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Easterseals Crossroads helps people with disabilities have better online meetings

Helping people with disabilities have better online meetings, that’s just one of the many goals of Easterseales Crossroads.

COVID dramatically increased the need for virtual meeting options, particularly in the telehealth arena. According to the CDC, telehealth visits went up 154 percent in the last week of March 2020 compared to the same time in 2019. And according to Doximity, more than 20 percent of medical visits in the country are expected to be virtual this year. While virtual meeting software is proving to be vital and effective right now, there is still room for it to improve, especially for people with disabilities.

Brian Norton, ATP, CEAS, director of assistive technology INDATA Project for Easterseals Crossroads from INDATA explores online meeting tools for telehealth purposes and how to best accommodate people with disabilities during virtual meetings.

In addition to showing various features like colors and high-contrast text along with captions, he can also show how to mount a tablet (which is helpful for someone with a wheelchair) and talk about the importance of lighting.

Accessible Telehealth and Online Tools

COVID dramatically increased the need for virtual meeting options, particularly in the telehealth arena. According to the CDC, telehealth visits went up 154 percent in the last week of March 2020 compared to the same time in 2019. And according to Doximity, more than 20 percent of medical visits in the country are expected to be virtual this year. While virtual meeting software is proving to be vital and effective right now, there is still room for it to improve, especially for people with disabilities.

Telehealth and Online Meeting Growth

  • Easterseals Crossroads went from four telehealth visits to more than 600 visits in just a few weeks.
  • One in four disabled adults say they have high-speed internet and an internet-enabled device at home.
  • Disabled adults are three times as likely as those without a disability to say they never go online.
  • Only 39% of disabled adults have a high level of confidence in their ability to use the internet.

How to Choose Online Meeting Tools

Basic requirements:

  • Reliable high-speed internet
  • Device with video and audio capabilities
  • Webcam

Five questions to ask:

  • What do you need to do in your meetings? Face-to-face conversations; how many participants; are there breakout sessions
  • How easy is the tool to use?
  • Does it integrate into my existing technology?
  • How much does it cost?
  • Is it accessible? Does it work with assistive technologies; Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT); accessibility help desk

Making Online Meetings and Appointments Accessible

For meetings with the deaf and hearing impaired:

  • Host the meeting or appointment in a quiet room where you are free from distractions.
  • Use a headset to improve audio. Speak clearly and slowly.
  • Captions or subtitles: process of displaying text to provide additional or interpretive information
  • Eliminate unwanted shadows that skew facial expressions or appearance: Face the light source; Avoid overhead lighting; Use the right amount of light

For meetings with the blind and vision impaired:

  • Make sure the speaker’s face is well-lit and clearly visible.
  • Describe live scenarios and images.
  • Read any text that appears on screen.
  • Use larger fonts and a limited color palette with contrasting colors.

For meetings with people who have intellectual and cognitive disabilities:

  • Repeat information if necessary.
  • Use plain language during the meeting or appointment. Avoid using jargon.
  • Build processing time/breaks into your event. Leave ample time for questions.

Tips for Healthcare Providers

  • Provide and undergo continual telehealth training.
  • Gather as much information from the patient as possible before the visit.
  • For hearing or vision-impaired patients, provide accessible text summaries of your visits with them.
  • Pay attention to body language to see if patients are distressed.
  • Work on developing a warm, “webside manner.” Make eye contact. Speak slowly, clearly and with compassion. (A virtual visit can be uncomfortable at first, especially for people with disabilities.)
  • Create a schedule for telehealth visits, leaving room for after-hours care and on-call support.
  • Use software with a live chat feature.

For more information about the INDATA Project at Easterseals Crossroads, go to EasterSealsTech.com or call 888-466-1314.

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