The crisis as an opportunity: practical tips for working more inclusive

Ineke Buijs

An inclusive company is more likely to bring in great talent, more productive, more creative, and has more satisfied customers. All this often has a positive effect on profit and turnover. When should you start making your business more inclusive? Now! Especially now that we have a different view of working from home, for example, due to the crisis we are in. We have some practical tips for you.
Nu! Juist nu we door de crisis waar we in zitten anders tegen bijvoorbeeld thuiswerken aan kijken. Wij hebben wat praktische tips voor je.

New chances
People with disabilities are often wrongly placed on the sidelines of the labor market. Now that we are dealing with a disruptive crisis due to the outbreak of COVID-19, and we have to work more and more at home, the measures appear to be an excellent opportunity to give new light to the subject of inclusion. Due to the coronavirus, many people and companies can realize working from home quickly. The request for this possibility has been around for a long time, for example from people with children, caregivers, employees who want to travel less (pollution) and people with a physical disability, but it is often not yet granted. [1][1]

The virus actually gives us the opportunity to create opportunities to people who are now unnecessarily on the sidelines. Of course, not every kind of work can be done online, but if you have a company where many tasks are performed in the office, what is possible? Not only now, but also in the future? And we don't just mean making sure someone has a laptop at home or can meet online. Also hiring (more) people with a disability is not enough. In order to achieve inclusion in the workplace, all (online) tools and information in order to properly complete tasks must first be accessible and usable for those who need them. Also for those who seem less obvious. We are happy to help you on your way.

The benefits of inclusion
Tools are often very expensive. And certainly in times of uncertainty or crisis, using budget can be a difficult decision. On the other hand, leaving talent aside can also be a "capital error." In most cases, subsidies are also available for inclusion in the work environment. Do not hesitate to inquire about the possibilities. [2] These are also available to employees themselves. [3][2] Die zijn er overigens ook voor werknemers zelf.[3]

Perhaps it all feels like you are spending a lot of time, money and effort to make your organization more inclusive. This understandable thought means that the labor market is distanced from people, and not the other way around.[4] It is not necessary. If you literally and figuratively lower your thresholds, without just wanting to meet quotas, you will get a lot in return.

  • You get a head start in the "war on talent". If the shortage on the labor market continues after this crisis, you increase your chances of finding talents if you search inclusive and are not limited to the type of employee you already have in house. You simply have a larger and fuller pond to fish in.[5] [6]
  • There will be more color, dynamism and creativity in your company. This provides valuable new insights and higher productivity.[7] [8]
  • You get more satisfied customers. Why? Because customers feel comfortable with a company whose employees reflect society. They can better identify with such a company.[9] And let's face it: Your company's image will get a boost if you can show you're not excluding anyone.[10]
  • The points above all ultimately lead to more sales and profit. And that, at least partially, offsets your investments.[11]

Online "without limitation"
Let’s talk about practice. There are many examples on the internet of apps and programs with which you can meet online, exchange data and documents and at the same time work on the same document. You will find more and more options everywhere, even to have a drink with your colleagues online.[12] [13]

In our article on inclusion and immobilityyou can read how work environments have suddenly become much more accessible due to the need for working from home. But we are not there yet with digitization alone. That is why we want to focus in this article on online possibilities for people with disabilities that must (and can) be taken into account. Because it is of course very nice if, for example, people in a wheelchair literally lose thresholds, but what if you cannot hear or see (properly)?

In 2018, 919,400 people in the Netherlands have a visual impairment [14], 250,00 of which in both eyes.[14], 250.00 daarvan in beide ogen.[15] Many visual problems arise or worsen with (old) age, but not all of them. In 2018, 761,600 people with a diagnosis of hearing impairment were also known to GPs. These people may see and / or hear less or not, but their brains usually work fine. There are many ways in which your company can take advantage of their talents with some adjustments. We cannot give a complete overview of the possibilities, but we like to contribute to thinking in possibilities.

