- At a time when most people around the world are working from home, inclusivity and accessibility are more important than ever.
- We must try to ensure that people with disabilities—many of whom are under even more stress than usual—won’t encounter barriers when trying to do their jobs.
- Action steps to promote inclusivity include clear and direct communication, avoiding PDFs when possible, increased flexibility, and closed captioning.
We are living through a monumental time in history. Travel is restricted, businesses are temporarily closed, and we are all adjusting to what it means to be socially and physically more distant. We’ve found new ways to connect and come together. We find ourselves in a time when many people throughout the world are now working from home. It’s more important than ever that we are inclusive in our work and interactions with everyone.
Accessibility will play a significant role in this crisis and beyond as we try to ensure that people with disabilities—many of whom are under even more stress than usual—won’t encounter barriers when trying to do their jobs or join in conversations that directly impact their working lives. Being considerate and mindful of everyone, is not only the right thing to do, but it also allows everyone to make meaningful contributions to the work we do.
As we learn new ways to work, discover tools that help us communicate from a distance, and work hard to keep our businesses running, here are some tips to consider to be sure that we include everyone.
Be clear and direct with communication and instructions: This situation is stressful for everyone, but the unpredictability is taking an even bigger toll on employees who live with mental illnesses. Clear and direct communication on everything from emergency policies to project expectations reduces the cognitive load on all employees. It empowers everyone with actionable steps in the face of uncertainty.
Allow for more time to complete work: Most work tasks will take longer for every employee, regardless of disability status. Planning for additional flex time in projects and meetings ensures that your people can deliver results without sacrificing in vital areas outside their work lives.
Avoid using PDF’s if possible: PDF’s historically do not work well with screen readers, which are used by people with visual impairments. They’re also not generally directly editable and can sometimes be difficult to read if they represent scanned pages. Instead, use web content (HTML) or directly editable text documents (Word, Google Docs, etc.) to share information.
Collect and back up organizational knowledge: If physical separation causes breakdowns in communication, create digital libraries or help channels where employees can share resources. If such systems already exist, consider expanding who can access this information while balancing data privacy/security risks. This helps with more efficient communication and breaking down information silos.
Designate a note-taker for meetings: Having a person responsible for taking notes throughout the meeting allows for everyone to be fully present and engaged, without worrying about capturing important information. It can also reduce the cognitive load of an already stressed and potentially multi-tasking workforce.
Record and share: If someone can’t be present during a meeting, be sure to record it for later viewing/listening. Ask for consent from all parties beforehand, and clarify who will receive the recording afterwards.
Caption your videos: If you’re sharing audio video information, make sure it has closed captioning or subtitles. Closed captioning benefits people who might be Deaf or Hard of Hearing, as well as those working outside their native language, and anyone in a shared space with conflicting sounds. Providing a transcript of the video is one step further than can provide benefit for everyone.
Everyone should have the opportunity to do their best work, whether they are getting through a global health crisis or just living with a disability. Being considerate, thoughtful, and compassionate are all key elements to not only surviving at a time like this, but thriving in our day-to-day. If you aren’t sure, ask how you can help and be open to trying things a different way. Now is the time to come together and not only continue to run our teams and businesses, but to support and help one another. We will see the other side of this! And we’ll bring with us lessons that will make for a more accessible and inclusive world.
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