Sunday, August 15, 2021

Enabling remote work for people with disabilities

The value and feasibility of remote work has become readily apparent during the pandemic and for some it can mean the difference in even being able to take part in the workforce. 

In particular for people with disabilities, remote work can open up new opportunities by allowing them to work from home. But only if several basic conditions are fulfilled. In a side event to the 14th Conference of States Parties to the CRPD – COSP14 on 18 June 2021, the Zero Project and the ITU Office for Europe invited speakers from Austria, Spain, Switzerland and the UK to discuss “Remote working and the new elevated importance to build flexible work environments that facilitate People with Disabilities’ socio-economic inclusion”. 

A person with disability working from home, would ideally have an accessible device, work with accessible online content and take part in accessible online meetings. There are a few things necessary for that to happen. 

Firstly, the person needs to be aware of what kind of accessibility features are available and which one of those features can help in their personal situation. Then the person needs to understand what kind of devices have the needed features and thirdly, he or she would need to know how to use and make the most of them. 

The MWF tries to cover all three of those aspects in the Global Accessibility Reporting Initiative (GARI). It is a central source of information for accessibility that allows you to search accessible mobile phones, tablets, apps, Wearables and Smart TVs. You can search for an accessible device depending on your specific needs, or you can have a look at the comprehensive list of available features – in the case of mobile phones a list of around 130 features. 

For people who need a general orientation before launching the search for a specific device, the MWF has also developed feature guides, which match available accessibility features to the WHO’s categories of impairment. For example, if you have moderate hearing loss, you will find 8-10 features listed for moderate hearing loss that can help users with this condition. 

Following the request of GARI visitors for more information on how to use the accessibility features, the MWF has additionally started to provide short videos explaining where the  features can be found and how to activate them. 

Each of these elements can help support people with disabilities in remote work, but in and of itself, they are not enough. Even if the person has an accessible device and knows what kind of feature will help them, making the most of these features within the workplace still requires another level of training. In this context, employers are challenged to provide the necessary remote IT support and to ensure the integration of their remote workers (with and without disabilities) into the established workflows. They also need to facilitate exchange among the employees for official and social conversations – both of which are crucial for a functioning work environment. 

GARI provides one part of the solution and the MWF wants to work with stakeholders that can provide the additional necessary components to create a truly accessible ecosystem. In this sense, we very much appreciated the opportunity to participate in this session organized by the Zero Project and the ITU Europe Office and are looking forward to future collaborations. 

More information