The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has now been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And many employers are encouraging employees to work from home—or mandating it. Even if your workplace isn’t doing that, your employees with disabilities may request to work from home during the coronavirus outbreak, or at any time. In many cases, remote work can be a good reasonable accommodation. Many people with disabilities have been working remotely for a long time.
There are a lot of tools out there for working from home. Here’s a list of remote work tools that include accessibility features for people with disabilities.
Google Hangouts Meet: Google is offering its advanced Hangouts Meet video conferencing for free until July 1, 2020, because of increased work-from-home policies due to the coronavirus outbreak. The features it’s offering are typically available in enterprise versions of its G-suite software for businesses and schools. Google Hangouts Meet has accessibility features including live captions and screen readers.
Krisp: Krisp is a noise-canceling app that removes background noise from your calls. This feature could be especially useful for employees with hearing loss. Krisp is designed to be used with most video calling software.
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Microsoft Teams: Microsoft is offering free access to its Teams collaboration software because of the coronavirus. Even if your organization doesn’t have a Microsoft account, you can still use Teams right now. Microsoft offers advice for people using screen readers with Microsoft Teams. There’s also a general accessibility center for Microsoft products.
Mural: Mural is an app for visual collaboration. It features keyboard accessibility, so users can participate in virtual whiteboarding sessions without the use of a mouse.
Zoom: Zoom is a video conferencing app that’s compliant to accessibility standards including WCAG 2.1 AA and Section 508. It has keyboard accessibility, closed caption capability, transcripts, and screen reader support.
When the essential functions of a job can be performed remotely, strong work-from-home protocol is helpful to have as a general standard. It can help your workplace to meet reasonable accommodation requests from employees with disabilities. And as working remotely becomes more commonplace due to the coronavirus, some people with disabilities have been voicing frustration that their requests to work remotely were rejected in the past.
It’s important for employers to be aware of their responsibilities under the Americans With Disabilities Act at all times. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission offers advice for how to approach remote work as a reasonable accommodation in general.
Make sure your workplace has a solid work-from-home plan to the extent possible, and not only while coronavirus is circulating. It can help you to meet reasonable accommodation requests efficiently, no matter when they’re made.