What is inclusion?
Inclusion means respect and ensuring that differences are not barriers to the engagement and participation of all people.
Virtual assistants and inclusion
Inclusion as a way of social responsibility should come with any job. Virtual assistants should also be familiar with ways in which they can implement more inclusive practices.
Inclusion can take many forms. Inclusion and accessibility in online environments are perhaps the most relevant to a virtual assistant, given the largely remote role virtual assistants assume, but also in physical events.
Inclusion in Online Environments
The job of a virtual assistant is one of the many examples of how the pandemic paved the way for new ways of working, including the ability to conduct business remotely. Specifically, a virtual assistant provides administrative, creative, or technical support services to other business owners, mostly on a remote basis.
The critical turn to the online environment enhances the need to develop more inclusive practices in the digital world. Not everyone has the same capacity to navigate with ease on the web. Therefore, a socially responsible virtual assistant should implement good practices that are considerate of people with a disability, including visual, auditory, mobility, and cognitive disabilities.
There are several, simple things a virtual assistant can do to support web accessibility and digital inclusion. These are mostly related to the creation of inclusive and accessible content using a Universal Design methodology that is usable by all people, without needing adaptation or specialised design.
Elements of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) include:
- For the visually impaired, make sure that any content produced is adaptable to a screen reader. For example, use the feature of ‘alternative text’ to provide descriptions for images. Focus on accuracy, not length.
- If you decide to set up a website, make sure people with mobility issues can navigate it using only the keyboard.
- Make sure you provide subtitles for any audio-visual content. This is especially helpful to people with auditory difficulties.
- Be considerate of people with specific learning disabilities (SLDs). Specifically:
- Use falling under the Sans Serif fonts family for easy readability.
- White spacing facilitates reading. Line spacing should be at 1.5pt.
- Do not use italics or underline. Use bold if you want to emphasise part of your text.
- Make sure you divide text into headings and sub-headings for the reader to follow with ease.
- Use meaningful hyperlinks. Instead of directly copy-pasting a link, embed it on a text for the reader to know exactly where they will be directed. This is also helpful for people with visual impairment, as screen readers will not interrupt the narration of the text.
- Use at least 12pt font size for Word and 18pt+ for PowerPoint presentations.
- Align test to the left.
- It is helpful to use visual elements throughout the text.You can enrich your text with emojis, but their use should be moderate and preferably at the end of the sentence.
- Be considerate of the colour scheme you use for the visual identity of your brand or event promotion. The minimum ratio of the colour contrast should be 4.5. This is to ease readability of content on websites and other digital material. You can use tool like Contrast Finder to double-check that the colour combination of your choice is legible.
Inclusion in Physical Events
As a virtual assistant, there might be times when you will have to organise physical events, seminars, and/or meetings.
There are some things you can do to ensure inclusivity and accessibility in physical environments:
- During events of any kind, be considerate of people with auditory problems. Hire a sign language interpreter and include captions in any audio-visual content
- Use microphones during speeches to enhance hearing.
- Double-check with the speakers that they have slides with visual content and simple language during presentations.
- Make sure the venue is accessible to people with mobility and/or visibility issues.
- Consider hiring a moderator if an event is big in terms of attendees, or if there are international participants.
Once you gain some experience as a virtual assistant, you can consider dedicating some of your free time to sharing your tips for inclusion and mentoring other people interested in learning more about how virtual assistants can be more socially responsible.
Access Computing. How can people with mobility impairments operate computers? https://www.washington.edu/accesscomputing/how-can-people-mobility-impairments-operate-computers
Contrast finder. https://app.contrast-finder.org/?lang=en
InclusionBC. How to Make Your Event More Inclusive. https://inclusionbc.org/our-resources/how-to-make-your-event-more-inclusive-2/
Watson, L. What is a screen reader? Nomensa. https://www.nomensa.com/blog/what-screen-reader
Web Accessibility Initiative. Making Audio and Video Media Accessible. https://www.w3.org/WAI/media/av/
Web Accessibility Initiative. W3C Accessibility Standards Overview. https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/
What is Universal Design. (2020). Centre of Excellence in Universal Design. https://universaldesign.ie/what-is-universal-design/