Imagine being in a virtual meeting with people who are blind and people who are deaf or hard of hearing. How would you communicate with each other? What would the conversation be like?
Meetings like this were the norm for one of our Software & Platforms teams who were part of an extraordinary pilot project to help a client—a multinational technology company—advance accessibility in the workplace.
More inclusive is the minimum requirement
Because of their broad reach and influence, platform and media companies are under a lot of pressure to become more inclusive and diverse. Investors, employees, and consumers expect to see tangible outcomes and improvements, such as more diverse representation across all levels of the organization. The Accenture study A Brand. New. Purpose. found that 43% of consumers say they will walk away from a brand when disappointed by its words or actions on a social issue.
Our client has well-established accessibility standards and technologies for measuring accessibility across its organization. But it needed something beyond automated assessments to gauge the user-friendliness of its in-house contact-center tool.
Would an agent who is blind or deaf be able to use the tool? What about a supervisor or quality-assurance lead with similar disabilities? What features or functions would make the tool more useful for them? To find the answers, people with disabilities would need to thoroughly assess the tool.
People at the heart of the strategy
The Philippines Accessibility Center proved to be our most valuable partner in getting the pilot up and running. With its help, we hired 10 smart and talented people with disabilities and equipped them with the right assistive solutions, from Braille keyboards to special headsets for the hard of hearing.
Every day on the project was a learning experience. During calls, for example, we realized that the screen readers of our colleagues who are blind would read out all messages in the chat box and drown out whoever was speaking. We learned that our colleagues who are deaf and partially deaf preferred to use sign language or lip-read rather than communicate via chat. So, we set house rules: cameras on during all calls and no messages while someone was talking. These were small adjustments, but they made calls more productive and enjoyable for everyone.
We course-corrected throughout the project. Additional time was needed for onboarding and laptop familiarization. For the assessment, test cases needed to be developed from scratch, and the data-capture process was changed to accommodate input from team members who are blind. Despite the challenges, the team met all its deadlines. More importantly, the pilot produced functional and technical recommendations that will help our client evolve its call-center tool for users who are deaf and blind.
Plan for success
More companies are integrating inclusive design and accessibility planning into their business strategy as demand for corporate diversity continues to rise. Making persons with disabilities part of that strategy is a surefire way to drive inclusion and create an environment where all people can belong and thrive.
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