The savviest people pay attention to accessible design

Accessible design has an image problem. The term is still slapped with the idea of “otherness” — as society treats anything which strays from the idea of the “norm” — despite the fact that many commonplace tools from email, sidewalk ramps, to voice commands were originally conceived as assistive technologies for people with physical or cognitive disabilities.

The stigma against the term “accessibility” has made many ignore freely-available resources that can alleviate the stresses of remote work.

But in an illuminating presentation at the Interaction Design Association‘s recent conference, Beatriz González Mellídez, an accessibility and digital inclusion lead at the French IT firm Atos, highlighted several accessibility tools and practices we should adopt. Here’s a few of them.

Sign language salutations

The hand signs for hello and goodbye can be useful in a large group meeting. Waving an open palm with your fingers splayed signals hello 🖐️ and a waving your hand with closed fingers 👋 serves as a sign-off, says Mellídez.

Mellídez, who first became interested in the accessible design after taking a sign language lesson as a teen, suggests using the hand sign for love 🤟 to signal approval or appreciation.

Say it, don’t just show it

At online conferences, saying your name before starting your talk helps orient participants who might be listening to the call without video.

Attentiveness to verbal cues is also important when presenting graphics on a slide deck. Avoid phrases like “as you can see here” and instead clearly describe the graphic on the screen. This practice doesn’t just benefit users with visual impairments, explains Mellídez. “It can help your colleagues who are driving or commuting and can’t watch the video. Describing your slides guarantees that they don’t miss any important content.”

Turn on closed captioning

Captions don’t just help those with hearing impairments, but also participants who may have difficulty understanding the presenter’s language or accent. Subtitles can also help people who have to turn their audio off during a meeting.

Using the closed-captioning tool can also generate instant meeting minutes. Of course, it’s important to check the notes, because the AI is imperfect, warns Mellídez who points to the humorous Twitter hashtag #craptions. For major global meetings, it may be useful to hire professionals trained in communication access real-time translation (or CART) to generate live captions as well as a sign language interpreter.

Protect your tech from your kids

If you have to use your mobile device as a babysitter while you’re on a call, activate the “Guided Access” feature on your iPhone or iPad. Originally developed for users who have trouble focusing on tasks, like those diagnosed with ADHD, it limits kids to a single app and prevents them from accidentally sending a wayward email.

“There’s a lot of misconceptions about accessibility which is linked to innovation,” Mellídez tells Quartz. “I’m trying to sell accessibility as something cool. So far we have the notion that it’s been something we do for charity or to help somebody in need, but it’s really not that.”

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