The COVID-19 pandemic has many ramifications for telehealth and telework accessibility. Blake Reid, Zainab Alkebsi and RERC Director Christian Vogler examine technical and legal angles in a Colorado Law Review essay, as well as a virtual roundtable hosted by Silicon Flatirons.
The essay and the event address disability law’s COVID-related “frailty”: how the pandemic has undermined equal access to employment and healthcare for Americans who are deaf, hard of hearing or DeafBlind as healthcare and employment migrate toward telehealth and telework activities. They touch on some of the difficult legal and technical issues we have encountered in healthcare and workplace accessibility for Americans who are deaf, hard of hearing or DeafBlind in the pandemic-induced virtual world.
Deaf, hard of hearing, and DeafBlind people working remotely during the COVID-19 crisis may encounter significant barriers to communication. We have collaborated with consumer advocacy groups and subject matter experts to provide guidance on making remote workplaces accessible:
The following organizations and subject matter experts have contributed:
(*consumer advocacy groups that advocate for the rights of deaf, hard of hearing, and DeafBlind people)
The DHH-RERC has posted time-tested guidelines for running virtual meetings with people who are deaf or hard of hearing. That includes meetings where everyone signs. We also cover meetings with a mix of signers and non-signers.
People who are deaf or hard of hearing face many barriers with access to virtual meetings. These barriers now have to be addressed with renewed urgency because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, there are some relatively simple changes that we can make to the way we run meetings. By implementing them, we can make an immediate difference for our deaf and hard of hearing coworkers.
Overall, consider these guiding principles:
- Keep meetings as small as possible
- Have well-defined roles in running the meeting, especially for larger ones (e.g., chair, turn-taking manager, note-taker)
- Have well-defined communication rules
- Turn-taking management is critical
- In larger meetings, default to video off except for chairs, interpreters, turn-taking manager, and people who have the floor
- Get a second screen, if at all possible
- Run Ethernet cables instead of WiFi, if at all possible
Check out our detailed guidelines for more information. Also check out Catharine McNally’s related accessibility tips, and Jo Wootten’s tips for British Sign Language.
The RERC will update these guidelines to cover additional scenarios in the near future. So, check back often, and drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.