Feature Articles

Person-First vs. Identity-First Language

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In our most recent tip sheet from AccessATE and DeafTEC, we discussed communication and safety in the workplace for employees with disabilities. Within the communication section of that tip sheet, the concept of “person-first” language was mentioned a few times. There are two general models when describing a person with a disability: person-first and identity-first language. Both are valid, and ultimately up to the individual with the disability. Remember, whenever you’re unsure what to say, it’s best to ask. Here, we’ll dive into each language model, and the importance of asking.

Tip Sheet: Workplace Communication & Safety for Physical Disabilities

Person-first language is defined as a linguistic practice that puts a person before a diagnosis, describing what a person “has” rather than asserting what a person “is”. This avoids using labels or adjective to define someone, e.g., “person with diabetes” instead of “a diabetic person”. Person-first language aims to separate a trait – such as a disability – from the person, as putting the descriptor first can reinforce a sense of inherent inferiority to people without disabilities, and/or a sense of permanence, which is not always...

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Adapting the Workplace for Physical Disabilities

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A person in a wheelchair uses an assistive technology device

Many apparent and non-apparent disabilities can impact mobility. Disabilities like loss of limb, paralysis, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and many more can affect mobility and make it difficult to use some technologies in the workplace. However, as the tip sheet from AccessATE and DeafTEC discusses, this does not mean that people with these disabilities cannot do the same work at the same quality as employees without disabilities. Like all employees, those with physical disabilities just need the right tools – let’s dive deeper into some specific accommodations that enable operation of technology!

Tip Sheet: Workplace Accommodations for Physical Disabilities

Some of the simplest options for accommodating employees with physical disabilities are related to keyboards and computer mice. A very common iteration of this is keyboard-only navigation, which is a straightforward alternative for those whose disability makes it difficult to use a mouse. Keyboard-only navigation is compatible with any standard keyboard, and is more about the accessibility of the software than the hardware, so it’s always wise to ensure that your company’s software is keyboard-navigation compatible! ...

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Common Workplace Accommodations

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Three people discuss various disabilities

In the latest tip sheet from AccessATE and DeafTEC, we discussed strategies that can lead to productive discussions with potential employers about hiring a person with disabilities. Here, we will dive further into that topic by going over common workplace accommodations. Some employers may have questions or concerns about providing accommodations for disabilities, so it may be prudent to have some examples at the ready.

Tip Sheet: Educate the Employer

Potential employers may be unclear on their obligation regarding accommodations. Employers are required by law to provide “reasonable accommodation” for employees with disabilities. Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that a reasonable accommodation is an adjustment to a job, work environment, or the manner of the hiring process. The ADA requires this as it relates to three aspects of employment:

  1. ensuring equal opportunity in the application process;
  2. enabling a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of the job; and
  3. making it possible for an employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment.

An employer may find these...

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Supporting Remote Work for Employees with Disabilities

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A grid of people working from their homes

The second of three tip sheets in the “ACE It!” series from AccessATE and DeafTEC discusses facilitating good communication for students with disabilities as they join the workforce. An important, closely-related topic is how to talk about issues for new employees or interns who may need to work remotely.

Supporting employees with disabilities who work remotely has been put to the test during the pandemic, as a significant number of people moved to working from home over the last year. One positive outcome of this has been that it has become evident that supporting remote work for those with disabilities is not as difficult, expensive, or inconvenient as some may have thought. Below we will discuss methods for supporting employees and interns with disabilities when they are working remotely.

Tip Sheet: Communicate with Employees with Disabilities

It’s important to note that much of what employers do to support workers with disabilities in the office also applies to supporting them remotely. Open discussions are critical and asking new employees and interns what works for them is a cornerstone to successful support, whether remote or in person. But there are many ideas and...

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Advocating for Student Skills

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Two people review and discuss another person's CV

The first in AccessATE and DeafTEC’s “ACE It!” tip sheet series, Advocating for Students, discusses the importance of being a good advocate for your students with disabilities when working with industry partners and employers. Below we will expand on how to promote the good work of your students, via routes such as writing a solid referral, or talking to potential employers to give them a deeper understanding of the student’s skill set.

