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People with Disabilities and Telehealth: 4 Tips to Increase Accessibility

Aug 24, 2020

By Lisa Golden, MA.Ed.HD, CRC 

This has been a time of great learning on many levels during COVID-19. Technology has been a godsend in reaching out to my patients, colleagues and network. While I have participated in many a webinar or even a few online meetups as a participant, being an organizer is a different animal. Here are a few things that I have learned to be aware of when working with people with disabilities while teleworking. 

  1. Know the features of whatever software you are using. If you have an interpreter, can they be “pinned” so that the interpretation can always be viewed? If the person who is deaf wants to contribute to the conversation, how should they get your attention? Through the raising hands option or should they turn on their microphone and clap so the interpreter can let you know they have something to say? How do they access these feature in the program you are using?  
  2. Be aware of the background. There needs to be contrast between you and your background. Blurring the background seems like a good option but it can also make things fuzzy for a person who is blind or if someone is deaf or hard of hearing trying to read lips or follow your hands. A busy shirt can make things further difficult to see. More solid options are helpful and make sure they contrast with your skin color. If you demonstrate something, or if, like me, you use your hands to emphasize points, it can really help the individual read your body language. 
  3. Minimize chat time. The chat feature can be a wonderful way to connect with others but can distract from the presentation if someone is using a screen reader. Not only is the multitasking nearly impossible for some disabilities, but the screen reader often takes over and you can miss the discussion. All they may be hearing is “Debbie Diabetes shared an image. Isaac Insulin stated…” If you are going to use chat, use it at the beginning, end, or at purposeful times during the presentation so all can participate. Or allow everyone to chat with the presenters only and one individual can monitor the chat and bring up the concerns, comments or questions. It has been stated to me that people with disabilities consider chat during a presentation or meeting rude. Side conversations should be avoided out of respect for the speaker and the other participants whether in person or online. 
  4. Take your time with polls. If you are using the polling feature, please be sure to read the question and options and give a minute to be able to select a response. Even if they are not able to enter their choice, at least they have the option of comparing their selection to others or the “correct” answer. And let them know what the correct or common response was. Not just, “looks like most people got it right.”    

The point is to communicate and understand how to use the tools available on different programs so that everyone can participate. Rooted in Rights has a great variety of resources to help you make videos more accessible. Not considering the above ideas may mean that the individual feels left out or unable to engage. I’m grateful to those who shared their personal experience so I can make my virtual interactions as accessible as possible.  

You can learn more about telehealth software and other tips at DiabetesEducator.org/telehealth. For more in-depth and device specific information, visit the technology website danatech.org which is free to ADCES members.  

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ADCES Perspectives on Diabetes Care

The Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists Perspectives on Diabetes Care covers diabetes, prediabetes and other cardiometabolic conditions. Not all views expressed reflect the official position of the Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists.

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HEALTHCARE DISCLAIMER: This site and its services do not constitute the practice of medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always talk to your diabetes care and education specialist or healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment, including your specific medical needs. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or condition, please contact a qualified health care professional immediately. To find a diabetes care and education specialist near you, visit DiabetesEducator.org/Find.

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