Accessibility all May? No, All Year.

Posted in : Blog
Posted on : May 31, 2022

By External Contributor Sydney Elaine Butler, Founder of Accessible Creates

 

What is Better Speech and Hearing Month? What is National AccessAbility Week?

May is Better Speech and Hearing Month, and the first half National AccessAbility Week (NAAW). So, what is Speech and Hearing Month? It is to raise awareness around communication disabilities and health. Those with these communication disabilities can have barriers to communication, and it is important to understand the importance of communication health and help remove communication barriers for these individuals with these disabilities in their personal lives and in the workplace.

From May 29 to June 4, 2022, it is National AccessAbility Week in Canada, where we celebrate the success and contributions of disabled people and raise awareness for accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities in the workplace and in our communities. And on June 1, it is Red Shirt Day. By wearing red, Canadians are pledging to take individual and collective action to support the creation of a fully accessible and inclusive society that honours and values the contributions of people of all abilities. There are a lot of virtual events during this day and the rest of the week which I encourage you to attend if you can. I also encourage you all to wear a red shirt to show your support for people with disabilities both in the workplace and community.

Why Employers Should Be Accessible to those with Speech and Hearing Disabilities

As an employer, it is important to be accessible to those with speech and hearing disabilities. Because those with speech and hearing disabilities communicate in different ways, you, as an employer, need to learn how to communicate in ways that are accessible to different communication needs.

As an employer, if you are open to improving the accessibility of your products and services, you will not only make them more accessible to those with different communication needs, but you will also make them more innovative. Your employees may also provide unique product solutions that are more accessible and have different functions. Both employers and employees will learn how to be more open-minded and how to communicate in the ways people need you to communicate with them, rather than how you assume they wish to be communicated with.

Why Accessibility Matters to those with Other Disabilities

As an employer, there are a lot of benefits to hiring those with disabilities. Accessibility in the workplace increases productivity and innovation. Employees with disabilities have unique skills and experiences that can be used to solve complex and unique problems in the workplace, with creative and unique solutions. Having people with disabilities in the workplace helps address and remove any unconscious bias employers and even employees may have toward those who have disabilities. This is done by fostering relationships with these individuals and seeing the amazing work they do at all levels of the organization. It allows for a more inclusive culture in your workplace where all types of people feel included and helps employees understand how to be more inclusive in all aspects of the work, and with the people, they interact within the workplace.

 

How to be Accessible to those with Speech and Hearing Disabilities


Closed Captions:

For remote work, it is important to enable closed captions for all meetings with your employees, as you do not know who may need them. Those employees with speech and hearing disabilities benefit from closed captions and transcriptions because it allows them to read the words being said, as well as allow for the words to be read clearly by other employees and management. I have a guide available for the three most used platforms (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meets) on how to enable closed captioning. Please feel free to email me at the email below for your free guide.

Communicate How They Need you to Communicate

Everyone has different ways of communicating. Verbal communication is a common way to communicate, however, those with communication disabilities (Speech and Hearing), have different ways to communicate. Common ways to communicate include American Sign Language (ASL), body language (expressions and gestures), written communication (written text), drawing pictures, letter and symbol boards, speech-generating devices, and many more. However, within those different ways of communication do not assume that just because a person has a hearing disability, that means that they want to use ASL. Instead, ask them what method of communication works best for them, and then communicate with them that way from now on. Every once in a while, you may also ask them if that method still works, or if they would prefer to use another method of communication.

Ask Yes Or No Questions where Possible

Yes or No questions are easier to answer than long complicated ones. It is important to understand if they prefer simple Yes or No questions, or if they want to provide long answers. It is also important to learn to phrase questions that allow for Yes or No responses, but still give you the information you need to know. For example: “Are you able to finish the group task by 5 pm?”. “Yes”. Be specific with the details in the question that you want an answer to.

Allow Time for a Response

For both hearing and speech disabilities, it takes a bit longer to process information. Be patient and allow time for a response from your coworkers and employees with these disabilities. Give them the time they need to respond and give you an answer. Do not repeat the question unless specifically asked to. If they start speaking but do so a bit slower than you are used to, do not interrupt them. Let them finish their thoughts and then speak again. No one wants to be spoken over.

Repeat and Rephrase Information, Or Ask to Have Information Repeated or Rephrased

If a person with a speech or hearing disability needs clarification, they will ask for information to be repeated or rephrased. Repeat or rephrase the information as needed. Also, when they provide an answer, but you did not understand what was said, the appropriate thing to do is to ask for them to repeat or rephrase their statement so you can provide a response and continue the conversation.

 

How to be Accessible to Other Disabilities

Closed Captions

Closed captions are not just for people with speech and hearing disabilities. Some people with ADHD, Autism and other disabilities have trouble processing information, and being able to see and hear the words that are being said allows them to better process the information. In meetings, often people’s responses may overlap, so transcriptions and closed captions are also helpful so that they can know who said what. If you provide instructions over virtual meetings, this also allows for them to have the verbal instructions to be converted to written, which some people need to be successful in their tasks.

Work Policies

Work policies have a lot of barriers, and it is important to review your policies and procedures to make sure there are no barriers - whether intentional or non-intentional. I help companies with this. Have diversity and inclusion (D&I), accessibility and accommodation (A&A) policies in place that directly help people with disabilities. Everyone has the right to have a barrier-free work environment.

Check-In’s as Needed

As an employer, or even as a co-worker who works very closely with an individual with a speech or hearing disability, it is important just to check-in. Check-Ins are good for everyone, and in a remote environment, you can easily do daily or weekly check-ins by sending a message asking how they are. It allows you to create and foster a strong relationship, and they will share when they need help - as this will support them in feeling and knowing that they now can.

Make Reasonable Accommodations

  • Change job tasks
  • Provide reserved parking
  • Improve accessibility in a work area
  • Change the presentation of tests and training materials
  • Allow a flexible work schedule

Have Accessibility and Neurodiversity Training

Educate yourselves and your employees on the importance of accessibility, neurodiversity, and disability. This allows for a more inclusive workplace: people with disabilities in the workplace will feel more seen and feel like you actually care about being more accessible and inclusive because you are investing in learning more about how to best support them in the workplace.

 

About Accessible Creates

For more tips, tricks, and training, feel free to reach out to me at accessiblecreates@gmail.com. I provide remote workshops and consulting for companies all across Canada that help companies become more accessible and inclusive. I am passionate about employers on neurodiversity, disabilities and accessibility from a human approach, and human resources lens. 

NOTE: In an effort to shed light on a variety of topics and from various perspectives within the IDEA space, we have collaborated with external contributors. As such, the views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those held by CCDI Consulting Inc. 

 

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