Customer Service After the COVID-19 Pandemic


As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, we cheer ourselves by thinking of future socializing in-person. We also think about returning to work or activities we love. These hopes help us through the challenges of physical distancing. Moreover, these challenges show us that we can be more flexible or more creative than we thought we could. For instance, retail stores and other organizations have adapted to physical distancing requirements during the pandemic. Many of these adaptations are also practices that make customer service more accessible for customers with disabilities. In the post-COVID-19 future, more people may recognize the value of adapting service to meet customers’ diverse needs. Consequently, more service providers may offer accessible customer service after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Customer Service After the COVID-19 Pandemic

As businesses and other organizations encourage customers to contact them remotely, they are developing new service policies. For instance, some businesses are expanding their presence online. Moreover, they are also offering more options for delivery. For instance, businesses may reduce or waive delivery charges. In addition, they may outline new rules for contactless delivery. Likewise, they may develop ways to remotely provide services they once offered in person. For instance, they may encourage customers to contact them by phone, by email, or through their websites.

Similarly, businesses may create policies about where customers can pick up their purchases while remaining physically distant. Finally, they may make changes to their hours of operation. For example, they may designate certain hours only for seniors and people with disabilities.

Some of these strategies will continue to be useful after the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, flexible options for remote service or delivery will allow companies to do more business with people in distant locations. Likewise, these options make it possible for companies to serve people with disabilities even if their physical premises are not accessible.

Furthermore, businesses that have adapted rapidly to physical distancing may make other changes to improve their service. For example, businesses and other organizations could:

These and other changes make service accessible to more customers. When businesses and other organizations make these changes, they make their services more welcoming to customers of all abilities.




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AODA Training for Transportation Workers After the COVID-19 Pandemic


As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, we cheer ourselves by thinking of future socializing in-person. We also think about returning to work or activities we love. These hopes help us through the challenges of physical distancing. Moreover, these challenges show us that we can be more flexible or more creative than we thought we could. For instance, transportation providers have adapted to new ways of serving the public during the pandemic. In the post-COVID-19 future, more transportation providers may recognize the value of adapting their vehicles and services to meet citizens’ diverse needs. For example, more transit providers may offer high-quality AODA training for transportation workers after the COVID-19 pandemic.

AODA Training for Transportation Workers After the COVID-19 Pandemic

As physical distancing continues, transportation companies are creating new rules to keep customers safe. For instance, many companies now require most passengers to board busses from the back doors. However, some accessibility features, such as floors drivers can lower, are installed only at front doors. As a result, companies allow passengers with disabilities, who need these features, to board at the front of vehicles. Therefore, drivers need to understand more about passengers who may need to use front doors.

For example, if an approaching passenger has a wheelchair or service animal, drivers will know that this passenger has a disability. However, not all people with disabilities use assistive devices or service animals. Instead, their disabilities are invisible. These disabilities may affect passengers’:

  • Balance
  • Coordination skills
  • Motor skills
  • Energy level
  • Pain level
  • Ability to walk or stand for long periods of time

Therefore, although these passengers may not look disabled, they need to use accessibility features and board at the front of vehicles. However, when drivers have limited knowledge about disability, they may tell these passengers to board at the back. This situation shows us that transportation workers should receive thorough AODA training.

Current AODA Training Requirements for Transportation Workers

Under the Transportation Standards of the AODA, conventional transportation providers and specialized transportation providers must train all their workers and volunteers. AODA training for transportation workers must include how to:

  • Use accessibility equipment and features safely
  • Change procedures if this equipment is not working or if they encounter barriers
  • Keep passengers with disabilities safe during emergencies

Training on these topics is necessary and valuable. However, providing workers with more knowledge about interacting with passengers who have disabilities is also needed. This understanding helps workers change their procedures in ways that meet passengers’ needs. For instance, when drivers know more about invisible disabilities, they will recognize that they cannot tell every passenger who looks non-disabled to use the back door of vehicles. Instead, they need to interact with passengers who request to use front doors because of their disabilities.

Workers in other industries often receive much more extensive training on interacting with people with disabilities. For instance, customer service staff learn that they should speak directly to a customer with a disability, instead of expecting a nearby non-disabled person to be a go-between. Transportation workers who are more aware of these and other best practices will be better able to communicate with passengers and adapt their services to new regulations.

More Training Needed

In addition, workers and volunteers should know about some communication methods passengers might use, such as:

  • Alternative or augmentative communication devices
  • Writing or gesturing instead of speaking
  • Clear language instead of figures of speech

Likewise, workers and volunteers may also benefit from basic knowledge about smaller mobility aids, such as crutches, support canes, and white canes. They should also know how to welcome and interact with service animals. More detailed training would help transportation providers do their jobs more easily and effectively.

In response to COVID-19, transportation providers have quickly begun to learn and practice new ways of serving and communicating with customers. Moreover, the leaders or supervisors of these organizations have trained their staff to follow new procedures. In the same way, service providers can adapt just as proactively to provide their staff with high-quality training on best practices for serving passengers with disabilities.