Listen with your eyes
You cannot ignore the existing inaccessibility online either. If you do not make additional adjustments, employees with poor or no hearing, for example, will be left out of the picture. And there are plenty of options. For example, you can have live video calls subtitled in Skype.[16] [17] Google is still developing subtitle options for Hangouts Meets. So far only in English, but more variants are being worked on.[18] [19]

The Zoom program offers closed captioning.[20] In addition, everything that is sound (in addition to speech, including sound effects) is converted into text at the bottom of the image. The organizer of the Zoom meeting can determine who does or does not see the captions. The manuals are still in English, but the beginning is there. 

In addition to subtitling, there is also the option of an interpreter. They listen in on the meeting and type live via a special keyboard. The typed text appears on a second screen, which acts as a kind of "side caption" for the employee with hearing problems.[21] In this video they show in a funny way how that can work, but it is of course pure profit that these interpreters are there.

Finally, we would also like to mention the SpeakSee that is still under development.[22] This smartphone tool converts speech into text within 1 second. The tool recognizes who speaks and displays it. There is a maximum number of discussion participants: 9. But how many meetings do you have with 9 or fewer people? With this tool, people who are deaf, or have another hearing disability, can simply participate and there is no reason not to include them in your ranks.

Sign language
Now that we are behind displays en masse, it becomes even more visible that people who master sign language can also communicate via the screen. The only obstacle is that only a limited number of people speak the language: about 30,000 in the Netherlands.

Without sight
The internet has become an indispensable tool. In our daily lives, but of course also at work. As a visually impaired or blind person it is already difficult to find work, also because employers often think in impossibilities. But also someone with limited vision or even blindness can work (at home) on the laptop or PC. How? Some people with a visual impairment can just zoom in on their screen, enlarge letters, adjust the colors or increase or decrease the contrast on their screen. That is not enough for others. Fortunately, there are also tools for that group.

See with your ears
If an employee sees poorly or not at all, it is important that he or she can hear what is shown, for example in the form of spoken text. Speech software reads what has been typed by someone else or by the employee himself. It is even possible to have every keystroke read. This way someone can immediately hear whether he makes a mistake.[23] There are no restrictions on the amount of text the software can convert. If you want, you can easily have an entire website or a complete e-book read.

There are more and more speech software providers. A well-known provider is Microsoft. They developed Seeing AI, an app for the iPhone, that tells the user what to see.[24] The app learns what your friends look like, recognizes objects and QR codes and much more. Since the end of 2019, the app also works in Dutch. You can see how it works here.

A similar invention is the Orcam.[25] The OrCam is a pair of glasses with a very advanced camera. The Orcam not only reads texts on paper, but also digital documents. Handy if you want to read handouts during a meeting or if someone wants you to read something on their phone. The extended version also recognizes persons and objects. So you always know who is in the same room as you, and you can search for a product in a warehouse, for example.

Thinking how you could use these tools in your company for visually impaired employees cannot be difficult. In addition, knowing that they exist can lower thresholds. For example, the story of Sophie is a good example of how people with a visual impairment can work just like everyone else, with some adjustments.[26]

The right key
There are also several special keyboards available for people with visual impairments: with larger letters[27], with high-contrast colors[28] and keyboards where every touch is pronounced phonetically.[29] Finally, there are keyboards with a braille display.[30] This makes textual information on a computer screen readable for people who master braille. Normally, there are pins that rise up in braille patterns as soon as there is text on the screen. The braille options are now also available for touchscreens. With the use of these aids, a visual impairment becomes less and less restrictive. You can also find more information about this at Visio.

Developments have not stopped. In February of this year, the TU / e Hable start-up received the Dutch Global Student Entrepreneur (GSE) Award, for example, for a braille keyboard for smartphones. The first in the world![31] Hable is a bluetooth braille keyboard that can simply be attached to the phone or used separately. Blind people can enter text in messages and it makes operating a smartphone a lot easier. The advantage is also that no one can listen in on braille, which is possible with speech software (unless headphones or earpods are used).

