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How To Bridge Different Access Needs

Meeting the access needs of employees is a key element in building an inclusive workplace. However, needs can vary and some requests for accessibility practices by individuals with disabilities may seem to conflict with each other. Addressing “competing requests” can pose a challenge, and “a perfect solution is not always clear.” An article from the Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology (PEAT) shares examples of varying needs to explain how organizations can foster a culture that advances inclusion, presenting suggestions for reshaping accessibility as a continuous practice staff members can achieve together. In one scenario, an employee with vision loss may choose to turn off their camera during a virtual meeting to prevent “screen fatigue,” while a deaf colleague may depend on lip reading to supplement automatic captioning, which may be inaccurate. One possible solution is for the employee with vision loss to keep their camera on but reduce fatigue by minimizing their video square so that it does not take up space on the screen. For the coworker with hearing loss, the employer can provide live captioning to ensure accuracy and decreased reliance on lip reading. A few steps employers can take to address access needs on an ongoing basis are to:
Promote Accommodations and a Culture of Inclusion: Employees are often reluctant to disclose their disabilities and may be unaware about what accommodations will help. So that employees can feel safe about revealing their needs, employers can invite staff members to explore options available, including The Job Accommodation Network.
Procure Flexible Technologies: Any new technology should have accessibility features, work with assistive devices, and, preferably, be flexible and allow for customization. Allowing employees to chose how they use technology can overcome some barriers without special accommodations.
Support Creativity and Open Dialogue: Employees may not know that their needs compete with those of others until a situation arises. Managers can foster an inclusive environment by encouraging open discussion and by working with both parties to find ways to address concerns and welcome creative solutions. Learn more from PEAT about How to Address Different Access Needs.