Welcome to Inclusive Bee: The monthly “buzz” on how MVPs can cultivate diverse and inclusive communities.
We're not sure who said it, but we love the quote:
“Accessibility is being able to get in the building. Diversity is getting invited to the table. Inclusion is having a voice at the table. Belonging is having your voice heard at the table.”
In the next couple of months, we are focusing on accessibility and what you can do as tech leaders to have an inclusive approach to engaging with your community and creating an opportunity for diverse voices to be heard. We challenge you to make accessibility a priority because everyone will benefit. We asked Developer Technologies MVP Alexandre Costa for some tips on how to be inclusive.
In general, Alexandre says: "The best way of knowing how to include someone is by asking this person how to proceed not only related to their impairment but the pronoun the person uses or giving the person more context about the audience level making them more comfortable with being part of the event."
Here are a few pieces of advice:
When you contact speakers for your event, remind them that some members of the audience cannot see the slides or hear them.
Always use the automatic captioning feature of PowerPoint, although having a sign language interpreter will especially benefit all audiences.
Use of alternative text on images on social media, e-mails, and any communications – they are very welcome.
The Accessibility Checker on PowerPoint is mandatory when you are preparing your slides.
While networking, don't be afraid of approaching people – ask questions, and ask or offer help. Don't forget to introduce yourself when you arrive to start a conversation and to inform the person you need to leave or when you will be back.
Invite a very diverse group to validate your registration form so they can check accessibility and if the language could be excluding someone.
Visual difficulties using technology may be more prevalent than you realize. Globally it is estimated that at least 2.2 billion people have a vision impairment or blindness. Plus, anyone can develop vision impairment as they get older. MVPs share why today's software, apps, services and websites must be made accessible for everyone to enable access to the same information and enjoyment of benefits regardless of a person's abilities or impairments.
Office Apps & Services Karen McCall suggests: “Think of using a computer or any digital device without a monitor or a mouse. For most, this is a scary thought, yet for those of us who are blind or visually disabled and use screen readers, and/or have a learning, cognitive or print disability and use Text-to-Speech, or live with mobility disabilities and need to use voice recognition and/or alternate input devices, these are the tools we use every day to access the limited number of digital content and ecosystems that are designed to be inclusive and accessible.”
Closed captions were designed to help people with hearing impairment understand videos without needing to hear the sound effects and dialogue. Captioning technology helps more than deaf people.
By adding captioning to your content, you give your audience the ability to enjoy your content, regardless of the environment they are in - it can help hearing people with auditory processing difficulties, people trying to watch TV in a noisy environment, or those who do not have speakers or headphones at work, and more. Most video editors have captioning capabilities - if not, there are some free options.
Also, spend some time reviewing your videos to ensure the dialogue and captions match up. Running a live event or meeting? If you’re using PowerPoint, you can present with real-time, automatic captioning or subtitles or use Microsoft Translator for live captioning. Microsoft Teams has live captions for live events. Currently, captions in a Teams Meeting is still in preview and will be released soon.
Michio Inaba, Office Apps & Services MVP, shares his experience: “I am a person with a hearing disability and have been engaged in deaf education for a long time. I tell my students, ‘Meet and connect with many people – that will enrich your life.’ I encourage them to leverage digital technologies, such as PowerPoint, as a tool. To fulfill that, they need an environment that facilitates smooth and real time-communication with others. Further improvements in speech-to-text technology are highly desirable. The common environment and conditions which allow everyone, regardless of whether they can hear or not, to reach common ground, enable collaboration among people with diverse backgrounds.”
Being part of a global community means appreciating our diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The reality is 20% of the world's population speak English and of those, only 360 million are native English speakers.
If you are one of those who speak English as their first (and only) language, you may not be conscious of the challenges faced by people who do not use this language as part of their daily life. Being mindful of our use of the language can avoid misinterpretation and foster better understanding. Our MVPs based in China offer suggestions that can help overcome some of these barriers. Office Apps & Services MVP Huqiang Dingshares says: "Speaking slowly and choosing simple words are most welcome. Frankly speaking, as a non-English speaker, we can’t understand your idiomatic expressions, jargon or slang very well, so plain English is helpful to us. It would also help to have AI simultaneous translation technique into Teams meetings and other online activities."
Another Office Apps & Services MVP, Like Liu, notes: "When possible, distribute written material before the meeting, which can help non-English speaking participants gain familiarity of what will be discussed and prepare their opinions and questions ahead of time. We can also use dialog boxes and whiteboards to write concepts, opinions and conclusions, or even draw pictures, which can be very useful for those who can read English but have relatively low listening comprehension."