Coast Guard writers and speakers who communicate electronically are responsible for ensuring that any information they publish is accessible for everyone in the workforce and the general public where applicable. In practice, this means that members of the Coast Guard community and the general public must be able to enjoy the benefits of all information and communication technology (ICT).
People with disabilities must be able to use technology to access electronic content in a manner comparable to what those without a disability can do. This includes viewing a website, reviewing electronic documents and forms, using mobile and desktop applications, or using other software. The U.S. Access Board issues rules to comply with laws related to Section 508.
In 2022, 3.5% of Coast Guard civilians reported having a disability. It is important to remember those with a permanent disability may not show outward signs of their medical condition. Also keep in mind that not everyone reports their disabilities, and military members may be disabled as well.
Procuring products and services that conform with Section 508 and ensuring their accessibility features and support mechanisms are accessibility enabled and tested, helps the Coast Guard reduce barriers that may be present in ICT. Additionally, it is often the case that accessible systems and software products such as mobile applications are much easier for all users. Accessible products such as electronic forms help provide equal opportunities to all employees. The Coast Guard is ensuring that publications – including forms – are tested and compliant.
As the Coast Guard updates its day-to-day communications systems, Microsoft Teams® is quickly becoming the cornerstone of online collaboration for the service. Therefore, it is crucial for writers and presenters to be inclusive and ensure the entire workforce has improved access. Following are tips to help foster a more inclusive Microsoft Teams® environment.
Provide information on how to access meetings
It is essential to provide alternative ways to access all meetings and make them easy to find. Plan to make live events accessible well in advance, taking into account the need to include an accessibility statement. The meeting coordinator should use the invitation to offer attendees a way to ask for accessible services in advance. Sample wording: “This office strives to host accessible meetings and events to ease all individuals’ engagement and participation. For requests, please contact [name, email].”
Use the live captions feature
A great feature of Microsoft Teams® is that it can automatically generate live captions. Enabling this feature allows for a more inclusive experience for those with a hearing impairment or different levels of language proficiency. Microsoft Teams live captions also display the speaker’s user account, which allows users to know who is speaking at any given time.
Make transcripts available
Attendees who have difficulties hearing or focusing will benefit from this feature. The transcript feature in Microsoft Teams® appears next to the live video feed and shows the speaker’s name and a timestamp. People who are taking part by phone rather than using the application should state their names for transcription each time they speak.
While not every meeting should be recorded, it is appropriate to record some meetings so that users can watch them again at their own pace, ensuring that everyone understands all the material. People with hearing impairments or different levels of language proficiency thereby gain a way to revisit parts of the meeting for clarification.
Introduce each speaker
Speakers should send their general background to the meeting organizer in advance so that, before proceeding with each presentation, the organizer can introduce the speaker to help the audience follow who is speaking at any given time. The speakers themselves should also state their names every time, before presenting or asking a question.
It is important for some participants who cannot see the speaker to create a mental picture of the person who is presenting, and a descriptive introduction may assist. For those using a single Microsoft Teams® account in a meeting room with many users present, this is very important and will reduce confusion for those using the transcript or captions features.
Ensure the accessibility of any electronic media
Attachments included in the meeting invitation should be tested for accessibility, to ensure all attendees can take advantage of all additional resources that are provided. The Microsoft Office 365® suite includes a live accessibility checker that will ensure that any errors are caught early. Adobe Acrobat Pro® capabilities allow the writer to test PDFs for accessibility.
Taking these simple steps when using Microsoft Teams® for webinars or meetings ensures that the total Coast Guard workforce is proactively included.
- Homeland Security Accessibility website
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