Under the Employment Standard of the AODA, employers must provide accessible information to workers with disabilities through accessible formats or communication supports upon request.
Accessible information should include:
- Documents or announcements available to every worker in an organization, such as:
- Company newsletters
- Health and safety information
- Announcements of policy updates
- Memos or word-of-mouth details about workplace social activities
- What a worker needs to do their job, such as:
- Presentations or videos
- Handouts or discussions at meetings
- Manuals or guidelines
The employer needs to consult with each worker to learn what format(s) or support(s) would be most helpful. In addition, grants may help workplaces purchase hardware, software, or services for certain formats or supports.
Accessible formats are ways of presenting printed, written, or visual material so that people who do not read print can access it.
Types of Accessible Formats
Braille is a way of writing the alphabet using a system of raised dots that readers feel with their fingers. Workers can print documents in Braille using a Braille printer or read digital information using a Braille display. Buildings may install Braille signs for different structural features, such as elevator buttons, washrooms, and room numbers.
Large print is 18-point font or larger with good colour contrast. For example, workers may read large-print documents as hard copies, from large monitors, with magnification devices or software, or from websites offering the option to enlarge text and images.
Workers can read digital text using screen readers, software programs that read aloud most text on the screen of a computer or mobile device. For instance, screen reader users can read information in Microsoft Word or HTML files, texts, emails, and text on websites complying with WCAG 2.0 guidelines. Moreover, organizations should ensure that screen reader users can access online or emailed versions of print information, such as:
- Pay statements
Colleagues may need to create accessible information by describing visual details in videos and presentations.
In contrast, communication supports are ways for people to visually access verbal or audio information or ways for people who are non-verbal to communicate with people who speak.
Types of Communication Supports
English-Canadians who are Deaf often use American Sign Language (ASL). ASL is a complete visual language with its own grammar. Signers convey meaning through many methods, such as:
- Facial expressions
Workers who sign may communicate with non-signers in different ways, such as speaking, gesturing, writing, emailing, or texting.
In addition, signers can communicate with non-signers through Sign language interpretation. A professionally trained interpreter relays information between signers and non-signers. Interpretation for training or meetings is available through organizations such as Ontario Interpreter Services (OIS). Workers or employers should arrange interpretation in advance of events. The interpreter is often physically present. However, video relay service (VRS) technology now connects people to interpreters remotely through the Internet.
Other workers may communicate by speaking and speechreading. People who speechread understand speech through non-verbal communicative ways, such as facial movements and expressions, body language, and context. Speakers should ensure that speechreaders can see them clearly.
Captions and Text Transcripts
Captions are displays of text that reproduces or describes audio elements of videos or presentations. Video producers can caption content when they make it, or add captions later. For live events, such as meetings, workers may need Real-Time Captioning (RTC). A trained captioner records speech and it appears almost right away on a large screen. However, if RTC is not available, a typist can summarize key points. This process is called computerized note-taking.
Assistive Listening Devices
Assistive listening devices transmit one speaker’s voice straight to a person’s ear and bypass background noise. Workers use them in group situations when concentrating on one speaker or area.
Some workers may use telephones with hearing aids or cochlear implants, while others may use telephone amplifiers that interact with certain hearing aids to lower background noise and increase ringing and conversation volume. Furthermore, telephones can have lights or vibrations that signal when the telephone rings. Some workers may use TTYs (teletypewriters). TTYs are devices that carry typed conversation over telephone lines. Users can contact someone who does not use TTY through a telephone relay operator. Furthermore, video relay service (VRS) allows users to communicate with signers or non-signers. Some workers may prefer communicating by text or email instead of the telephone.
Workers who are non-verbal may use devices with speech output, word prediction, or word processing software. While some workers may use Augmentative or Alternative Communication (AAC) devices, which allow users to communicate by typing or through pre-programmed words, phrases, or pictorial symbols, others may use communication boards, which display letters, words, phrases, or symbols the user can point to.
Why do we Need Accessible Information in the Workplace?
Accessible information gives all workers the knowledge they need to do their jobs well and offer their diverse talents to workplace activities and culture.