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INSIGHTS / Articles

Digital Accessibility During the COVID-19 Quarantine

By Adrian Redden / 
21 May 2020
INSIGHTS / Articles

Digital Accessibility During the COVID-19 Quarantine

21 May 2020

With most of us at home during the Coronavirus quarantine, our reliance on digital services to work, play and stay connected to each other has significantly increased. Even though restrictions are lifting in some countries, many organisations are considering permanent ways of working remotely, which means that these changes might be in place for some time.

The New York Times article, The Virus Changed the Way We Internet, shows a dramatic growth in services like Facebook, YouTube and Netflix, as well as conferencing apps like Zoom, Google Classroom, Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams from the start of the quarantine restrictions in March 2020 to now.

People with disabilities must also be able to work, play, and stay connected in this digital landscape. With everyone online, including consumers and colleagues with disabilities, are you meeting the needs of all users?

Title: Digital Accessibility During the COVID-19 Quarantine

Work

Working from home has placed heavy reliance on video conferencing, emails, documents, and web content to communicate with team members and clients. Here are some considerations for businesses to enhance the wellbeing and productivity of workers with accessibility requirements during quarantine:

  • Enable captioning in video conference calls. This allows participants with hearing-related disabilities to read what is being spoken during the call. Google Meet, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams support captioning, with clear instructions on how to enable this feature.

  • Check emails for accessibility. You can do this via Microsoft Outlook for Windows or MacOS by going to the Review tab > Check Accessibility button. This will provide a list of recommended actions to remediate accessibility issues before sending your email. There’s also a ‘Keep accessibility checker running while I work’ checkbox to receive real-time notifications.

  • Create accessible documents. Microsoft provides simple steps to make your Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, and Excel spreadsheets accessible. Similarly, Adobe offers a guide to create and verify accessible PDF documents using Acrobat Pro. This ensures readers with accessibility requirements can understand content and navigate your documents successfully.
Play

People are relying on video streaming, game distribution, and web-based entertainment services more than ever during quarantine. If you are a video producer, web designer, or content creator, here are some accessibility considerations to benefit your consumers:

  • Build your platform using accessible standards. There are plenty of resources available to make your digital platform, product, or service inclusive. Web content authors, developers, and designers can build to conform with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1. Game designers can use the Game Accessibility Guidelines.

  • Make accessible video content. Video producers can support viewers with visual disability by adding audio description to videos, or by adding a text transcript which can be read using a screen reader via a web browser. This isn’t necessary for all videos (e.g. people talking or podcasts), however this feature is beneficial to describe primarily visual content for people who cannot see. Many major streaming services support audio description including Apple TV, iTunes, Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, Vimeo and YouTube TV. Captioning is equally important for users with hearing impairment and is similarly supported by major streaming providers.
Staying connected

Being connected with colleagues, friends, family, loved ones, and the world at large is important with social distancing in place. Social media is essential for businesses to remain active during quarantine, and there are ways to ensure your posts are accessible to all users:

  • Use alternative text on images. This feature is supported by Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, allowing you to describe image content for visually-impaired screen reader users. Facebook and Instagram add auto-generated alt text for you, however it is not always accurate. It is recommended to check this text description before posting.

  • Make hashtags and mentions accessible. Using camel case hashtags (capitalising the first letter of each word) help screen readers pronounce each word correctly (e.g. #AnAccessibleHashtag). In addition, placing hashtags and mentions at the end of your post allows screen reader users to understand your text clearly without experiencing disorientation.
Conclusion

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how reliant we are on digital services to keep the world moving. This reinforces the need for organisations and service providers to make high quality digital platforms accessible to everyone.

If you want to ensure your website, app, service, or digital platform is accessible, visit our Accessibility Testing page to learn how Planit can help you.