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Accessible Public Transportation After the COVID-19 Pandemic


As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, we cheer ourselves by thinking of future socializing in-person. We also think about returning to work or activities we love. These hopes help us through the challenges of physical distancing. Moreover, these challenges show us that we can be more flexible or more creative than we thought we could. For instance, transportation providers have adapted to new ways of serving the public during the pandemic. In the post-COVID-19 future, more transportation providers may recognize the value of adapting their vehicles and services to meet citizens’ diverse needs. Consequently, more service providers may offer accessible public transportation after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Accessible PublicTransportation After the COVID-19 Pandemic

As physical distancing continues, transportation providers have made changes to the services they offer. For instance, busses have changed their schedules and seating arrangements. Similarly, many bus companies have waived fees in order to allow riders to board through back doors. All these changes make vehicles safer for essential workers and other people who need to travel on public transit, such as buses and trains. In the same way, transportation companies can adapt just as proactively to better serve travellers with disabilities.

Current AODA Requirements for Conventional Transportation Providers

Currently, the Transportation Standards of the AODA only mandate accessibility in public transit vehicles if:

  • The vehicles were made on or after January 1st, 2013
  • The vehicles were purchased on or after July 1st, 2011

In addition, if companies update one feature of their vehicles, such as signage, the updated feature must be accessible. However, remaining features continue to be inaccessible. This limitation to the standards means that older vehicles may not be welcoming to passengers with disabilities.

Some individuals responsible for vehicle oversight at public transit companies may feel that they do not need to worry about making older vehicles accessible because the AODA does not require them to do so. They may also fear that installing accessible features will be costly, time-consuming, or inconvenient. However, companies with accessible vehicles better serve both drivers and passengers.

Vehicle Accessibility

For example, different vehicle set-ups offer passengers different levels of independence. The wheelchair-accessible seats on some vehicles allow many people to secure their own assistive devices. In contrast, other vehicles require drivers to secure passengers’ wheelchairs, scooters, and other devices. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these differences in vehicle accessibility impact drivers and passengers in new ways.

The Transportation Standards require drivers to provide assistance securing passengers, upon request. However, some drivers feel that providing this assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic is not safe. Like workers in all essential services, bus drivers deserve to be safe and supported as they do their important work. Nonetheless, serving passengers with disabilities, including securing passengers, is part of that essential work. People of all abilities need to travel to their jobs and essential services, like stores or doctors.

When public transit companies invest in vehicles with more accessibility features, their drivers and passengers will be less likely to face this dilemma. In other words, the more accessible vehicles are, the safer they are for drivers and passengers. When transportation companies choose to improve their vehicle accessibility, the changes they make may later bring benefits they do not expect.




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Library Accessibility After the COVID-19 Pandemic


As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, we cheer ourselves by thinking of future socializing in-person. We also think about returning to work or activities we love. These hopes help us through the challenges of physical distancing. Moreover, these challenges show us that we can be more flexible or more creative than we thought we could. For instance, organizations, from media outlets to stores, have adapted to new ways of providing information during the pandemic. Many of these adaptations are also practices that make information more accessible for viewers with disabilities. More information is being offered online, in accessible formats, or with communication supports. In the post-COVID-19 future, more people may recognize the value of adapting information to meet citizens’ diverse needs. Consequently, cities and towns may want to improve their library accessibility after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Library Accessibility After the COVID-19 Pandemic

When libraries re-open, workers will need to adjust to new protocols ensuring public safety. For example, when people return books, staff will not reshelve them right away. Instead, staff may need to wait several days before touching the books. Alternatively, libraries may work with publishers to offer more copies of digital media, such as ebooks or digital audio. Similarly, rules for library programming may also change. For instance, programming may be:

  • In-person, but open to fewer people because of physical distancing requirements
  • Online, through video-conferencing

In short, libraries will need to adapt in order to continue serving the public during the later stages of the pandemic. In the same way, libraries can adapt just as proactively to make their programs and services more accessible to patrons who have disabilities.

Materials and Resources

Under the Information and Communications Standards of the AODA, public libraries must offer accessible-format versions of resources, such as:

  • Literature
  • Music
  • Reference works
  • Dramatic or artistic works
  • Archival materials
  • Special collections
  • Rare books
  • Donated materials

When possible, libraries should have their own copies of resources in accessible formats, such as:

  • Braille
  • Large print
  • Audio
  • Accessible digital files, such as ebooks or digital audio
  • Described video

Alternatively, libraries can partner with the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA) or the National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS), organizations that make works available in these formats for patrons with print disabilities.

When librarians plan to buy new books or subscribe to new publications, they should try to find copies in accessible formats. Moreover, when librarians are choosing online resources to subscribe to or partner with, they should create partnerships with websites that comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.

