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Feature image How to Improve Your Employee’s Desktop Accessibility

Employers spend a lot of time and money creating an environment where employees can do their best work. Believe me, I’ve spent time in countless training courses, gone to writing conferences, and participated in planning sessions trying to figure out how to better engage employees. Because at the end of the day, if your employees are set up to succeed then they will produce better work.

Assess the Situation

First, figure out what types of computers your company uses. Are they Mac or Windows? If they are, then you’ll get a lot of use out of the following websites:

  • Mac Accessibility – Did you know that new Macs come preloaded with tons of amazing accessibility features? If you want to know more about these advanced capabilities, check out my post about the newest Mac launch.
  • Windows Accessibility – Windows computers also have a lot of accessibility features that might help your employees. Exploring the features Windows supports can give you great ideas and allow you to create a more supportive digital environment for your employees.

Investigating the accessibility options that currently exist on your technology will help you to figure out where you stand and what updates you need to make. Just because your computers are not the latest models doesn’t mean they won’t have some accessibility functions. Do a little investigating and see what your computers can already do to help your employees.

Consider Software Options

There are some incredible pieces of software out there to help people who need it. I know that companies don’t have unlimited software budgets, but having a license or two for a few key pieces of software can be extremely useful. There are great options like speech to text software that allow users to not just type up documents with their voices, but also to control their computers.

If you have an HR department, they might have some helpful thoughts about software that will allow you to support your employees. Even just having a list of the types of software your desktops will support can help if an employee comes to ask for assistive technology. Don’t be left scrambling to come up with options, get a sense of what your company is capable of now and you’ll save the time and headache when it comes up later.

Help Everyone Out

If you’re a company, you probably have a website. Is your website WCAG 2.0 compliant? Don’t know what I’m talking about? Head over to the post where I explain what WCAG 2.0 is and what it means for website owners in the US. Short version: you need to make your website accessible to people with disabilities. There are a lot of different compliance metrics and regulations that you need to follow in order to comply. Luckily for you (and your users) there is help out there.

One painfully simple way to boost the accessibility of your website – install the UserWay widget. How will this help employees? Employees are constantly on their own company’s website looking for facts, reading blog posts, and getting news. You can install the widget in just a few minutes and without touching your site’s code. It’ll make the site easier for both external and internal people to use, and everyone wants a website that people can use, right?

Be an Advocate for Change

Once you figure out what types of accessibility options your devices support, don’t keep them to yourself! Start talking about them, learning them, and sharing them. Accessibility isn’t something that needs to be a taboo. Have you written an email and sent it to a friend to have them check over? Have your computer read it back to you instead using text-to-speech. You’ll be surprised at the tiny details that you hear are incorrect but would have missed otherwise.

Make sure you know which shortcuts are supported for accessibility on the desktops you use, and make a cheat sheet. Showing your employees that you are active and engaged in promoting accessibility means you will have to prove your dedication to the project. Keeping yourself updated and involved will increase the likelihood that your employees will feel comfortable using modifications and asking for new assistive technology if they need help. This isn’t a topic that should be swept under the rug.

Make Things Simple

Don’t create a situation where your employees need to dig for accessibility information on the tech you provide. If you have a SharePoint or internal wiki, make an accessibility site that employees can access. Tell them that the site is there during onboarding, and keep it updated as your IT department supports new devices and different technology.

This isn’t just some random paper scrap you slap in a new employee onboarding folder to comply with disability laws. Accessibility is always relevant and important, because everyone’s state of being is in flux. While I’m visually impaired, there are some days that I can see pretty well and others where I’m squinting to figure out what a short email says. My sight is a moving target and I need different accommodations at different points.

Your employees will also find themselves dealing with different struggles at different times. Maybe these issues will be situational like a broken arm or an ear infection that leaves them without full hearing for a bit. They might not want to admit there is an issue or to make a big fuss. Some employees might even try to power through it without admitting to themselves there is an issue. This shouldn’t be the norm in an office. Instead, everyone should be aware that help is available and in many cases simple to implement. They should never have to fear shouting from the rooftops that they have an issue. Instead, make high-quality accessibility modifications a standard for your organization.

Great Solutions Are Being Developed Every Day

Computer companies are trying to help you out. As Apple proved with their new accessibility campaign that I mentioned above, it’s becoming a huge focus for a lot of companies. Getting on board with these initiatives now can make you attractive to new employees who are looking to work for companies that actually support their employees. I don’t think you would find it at all surprising that one of the biggest gripes I hear when talking to people who hate their jobs is that the company clearly doesn’t care about them. Feeling like you’re easy to replace and a nameless face in a company is a huge reason that people lose motivation.

Show your employees that you get it and you’re taking action. Words mean very little in these situations, take the steps to support your employees in the ways they need it, and they’ll spend less time silently wishing things were easier and more time focusing on the work that you do. Figure out accessibility modifications that you can use and implement them as soon as possible. It’ll keep your employees productive and supported no matter what they need.

What’s your office’s approach to accessibility? Is it fantastic or just nonexistent? Let us know what helps you and what you wish your work would start doing in the comments below! Also, if you are an employer, have you found any helpful resources or solutions? Please share those too!