
This conversation with the tow truck driver really made me feel proud of the work we do at WeLearn around accessibility – access for all. While we can give you tips and strategies on how to create a digital accessible technology environment, don’t forget about the non-tech or low-tech areas that are equally important.
If you would like to chat with us more about how you can create an accessible digital workplace, feel free to reach out, because together we learn.