Accessible Remote Work

It is imperative we consider digital accessibility for all of our communications that take place over email, WebEx, Microsoft Teams, and any other ways of internal communication. These basic techniques will carry over for your external communications and help contribute to creating a more accessible workplace at Iowa State University.

These tips, while relatively simple, will add a bit more time to your preparation for meetings, creating documents, and any post-meeting captioning of video content that is needed.

Email conversations: 

Use the built-in styles (like headings, paragraphs, bulleted lists, etc.) to keep your email text accessible. Outlook allows you to add alternative text (alt text) to images embedded in your email. Another common mistake is copying and pasting full links directly into email messages. It is best practice to use the insert link option and use descriptive hyperlinks.

Meeting Prep: 

Be sure to allocate enough time to set up for a remote meeting. Cisco WebEx has an online resource for best practices. It’s also a good idea to test any live captioning software or services you might be using. WebEx does offer auto captioning (called transcription) if you are recording a meeting and are set as the host. Auto captioning is only 85-90% accurate. It is imperative to meet basic digital accessibility compliance to edit the auto captions after the recording is available and before sending the recording link to others.

Distribute accessible presentations before the meeting to allow people with disabilities access to the content before the presentation or meeting. PowerPoint general best practices for accessibility include adding alt text for images, and using the built-in heading, paragraph, and bullet lists for organization and structure. Limit any animations or motion in your presentations. PowerPoint has a built in accessibility checker to check for common mistakes.

PowerPoint Office365 includes the ability to add live auto captions to a presentation. Keep in mind it is only 85-90% accurate and best used with a microphone or headset.

Digital documents

When creating Excel, PowerPoints, Word documents, accessibility can be checked using the included accessibility checkers. While this won’t catch everything, it is a great way to bring your documents to a minimum level of compliance. Using the basic principles of digital accessibility by including alt text for images, descriptive links, and built in styles is key.

Microsoft Teams

It is important to consider the same principles for Teams as for email and use the format option to use built in styles. However, alt text cannot be added to images or animated GIFs. Using emojis in Teams is fully accessible to assistive technologies. The stickers that are included are not accessible and benefit from a description typed in. Animated GIFs also need descriptive text before or after the image.  

In Teams, it is best to use descriptive hyperlinks. This can be done by clicking on the format icon, then the additional options and choosing the link. This method of digital accessibility benefits sighted and visually impaired users.

The format window within Teams with the additional options selected showing where the hyperlink and insert table options are located.

Microsoft Teams options