The World Changed Overnite

 

Over the last few months, the world has changed and we have all taken on many new challenges in our daily lives.  It has been a difficult adjustment.  We have all had to adopt new ways to work from home, many of us while parenting and balancing other priorities.  

It requires our time, patience and problem solving. For many of us, it’s like learning a new language.  For the purposes of this post we will be examining what Microsoft offers Built into their software to assist the disabled.

 

Everyone has questions

 

I receive questions from many across the disability community looking for tools, resources and best practices.  Below you’ll see some of our key learnings since transitioning to working from home in early March.  

We have identified ways to accelerate the learning curve by leaning on others expertise.  It’s also crucial to prioritize accessibility to ensure that what we deliver is accessible to everyone in these new and shifting circumstances.

Think of this as the start of a series with more chapters ahead.  I hope that by sharing these skills we can accelerate your journey into being more accessible, inclusive and productive – no matter where you’re working.

 

Learn from others with disabilities

 

The biggest source of knowledge right now could be your fellow employees, especially those in the disability community.  However, the insights gained here will accelerate your learning curve.  

Having everyone share the details of how others are working through the day to day challenges will be eye opening.  Listed below are three resources I plucked from Microsoft.

  • Leah Katz-Hernandez, a member of Microsoft’s CEO communications team, shares her experience as a profoundly deaf, visual-only American Sign Language (ASL) user – with tips on how to conduct great productive meetings in the virtual meeting space.
  • Alyson Boote, a Microsoft staff ASL interpreter, lists her recommendations for at-home remote ASL interpretation including downloadable reference guides.
  • Megan Lawrence, member of Microsoft’s mental health employee resource group, details key tools and imperatives for maintaining emotional wellbeing including use of the toolset, MyAnalytics.

 

Leverage Microsoft’s Assistive Technology

 

Now more than ever, accessibility isn’t just an option, it’s an imperative.  Today, online content, conference calls and virtual forums have replaced in person meetings and events for the immediate future.  While ‘in person’ accommodations that empower people with disabilities to consume that content have understandably reduced or stopped.  However, if you embed accessibility into design of virtual or online content, you remove or reduce the potential of exclusion.  You have the power to include and accessibility is the key. Here are a few tools at your disposal to assist you:

  • Use Accessibility Insights to check your website, Windows or Android app for accessibility with quick easy guides on how to make them more accessible. Do this before you post content.
  • Caption your videos. There are lots of ways to do this, I upload videos into Microsoft Stream (available as part of Microsoft 365) and auto captioning/editing feature prior to sharing within my organization.
  • Use Accessibility Checker on any Microsoft 365 document to catch simple gotchas. Add alt-text to all images and ensure the format is screen reader friendly.
  • Microsoft Teams is a one stop shop for conference calls, meetings, collaboration. If you’re looking for the simple answer to ‘is it accessible’ – yes – we’ve worked hard to making this an accessible platform for online meetings.  You need to engage on live captions in any call or webinar.  It’s also a good idea to use the ‘pin’ feature to keep one speaker on the screen to avoid distractions.  Use the Immersive Reader in the chat window or my favorite feature ‘background blur’ which was specifically designed by one of our Microsoft’s deaf engineers to power up lipreading, great example of how an accessibility feature has powered up millions.

You Can Contact Microsoft Any Time

 

Always remember that the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk is available 24/7 by phone, chat or ASL Video. Please reach out if you need any advice or assistance as you learn your ‘new language.’

 

 

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