October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month in the U.S., so it’s a great time to talk about increasing accessibility at your organization. Besides being the right thing to do, creating an accessible workplace ensures that companies can recruit and empower the best employees in their fields. Millions of people live with disabilities, not all of them easily visible. They represent a huge pool of talent. It’s critical to make sure your organization offers a welcoming and supportive environment so all employees can comfortably perform their best.
Video has become a major component of the digital workplace, and offers some challenges to some people with disabilities. But not only are there ways to overcome these challenges, video itself can help make your workplace more accessible.
How Does Video Make for a More Accessible Workplace?
We’ve all got a mental image of a “typical” office environment. But not everyone is able to sit at a desk for eight or more hours, using a keyboard and mouse, staring at a screen and listening to their headphones. Just because someone cannot comfortably succeed in an unmodified, old-school office environment, though, doesn’t mean that they can’t be awesome at their jobs! Really, what’s more important – looking like a stock photo or delivering high quality work?
Just as video has been helping connect global teams and build non-traditional workplaces, it can help support a less traditional, more supportive environment. Consider a few of the following scenarios:
- For a person with chronic pain or mobility issues, video allows them to meet with their team face-to-face while lying down comfortably.
- In fact, web conferencing makes it possible for employees to participate from wherever their bodies need to be. It reduces the amount of traveling necessary.
- Recorded meetings and events allow employees to watch asynchronously, when they are able to do so. It also allows them to pause, replay, speed up, or slow down an event. All of these make it easier to participate, regardless of physical or neurological needs.
- Subtitles are essential for deaf and hard of hearing people; however, they’re also extremely useful for people experiencing neurological or sensory processing issues. Allowing people to engage more senses to process information makes it easier and more comfortable for everyone, regardless of preferred channels. Even when someone is just tired, giving them the ability to turn on captions can make it easier to follow complicated verbal explanations.
One of the biggest advantages to adding more video to your communications is that it increases flexibility. It gives your employees options, including when, where, and how to participate in events and process information. The more options you can offer, the easier it is for people to find an effective and comfortable combination for them. When these options are offered to everyone, it allows everyone to live up to their best potential, even if they choose not to disclose a disability.
Making Sure Video is Accessible
Of course, none of these ideas for increasing accessibility will work unless the video itself is accessible. When thinking about accessibility for video, there are two major areas to remember: the content and the platform.
Accessible Video Content
The most common topic to come up for increasing video accessibility is around captions. Video unites sight and sound. Especially in a business environment, removing the sound usually makes a video mostly pointless. So it’s critical to make sure your video strategy includes a strategy for captioning content. Be careful, though – the gold standard for accessibility regulations is 99%+ accuracy. Machine-based captions (also called automated speech recognition or ASR) usually can’t get that high. We’re used to captions on YouTube occasionally having some pretty hilarious errors. Those errors aren’t hilarious, though, when it keeps someone from doing their job. Human-based captions can ensure the necessary level of accuracy. You can also make it possible to go back and manually correct incorrect captions.
And don’t forget the visual component, either. Audio descriptions can make sure people who are visually impaired can easily use video content.
Accessible Video Platform
It’s not enough for the content to be accessible, though. The video platform itself has to be accessible if you genuinely want to increase accessibility.
Some steps to take include (but are not limited to):
- For people with blindness: all controls must be “readable” as audible or tactile output
- For people with learning disabilities such as dyslexia: all written content must be similarly “readable”
- For people with colorblindness: high contrast options should be available so it’s unnecessary to depend on small color changes to use the interface
- For people with low vision: larger icon versions of tools should be available
- For people with motor impairments: keyboard shortcuts should exist for all player functions
The point is to make sure that as many people as possible can easily change the settings to make the video tools they need easy to use for them.
Increasing Accessibility with Video
Again, the key to increasing accessibility is flexibility. If you can offer people multiple choices – with captions or without, with default-size icons or with larger and higher contrast icons, live or on-demand, in person or remote – they can choose for themselves the accommodations they need to do their best work.
Many people have disabilities they may not wish to disclose. The way one person is affected by a disability may be different from how another person with a similar disability is affected. In fact, a person may feel impacted by their disability in different ways from day to day, such as when someone with chronic pain has a “good” or a “bad” day. Fortunately, the most efficient way to handle this is also the most kind – give all your employees the options to choose for themselves how to leverage video tools. Increasing accessibility will help drive more productivity. It will also result in more comfortable, confident, and happy employees. Isn’t that the workplace we all want to be in?