Though the global coronavirus pandemic has brought huge challenges to businesses across the world, many are now turning their attentions to the potential benefits to come out of it – in terms of what can be learned and how things can change in future.
This is especially prescient for disabled web users, who have found themselves pitted against more challenges than most with the move towards remote working. The upside to this is that companies have now had to face up to these challenges and find ways to resolve them – which could kick start an accessible tech revolution.
People living with hearing loss have been among the worst affected by the change to remote working, especially where video calls are concerned. For many, they simply cannot use the technology without some modifications.
However, this issue could be resolved through live captioning – a technology that has been around for some time but could soon see both its implementation and overall quality grow rapidly, in line with hugely increased demand.
Live captioning “listens” to a user’s speech then provides a live transcription at the bottom of the screen in near real time. It also utilises AI technology to improve the accuracy of its output.
This accuracy is something Microsoft’s Chief Accessibility Officer, Jenny Lay-Flurrie, says is key to more widespread adoption.
She told the BBC how accuracy had increased “very quickly as a result of artificial intelligence” and these tools were now “in most scenarios, a superb illustration of what’s being said.”
Despite these advancements, disability charity Scope has called for more consistency across the disability features of the major remote working solutions. It said there are huge disparities between not just the solutions available, but also their quality.
Robin Spinks, the RNIB’s Principal Manager of Digital Accessibility, offered a solution: “test, test, test.” He said that all websites and apps should be tested by real people at all stages of the development process, to ensure they’re fit for all users. Furthermore, this testing should then continue long after launch, to ensure future updates remain accessible.
Despite some concerns that these solutions are a good start, but not yet anywhere near perfect, Lay-Flurrie is optimistic. “When you put technology and when you put use through a completely new set of scenarios… you’re going to get an enormous amount of learning. You’re also going to get an enormous amount of innovation off the back of it.”