Feature Articles

Assistive Technologies for Blind & Low Vision Employees

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A blind worker listens to a speech synthesizer on her laptop via headphones

In our recent tip sheet from AccessATE and DeafTEC, we discussed accommodation and safety recommendations for employees who are blind or have low vision. The tip sheet briefly mentions that possible accommodations for blind/low vision workers are assistive technologies. Here, we’ll dive further into what some of those options are, and how they might be used.

Tip Sheet: Workplace Accommodations & Safety for Blind & Low Vision Employees

Many people are at least somewhat familiar with service dogs and canes for blind/low vision people, both of which are a type of mobility aid. Service dogs are trained to assist with specific tasks, such as guidance, locating and obtaining objects, alerting to obstacles and emergencies, and more. Service dogs are allowed anywhere the public is allowed, in accordance with the ADA. Some blind/low vision people learn to use a cane, which they tap or sweep along the ground in front of them to identify information like distance, texture, size, obstacles, and more. If a blind/low vision employee uses a cane, coworkers should be aware that the employee will need a little extra space around them to best utilize it. Another type of mobility aid is ...

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Video Captioning for Accessibility

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A video with closed captioning

The latest tip sheet from AccessATE and DeafTEC goes over accommodations and recommended safety measures for deaf and hard-of-hearing (HH) employees. A common and simple accommodation for deaf/HH people is video captioning, which we’ve touched on before in the Creating Accessible Videos tip sheet from AccessATE and NCAM. Here we’ll go into further detail about video captioning, and how you can integrate it into your workflow to make your videos more accessible.

Tip Sheet: Workplace Accommodations and Safety for Deaf & Hard-of-Hearing Employees

First, let’s establish what we mean by video “captioning”. It’s easy to mix up captions and subtitles, but the two are distinct from one another in a few ways. Subtitles are text that reflect what’s being spoken, sometimes translated from other languages – this is what you see if you watch a foreign film. Subtitles also include information about additional noises within the video, such as music, background noises, etc – if you’ve ever been watching a film or TV show and seen text like [dramatic music] or [dog barks], you’ve been looking at subtitles! Captions, on the other hand, only include text that’s being spoken, in the language in...

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COVID-Related Workplace Challenges & Solutions for Deaf/HH Employees

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Two deaf women chat via video call

In the latest tip sheet from AccessATE and DeafTEC, we covered workplace communication recommendations, expectations, and standards for deaf and hard-of-hearing (HH) employees. Many of us have experienced significant changes to our jobs and workplaces because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many of those changes have been difficult, but especially so for employees with disabilities. Here, we will discuss some COVID-related workplace obstacles faced by deaf/HH employees in particular, and some potential solutions to those problems.

Tip Sheet: Workplace Communication for Deaf & Hard-of-Hearing Employees

A common change to the workplace, and to everyday life, brought by COVID-19 is wearing face masks when in public. Masks help prevent the spread of the virus, but unfortunately, they can also add challenges for deaf/HH people. Masks obscure the face, creating a significant communication barrier. A clear view of the face is important not only for deaf/HH people who lipread (which not all can or do), but also for those who use sign language. Sign language can lean heavily on facial expressions expression and context, and many signs are made in relation to specific spots on the face;...

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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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