How to Make a Workplace Accessible to Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Individuals

How to Make a Workplace Accessible to Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Individuals

  1. Adjust your meeting rooms. 

Does your meeting room have rows of chairs, making it difficult to make eye contact? A rounded seating arrangement is more conducive for the deaf as they can see other’s faces. This format enables them to read lips if they wish, see and interpret the tone in which the person is speaking, and know who is talking. This small change can help reduce misunderstandings. 

  1. Set up a Video Relay Service (VRS) device. 

A VRS device is a device used to enable a deaf person to make and receive phone calls through an interpreter. This innovation allows a deaf person to contact suppliers, clients or make any call required within their workspace.   

  1. Supply an Interpreter. 

It may seem acceptable to work around having an interpreter by writing notes. This practice can cause many misunderstandings as English is not the native language of the Deaf. Providing an interpreter is essential for the work and the growth of deaf employees. These additional services will help increase the ease with which deaf employees can find information or communicate with co-workers. 

Making the workplace an accessible space for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals is an ongoing challenge and necessity for many employers. It is essential to have a well-developed strategy for ensuring that the workplace is easily adaptable to the specific needs of workers. One way to achieve this goal is through the development of a workplace accessibility plan, which should include policies, procedures, and guidelines for training and customizing workstations. While most organizations have policies in place for providing access to information in situations where such communication may be critical, they often fall short when it comes to providing reasonable accommodation for workers of all abilities. Thus, it is imperative to implement a comprehensive plan that considers deaf and hard-of-hearing employees’ unique needs. 

It is crucial to train employees on how to make a workplace accessible to disabled individuals. Training should include how to handle emergencies, use ASL, and use electronic or mechanical devices. Employees who do not know how to make a workspace accessible may not perform on a team properly. It is also vital that managers provide cultural training and information to their employees to understand their team members and how to respect and encourage them. If your business offers deaf-accessible products or services, promote them! 

[Guest Blog] Mixed Reality and the Human Component of Innovation

[Guest Blog] Mixed Reality and the Human Component of Innovation

This article is contributed. See the original author and article here.

This article was written by community member Alexandra Petty, a Mixed Reality Evangelist and Change Management Consultant in the Netherlands as part of our new #HumansofMixedReality guest blogger series, which seeks to humanize the world of mixed reality. In this series, we’ll spotlight the wonderful people working in the mixed reality space globally. Read on to hear her story about why she believes this technology can truly transform lives. 

Meet Alexandra – this is her story:

Meet Alexandra Petty, Mixed Reality Evangelist and Change Management Consultant in the Netherlands
Meet Alexandra Petty, Mixed Reality Evangelist and Change Management Consultant in the Netherlands

Let me start off by saying that I am a CODA, i.e child of deaf adult(s). I love discovering how we can make innovative technology work for all of us and our loved ones, and to make this world and our lives a more meaningful one. I’ve personally seen how technology has empowered my mother to make meaningful connections through the use of her smartphone. It opened up a world of possibilities for her, and now she can now leverage all forms of content – from video calling, to speech and text. I cannot wait to see how we continue to push boundaries of technology in helping empower people with various accessibility needs.

New technologies are very exciting – and not just from a technical perspective. I think it’s exciting from a human perspective. How can it work for us? How can we use it to improve someone’s quality of life? How can we use this to improve the quality of our work?

Now focusing back on a topic much closer to our hearts here in the Mixed Reality Community – what can Mixed Reality really do? I think, anything. With near limitless possibilities, driving Mixed Reality to its boundaries is exciting. Sometimes so exciting that we lose sight of the human component. Many end-users out there aren’t even aware that this technology exists, let alone understand how it works. We need to help bridge that knowledge gap so others can also learn and benefit from this technology.

Next to that, as with any technology innovation, there is a strong need for the human perspective as well. Privacy concerns and ethics matter. Just because we can do it, doesn’t mean we should do it. Especially now where we’re discovering more about artificial intelligence and contextualizing data within our environment and visualizing it.

I invite you to join me in a thought experiment:

Imagine you’re an engineer tasked with correctly positioning side mirrors on a car. Every shift you make needs to be recalculated to see if it fits within the norm of so many different countries. Now imagine you can just do that with the help of Mixed Reality, Edge Computing and AI. No more having to always go back to the drawing board, but immediately perfecting what you can do in real-time. It’s a very clear value-add to a business process and someone’s day to day work. Better yet, the various scenarios in which this can be applied is endless.

Sounds revolutionary? This scenario is actually not new, and has actually already been shown at Microsoft Ignite three years ago. With a little bit more context and accuracy, of course.

Let’s continue our thought experiment:

Now imagine working as a healthcare professional and you could just see the patient information at a glance, right in your field of view, when you’re talking to your patient. No more rifling through documents to look up the file, spending time at a desk instead of spending critical face-to-face time with your patient. All the information of your patient, you can easily just review and pull up whilst sitting face-to-face with your patient.

The technology is there- it can already do it using Mixed Reality, Edge computing, AI and Azure Services. The ethics, privacy laws and, most importantly, global awareness is where the challenges lie, and is something that all of us as Mixed Reality professionals continue to work on daily. So few people are actually aware of what Mixed Reality truly is. How can we, as pioneers and early adopters, the driving force behind this technology, help our fellow human beings understand how this can work for them?

Here’s where the strong human perspective at the conception of any innovation becomes critical.