One of the latest developments is a full-fledged laptop especially for people who are blind and partially sighted: the InsideOne.[32] It is the first of its kind and opens many doors that have been closed so far. The InsideOne runs Windows 10 and the screen reader NVDA. As a (potential) employee you do not have to get used to an operating system that no one else works with. The laptop can be expanded with anything, which makes the thresholds even lower.[33]

Daily life is now locked for everyone. If that is later broken open again, will we let everyone participate?[34] It is possible! And everyone benefits.

On our website you will find another article about inclusion and immobility and a handy document with rules  for online meetings.

Ineke Buijs is researcher/designer at Ftrprf.

[1] Duren-Kloppert, B. van. (2016, 17 februari). Dus u wou een dagje thuiswerken?. Volkskrant
[2] Rijksoverheid. (2019, 12 december). Extra investering werkplekken voor mensen met een arbeidsbeperking. Rijksoverheid
[3] UWV. (z.d.). Voorzieningen. UWV.
[4] CIAO. (z.d.). Inclusief werken loont. CIAO.
[5] Kramer, J. (2019). Diversiteit en inclusie. Waarom? Daarom! Managementimpact.
[6] Mancini, S. (2018). Talent maximaal benutten: diversiteit en inclusie. Effectory.
[7] CIAO. (z.d.). Inclusief werken loont. CIAO.
[8] Schiller, B. (2018). Want A More Innovative Company? Simple: Hire A More Diverse Workforce. Fast Company.
[9] Reijngoud, T. (2019). “Een divers personeelsbestand levert je meer klanten en meer winst op”. Triodos.
[10] (2018). PwC en Twynstra Gudde zetten in op diverse en inclusieve organisatie.
[11] Reijngoud, T. (2019). “Een divers personeelsbestand levert je meer klanten en meer winst op”. Triodos.
[12] (2020). Proosten en posten met al je thuiswerkende collega’s.
[13] Elewout, R. van. (2020, 19 maart). Kroegen dicht? De ‘vrijmibo’ gaat gewoon door, maar net even anders. AD.
[14] Nielen, M.M.J. e.a. (2019). Gezichtsstoornissen.
[15] Oogfonds. (z.d.). Feiten en cijfers. Oogfonds.
[16] Skype. (z.d.). Maak optimaal gebruik van Skype. Skype.
[17] Pedd, J. (2018). Skype voegt live captions en ondertiteling toe en komt ook met vertalingen. Techzine.
[18] Loon, C. van. (2019). Hangouts Meet ondersteunt voortaan live ondertiteling. Techzine.
[19] Google. (z.d.). Ondertiteling gebruiken in een videovergadering. Google Support.
[20] Zoom. (z.d.). Getting started with closed captioning. Zoom.
[21] NSV. (z.d.). De schrijftolk. NSV.
[22] SpeakSee. (z.d.). Hoe het werkt. SpeakSee.
[23] Kempenaar, L. (2019). Zo kunnen blinden en slechtzienden toch internetten. PCMweb.
[24] Vischjager, D. (2019). Microsoft Seeing AI app voor blinden en slechtzienden nu beschikbaar in het Nederlands. iCulture.
[25] Babbage.(z.d.). OrCam. Babbage.
[26] Babbage. (z.d.). Sophie: volledig blind, leest zelf de post. Babbage.
[27] (aanbod op 01-04-2020). Low Vision Design Grootletter Toetsenbord.
[28] (aanbod op 01-04-2020). Low Vision Design Grootletter Toetsenbord.
[29] Eelke Verschuur. (aanbod op 0104-2020). Clevy Dyscover qwerty. Eelke Verschuur.
[30] Miske. (2020). Brailleleesregel voor (zwaar) slechtzienden en blinden.
[31] ICT&Health. (2020. Award voor eerste draadloze smartphone braille toetsenbord. ICT&Health.
[32] InsideVision. (z.d.). Blind and tactile what a paradox! Doubting our hands would be incredible. InsideVision.
[33] Babbage. (z.d.) InsideVision-Inside One. Brochure. InsideVision.[34] Koster, X. (2020). Hoe help ik ook na corona mensen die gedwongen thuis zitten? OneWorld.

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