The Coronavirus has been around for several months and has started an accessible tech revolution. Many people have changed the way they work during the Coronavirus pandemic, but for some disabled people this has brought some specific challenges.
Improvements in accessible technology has seen artificial intelligence software provide real-time, on-screen transcriptions of what someone is saying in video calls, but there are concerns that some video calling platforms and apps are not as accessible as they could be. BBC Click’s Paul Carter find out more.
The accessible tech revolution begins…
What is The Social Model of Disability?
The Coronavirus crisis means that many of us are now working remotely and using videoconferencing platforms and tools. But how do we use them in an accessible way?
Drake Music have been researching and learning about accessibility in video conferencing/ online meetings/ remote music sessions. Here are some of the solutions to assist businesses with the accessible tech revolution.
A group conversation can move rapidly. This can be inaccessible to some people. In video calls there can also be an overwhelming amount of information to process (audio, visual, chat text etc). Check in with your group as to their requirements.
Some suggestions to support accessible conversations would be:
- Assign a moderator who checks in on people’s understanding and reiterates key points at regular intervals.
- Ask participants to speak one at a time.
- For large groups consider controlling participants’ audio to allow them to chat to everyone, or just the host. (Note: in Zoom there is a ‘raise hand’ function to allow participants to signal that they wish to comment/ask a question.)
- Use the chat function to record key points, giving each a title to separate key info out from general chat.
- Record the meeting and share it afterwards to let people listen to important sections again.
- Offer an option for people to switch off cameras.
- Offer to record the meeting and send the video and a transcript of the chat to participants after.
- If you/your participants are new to video-conferencing here is a useful guide to Zoom from Copronet Wales
A large meeting may be noisy and hard to follow. This will make it more inaccessible. Some suggestions to improve the experience for the end user could be:
- Ask everyone to mute their mics when not speaking to limit extraneous noise.
- Consider using an external mic if you are hosting a meeting, to improve sound quality.
- Use a video conferencing system which supports Subtitles/Captioning – this can be beneficial for everyone and is especially important if you are using screen sharing and participants can’t see you while you are speaking.
- Skype – Automatic captions, not always 100% accurate, but helpful. Multi-videos can crash more.
- Zoom – Captions can be enabled, but someone has to be assigned to type them.
- Google Hangouts – Automatic captions/subtitles, we haven’t tested these yet.
- Gotomeeting – Offers transcriptions after the meeting, but possibly not live. Caption info for
- Teams – Microsoft’s service offers automatic captions/subtitles. We haven’t tested it yet.
- For captions, speak clearly, slowly and into the mic. Limit background noise and try to avoid everyone speaking at the same time. Also allow for extra time to transfer captioners into breakout rooms, or to get set up at the start of an event.
- If you are using slides consider sharing your speaker notes alongside them, so that people can read along if needed.
- If you share videos, ensure they are captioned.
- Headphones may be useful
Please note: Automatic captions may work reasonably well for smaller conversations and one-to-one discussions, but that for training, livestreaming or bigger group meetings it is not always the best option.
When hosting a remote meeting which involves sign language there are specific considerations needed in order to ensure it is accessible – e.g. turn-taking, the visibility of the speaker to the interpreter, the tiring nature of watching signing in 2D.
There is an excellent post on The Limping Chicken blog by Jo Wootton which covers this topic in depth and which we recommend reading.
Access to Work support can be used to pay for a captioning service or BSL interpreters if the video-conference is for work and that support is required to allow you to fully participate in meetings.
Stay accessible within your business
We understand the challenging times facing business at present. It is not easy to have some of your team working from home and some in the office. A company must make sure that they supply all the right equipment to all their staff. This will make sure no employee is disadvantaged when doing their job.
Contact the LIS Help Desk to discuss your concerns and/or requirements, Our experienced team will be able to advise you on the correct software, hardware and systems to assist your employees. Take advantage of our security and back up solutions. As well as the latest telecoms and video conferencing systems to enable you clients and team to stay in regular contact.