Video Transcript: Accessibility during COVID-19 restrictions

Welcome. My name is Vivienne Conway, and I am the Director of Web Key IT. Today I would like to talk with you for a few minutes about the importance of Digital Accessibility during our current restrictions and the Corona Virus.

I’m sure we have all seen these messages so many times lately that they are indelibly stamped on our brain. The message has been stay at home unless you must go out for necessary supplies, medical treatment or solitary exercise For many people this is far more difficult than it sounds. How do we go about our daily business, how do we work, socialise with others, maintain contact, support families etc.? With the current restrictions on people’s ability to visit stores and services, never before has the accessibility of our online resources been more necessary. Your users are unable to come into your premises if they cannot use your website We are seeing more and more sign language interpretation on official broadcasts Is everything properly captioned? Can everyone understand the restrictions and the reasons for these restrictions?

Users can’t just go to a different website for many services such as government websites and essential services We will see more people complaining about how they must interact with online resources Websites are crashing under the unprecedented use – especially for government services and also for commercial stores seeing unprecedented numbers using online shopping Our postal service isn’t coping well yet with the changes The ABC News (March 16 reminds us that employment law applies whether the employee works in the office or at home. Do your employees know what this means? Have you provided the equipment and technology to enable this to happen?

You might consider that with employees working remotely your Intranet and other digital documents and resources need to be fully accessible for them Keep in mind that almost 1 in 5 people have a disability – this will affect how they can use your resources Employees who might have been able to manage in an office environment, may not be able to do so now with no one around to assist when necessary At Web Key IT, we have worked remotely since our inception almost 9 years ago. Our staff work in this remote environment, on a remote desktop, so we all have access to files and can respond to customer requirements easily no matter where in the world we happen to be.

As I have travelled extensively for work and speaking engagements, this has been truly valuable. However, for many companies, this is an entirely new idea Many companies have not set up these systems to allow staff to work from home because of security/privacy issues, but they don’t have a choice any more, if they are to protect their business and their employees Working from home can be beneficial, where it is voluntary, and at the moment, it is not voluntary for most people. Those people who often dreamed of being able to work comfortably in their pyjamas and manage their time to suite themselves, may not be so happy with it being mandated.

Not everyone has the physical equipment or working arrangements set-up to enable them to do this well or safely – working 8 hours from the kitchen benchtop may not feel great at the end of the day Not everyone is able to manage their time well when working from home Nicholas Bloom, an economics profession at Stanford has done a two-year study of a Chinese travel company and studied the effects, productivity and employee sentiments of the arrangements Those who wanted to work from home were more effective, 500 of the 1000 people asked volunteered – note - it is not for everybody Of those who chose to work from home, they were 13% more effective. At the end of the trial, quite a few opted to go back into the office, some people miss the interaction and are more effective when they are in a group. It depends largely on the amount of interaction required for the job, the feelings of the employee, and whether it is optional or mandated. We have all heard that it may have negative effects on mental health, and that isn’t surprising.

We can refer back to Naisbitt’s comments about the need for ‘high touch’ in an era of ‘high tech’ Some people find working from home very lonely and isolating – and for some it is great in small doses, not when regulated Never before has digital accessibility been more important! It’s not about disability, it’s about accessibility! Remember, people don’t have disabilities. People all have different capabilities and we disable them by putting obstacles in their paths! Instead of putting up those obstacles, let’s start removing them! Bit by bit, we can make a change in the lives of people.

Accessibility matters! Let’s unlock the Web!

Web Key IT is a digital accessibility consultancy, and we can help you. We have a full team of both Website Analysts and Usability Analysts. All of our Usability Analysts have a disability and are experts in the use of their assistive technology. Web Key IT has the vision to enable full digital access for persons with disabilities and senior citizens. We assist organizations with web-based programs and information to meet the needs of people with disabilities as well as to understand their legal requirements for website accessibility and develop the tools needed to meet the internationally recognized website standards.  We can provide audit and accreditation, training, consulting and document remediation to accessibility standards. We can help you.