Let’s say, as a business you understand the need for innovation. You have:

  • Your scenarios well thought out and clearly identified
  • The means to research and fund this innovation
  • Finally come to the conclusion that this would benefit your employees and ultimately your business

What next? How do you make this change successful within your organization? How do you ensure that your employees will have room to process this change, to adapt, learn and truly embrace this technology? The answer is simple: You need to have a human-centered lens, understand how humans perceive innovation and change, and then help facilitate them through the tech adoption process.

Involve the change management team, your early adopters and identify ambassadors right from the start. When implementing Mixed Reality solutions, there is also a strong behavioral change involved. Unlike typical desktop/ line of business applications, you’re not simply replacing one application with another. You’re moving into an entirely new space, often with a new form factor that people are not familiar with, and may find intimidating. Think about how ubiquitous mobile phones are today, and how almost everyone is glued to one wherever they go – that was not always the case. We all have to start somewhere with new technology and build familiarity as we go. This is why we need to demystify Mixed Reality, and open the floodgates of knowledge so everyone can learn. 

As a change management consultant, one of the challenges I’ve seen with implementing innovative technologies is that the excitement gets too overwhelming and distracts from the key focus area. People get excited by shiny new things, and can sometimes overlook the importance of getting the brass tacks of implementation and adoption of these new technologies right. Don’t get me wrong – excitement and enthusiasm is good. However, losing sight of who will be impacted by this change and failing to have a comprehensive change management plan to support your employees in this process, not so much.

Want to drive mixed reality adoption in your organization?

  • Your change management team should be working together with your project team as soon as possible. There is a lot of work to be done. Everyone driving this change will also have to learn to use this new technology. They will go through their own personal change management process as they learn to adapt themselves, before considering the bigger picture of how it impacts the organization and most importantly, who.
  • Focus on your people – the humans who will be using this technology. Best practices gathered over the years have shown that the human aspect of change is extremely important and will make or break your project. It is the difference between how slow or fast the change will take to be fully rolled through your organization for it to start generating more revenue and begin netting a true return on investment (ROI).

Where am I in my personal Mixed Reality journey? I’m fortunate to have joined an exciting new startup in the Netherlands that shares my vision. I am excited to explore this new frontier where innovation and people come together, powered by the wonders of mixed reality. I cannot wait to share my findings and my journey with everyone. Today, I work on a lot of Dynamics 365 Remote Assist customer projects to help them infuse MR into their business, and there will be more mixed reality goodness to come!

I hope you enjoyed my story and that my blog left you with some food for thought.

#HumansofMixedReality #CareerJourney #ChangeManagement

Windows 10 accessibility features empower everyone

Windows 10 accessibility features empower everyone

Microsoft puts people first by offering a wide range of Windows 10 accessibility features for users of many different abilities. Known internally as the Windows Accessibility team, the Input for Everyone team draws back a curtain for you to peek behind the scenes. Learn how Windows engineers are building accessibility features for all of us. This is the first article in a series focusing on accessibility and assistive technologies built into Windows 10. Our next installment will be a deep dive into the topic of Vision related features.

Introduction to Inclusion and Accessibility with Microsoft

Link to closed captioning version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qM7wFZo5yfI&t=175s.

Hi. I’m Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Chief Accessibility Officer at Microsoft. We’re going to talk about accessibility, so first let’s explain what this is. There are lots of examples of accessibility in the world. There’s accessibility of buildings and physical space with ramps, power door openers and more. And there’s also digital accessibility. Rendering websites, software, and games, to be accessible and inclusive for people with disabilities. All this and a lot more are great. Because at the core, accessibility is about creating experiences that are inclusive of the one billion people with disabilities around the world. With accessibility, we have both an opportunity and a responsibility to create inclusive tech that works for all of us. Accessibility is NOT optional. It is a key priority for Microsoft.

Technology can connect people in how they communicate, how they learn, transact and experience the world. And when tech is inclusive, we can connect people and information in amazing ways. On the flip side, if accessibility is not considered and your process does not prioritize accessibility, you have the power to exclude people, which is clearly not what we want to do. So, if we’re really going to lean into our mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more, we have to think about accessibility, and embed it into the DNA of Microsoft. It’s an ecosystem. It starts with the people that we hire and empower. Right the way through to our marketing, communications, to the standards to which we hold our suppliers, vendors, and partners, our products, our innovations, and our workplace. Because we have an amazing opportunity to explore the great potential and hard questions, of how to create the next generation of accessible tech and the wave of innovation that comes with it. Just imagine what we can do together.

We’re going to take you on a journey through time and space, and to illustrate some of the common scenarios. Just remember that everyone’s experience is completely different. And we’re going to share just a few stories that will be helpful in understanding accessibility for now and the future. Thank you for investing your time to watch this today.

Meet Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Chief Accessibility Officer at Microsoft

Meet Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Chief Accessibility Officer at Microsoft

When it comes to assistive technologies the person leading the way for Microsoft is their Chief Accessibility Officer Jenny Lay-Flurrie. She’s from Birmingham, England, is profoundly deaf, works in Seattle, Washington, USA, and is passionate about the importance of putting inclusion at the heart of corporate culture. This is no small undertaking as it requires a paradigm shift in corporate thinking. But Jenny has never shied away from a fight. This October 1, 2020 interview may be giving you a first look at this amazing woman. Here’s a more in-depth look into her: https://news.microsoft.com/stories/people/jenny-lay-flurrie.html.