Tip Sheet: Advocate for the Student

It can be difficult to decide which of your student’s skills to focus on in your discussions with employers. We’ve all been in the position of not knowing how to describe ourselves in a job interview, and it can be even harder to do so for someone else!

No matter the field, most of us split job skills into categories, with a common distinction being hard skills vs soft skills. Hard skills, of course, are technical skills; specific knowledge likely learned in class or in previous jobs. Welding, process automation, coding, data analysis, and benchwork are all examples of hard skills. Soft skills, on the other hand, have more to do with the student’s ability to work with others, manage their time, adapt to...

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Making Your ATE Presentations Accessible for Everyone

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Four seated people watch a woman give a presentation

Most of us in the ATE community have to do a variety of presentations each year, from informal talks for colleagues at a brown bag lunch or on a Zoom call, to more formal presentations for a webinar or at a conference. And now during the pandemic, we find ourselves needing to give a lot of these presentations online, which adds its own set of technical challenges on top of those we already face when we present. Regardless of the content or platform, it’s important that our efforts be made accessible, in order to reach as many people as possible.

Tip Sheet: Creating Accessible Presentations 

In thinking about the guidance provided in the tip sheet from the National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) and AccessATE, it may good to consider that presentations can be essentially divided into two types: in-person and online. When presenting in person, there are physical accessibility factors to consider that have nothing to do with the content of the presentation itself. Whenever possible, it’s best to scope out the location of in-person events in advance. Consider the lighting and layout of the space; screen projections can be difficult to view if the room is too bright. On the...

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Making Your ATE PDFs Accessible for Everyone

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Six people collaborate on a document

From project proposals, to instructional materials, to recruiting resources, PDF documents are plentiful across the ATE Community. It’s vital to ensure that the documents we produce are accessible to as many users as possible. This not only helps widen our reach, but can even improve the experience for users without disabilities. The AccessATE/NCAM tip sheet covers a variety of ways to make PDFs accessible, and we will provide additional recommendations here.

Tip Sheet: Creating Accessible PDFs

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Making Your ATE Websites Accessible for Everyone

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Two people build a website collaborateively

The quantity and quality of online content is ever-increasing in most areas, including education. Taking extra steps to ensure your website and webpages are accessible, as the tip sheet from AccessATE and NCAM describes, can make your content stand out, and get it used more often by more people.

Tip sheet: Creating Accessible Websites

You may recognize that a number of the accessibility considerations for websites are the same as those important for other media – good color contrast, using headings, providing alternative text for images, avoiding complex tables, and so on. Here, we will discuss some additional recommendations when designing an accessible website.

Forms are a frequent feature on many websites – perhaps you need your users to sign up for a webinar, or request some information or an item, or upload materials or resources. A key thing to remember when designing forms is that everything must be as clear and explicit as possible. Buttons, labels, next steps, consequences of actions, etc., should never be vague or leave your users wondering what will happen once they click. For users with low vision or motor control issues, clickable areas should be made fairly...

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Making Your ATE Videos More Accessible for Everyone

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A woman editing a video on a computer

We use videos in so many ways in the ATE community; as part of classroom and lab instruction, for recruiting students, and as part of our outreach efforts to various stakeholders. And as we all use Zoom and other online platforms for meetings and conferences, we often record those events, creating more recorded video content. So how do we ensure that everyone can utilize this great content? By considering accessibility from the beginning, which is what this helpful tip sheet from the National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) and AccessATE is all about!

Tip Sheet:  Creating Accessible Videos

The tip sheet covers a number of different categories that relate to making video accessible. For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, captioning is critical, and it’s also very useful for many users for whom English is not their first language. For blind users, audio descriptions can be critical – particularly when you think about portions of a video set in STEM or lab settings where people are demoing or doing technical work.

Sometimes it’s easier to see something in action rather than read about it. A quick and effective example of the impact of captioning is to watch the...

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