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May

2020

#NothingWithoutUs – a campaign to ensure inclusion of people with disabilities

This years Global Accessibility Awareness Day has more significance than ever before due to changing times of unprecedented COVID-19 situation. Due to COVID-19 almost everything has gone digital except eating food or taking bath! All events – may it be corporate events, may it be social events, may it be GAAD events, all are happening on virtual. As we prepare to accommodate our guests with disabilities when we host an in-person event, it’s equally important, we make sure our virtual platform is accessible to all of our guests including those with disabilities. Today, there are several platforms that are fairly accessible including Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype, YouTube etc., While platforms are accessible, one needs to configure some features such as Live Captioning. For Google Meet, just pressing “CC or Closed Captions” button display captions on the screen as presenter speaks. (as much as I know this works for English and I have not tried for other languages).

Another important area to consider accessibility is Education. As we know Carona Virus is going to live with us at least for a few years and it’s new normal to host classes online. Some schools in India are already planning to have 50% of students attend school each day and when they are at home, they are expected to attend virtual classes. To ensure inclusion of students with disabilities, schools, colleges and universities must choose platforms that are accessible and make their course material, examination platforms accessible. Investing on these platforms involves huge cost and if accessibility is not considered at the initial stages of procuring technology, it will be almost impossible to address the problem later and students with disabilities will feel impairment and left excluded.

Urge all organizations to include term “Technology must be complaint with accessibility standards and accessible to users with disabilities” while signing contract for any product and do not agree to claim that they will fix it later. It’s not rocket science to make product accessible. Often products are inaccessible, because accessibility is not part of product development roadmap and code is written without having all users in mind. It’s just about changing the mindset.

Accessibility is not limited just for employment or education, it needs to be ensured everywhere including entertainment, travel, shopping, physical spaces like apartments, townships, parks, home appliances like Washing machine, Television etc.,

So do your bit by ensuring your platforms are accessible to everyone including people with disabilities.

Happy #GAAD! Again promote campaign #NothingWithoutUs.

Virtul classes are more inclusive… while in-person teaching is the best!

Due to unprecedented situation of COVID-19, as every businesses have moved to virtual mode, even schools have started imparting education through virtual classes. While virtual learning is some normal in a few countries like, it’s not really an usual thing in India. However, some schools have worked with their teams and ventured into virtual classes.

Our children study at New Baldwin International School; they have started virtual classes for our daughter who is in class 2. I must say that teachers have done a fabulous job putting videos together. They have all of needed material around and handy for them to use. It was just as good as in-person teaching. Way teacher was describing each activity is pretty well and accessible to even a student with disability.

I am a person with low vision and I have been missing teaching to our children not that I do not know to read or write but I was always under the impression that I may take a lot more time than my wife while helping our children doing homework. With virtual classes, it has become easy for me to help our child learn. I have first watched video sent by teacher, then I have watched video along with our child and then helped her do the activity along with me. It was indeed a productive activity and felt education became inclusive.

Even when schools are resumed, I would recommend leverage on technolgy to possible extent while I believe writing with pencil and reading a physical book have their own importance.

This could be yet another topic to exchange thoughts to mark Global Accessibility Awareness Day on 21st May, 2020.

Stay home, Stay safe!

Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) 2020 – virtual this time!

May is one of my favorite months of the year. It’s month to celebrate what I work everyday. Third Thursday of May is observed as Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Since 2011, it has become a global momentum and various activities take place across the world; some are small, some are big, some are in-person and some are virtual.

Due to unprecedented situation due to COVID-19, this year, we are forced to celebrate virtual and still a lot of organisations are planning variety of online activities. Glad to see the great spirit.

Since Working from Home is now a new normal, I would urge people to think of accessibility challenges due to remote work places and how we can overcome those challenges; we should also keep in mind that our solutions need to be cost-effective since companies are also facing financial crisis. Either our solutions should be at no cost or at a very minimal cost.

For example, how do we include our employees with hearing impairment in scrum or any meetings; During Empower 2018 Conference, I have noticed a person sincerely typing on a google document whatever speaker is speaking. Later I was told, they have shared that document with view only mode to all attendees with hearing impairment. It helps them even when an event does not have sign-language interpreter. Another advantage is that attendees with hearing impairment need not just sit in fron row and they can sit anywhere they like.

Another example is how can we ensure people with vision impairment could participate in meetings? Today there are a lot of accessible meeting platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.,

So start thinking more innovative ideas and let’s mark a successful Global Accessibility Awareness Day on May 21, 2020.