Training Staff

Libraries must ensure that their staff are trained to interact with patrons who have disabilities. Staff should understand how to communicate with patrons, both in person and remotely. In addition, staff should know where accessible content is shelved as well as how patrons can access library materials in alternative ways, such as:

  • through the library website
  • from other branches
  • from CELA or NNELS

In addition, staff should know how to provide a welcoming experience for patrons if their branches are lacking certain structural features. For instance, staff should:

  • Retrieve resources from inaccessible sections or floors upon request
  • Know where the nearest accessible washrooms are
  • Offer remote service for patrons who cannot enter the space

Accessible Equipment and Services

In addition, libraries can offer a variety of equipment that will allow all patrons to use computers on-site. Staff should also know how their libraries’ accessible computer equipment works. This knowledge allows them to help first-time patrons learn the basics or troubleshoot if computers malfunction, the same way they help non-disabled patrons using their computers.

Similarly, libraries can offer communication devices for patrons to use on-site, such as assistive listening devices or communication boards.

Accessible Programs

Moreover, libraries can make their premises and programs accessible to patrons of all abilities. Some accessible set-ups and services libraries could implement include:

  • Wide aisles between shelves and tables
  • Programs that include communication supports like Sign language interpretation or captioning
  • Quiet study or work spaces

Contact Information

Finally, libraries should provide multiple contact methods for patrons to get in touch with them, including:

  • Phone and teletypewriter (TTY) numbers
  • email addresses
  • Accessible online catalogues for ordering resources, and contact forms on websites

In the coming weeks, library staff will likely develop new ways to serve the public in response to COVID-19. They will be using new rules and procedures to solve the problems the pandemic has posed for their staff and patrons. Therefore, library boards and staff can use the same strategies in the future to offer more library accessibility after the COVID-19 pandemic.




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AODA Training for Educators After the COVID-19 Pandemic


As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, we cheer ourselves by thinking of future socializing in-person. We also think about returning to work or activities we love. These hopes help us through the challenges of physical distancing. Moreover, these challenges show us that we can be more flexible or more creative than we thought we could. For instance, organizations, from media outlets to stores, have adapted to new ways of providing information during the pandemic. Many of these adaptations are also practices that make information more accessible for viewers with disabilities. More information is being offered online, in accessible formats, or with communication supports. In the post-COVID-19 future, more people may recognize the value of adapting information to meet citizens’ diverse needs. Consequently, more schools and school boards may offer high-quality AODA training for educators after the COVID-19 pandemic.

AODA Training for Educators After the COVID-19 Pandemic

In response to the pandemic and physical distancing, school boards have needed to develop new ways for teachers, support staff, and other educators to communicate with their students. For instance, some classes may be happening in real time through video conferencing. In contrast, some school boards may not allow video-conferencing, especially for young children. Instead, these school boards must support their staff as they learn to contact and teach their students in other ways.

For example, teachers may post written lessons, handouts, or assignments online. Alternatively, they may post brief videos of their lessons. In addition, they may contact students by email to clarify lesson content or explain something a student has not understood. Moreover, teachers may need to coach students about the online learning process itself. Finally, teachers have learned to mark assignments that students submit online and to give online feedback.

In short, school boards have quickly needed to train educators to teach in ways that may be new or daunting for them. In the same way, school boards can adapt just as proactively to provide their staff with high-quality training on best practices for serving students with disabilities.

Current Requirements for AODA Educator Training

Under the Information and Communications Standards of the AODA, all educators must receive training on how to create accessible courses and lessons. Educators must also learn how to teach in ways that accommodate the needs of students with different disabilities. For instance, educators should learn about how different disabilities may affect the ways their students learn. Moreover, they should know about the barriers these students may face when accessing spaces, information, and technology. Furthermore, educators should know that some barriers can come from sections in school or school board policies. Likewise, other barriers can come from negative ideas that some staff or students may have about disability. In addition, educators should learn how they can create solutions to prevent or remove some of these barriers. Finally, educators should learn about resources and materials they can use to achieve all these goals.

Training Formats

Educators can have training in many different formats, including workshops, handouts, or online learning. On one hand, this lack of direction can be helpful. For instance, school boards can tailor training to their own students and staff. On the other hand, this variety may create differences in the quality of the training educators receive. For instance, the different possible formats lend themselves to different levels of knowledge. A teacher who attends a workshop will talk about course content with other trainees. This teacher will likely gain much more understanding than a teacher who is given a handout and does not look at it again.

Some school boards may offer brief training modules because their leaders lack experience interacting with people who have disabilities. Alternatively, some school boards may assume that only specialized teachers should need to work directly with students who have disabilities. As a result of this discomfort or false belief, some teachers and other professionals may not receive enough training about ways to teach students with various visible and invisible disabilities. For instance, school staff could learn about:

School boards have succeeded in training their staff on new protocols in response to COVID-19. School board leaders have researched or consulted experts to develop solutions to the problems the pandemic has posed for their students and teachers. Therefore, school boards can use the same strategies in order to offer high-quality AODA training for educators after the COVID-19 pandemic.




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Accessible School Resources After the COVID-19 Pandemic


As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, we cheer ourselves by thinking of future socializing in-person. We also think about returning to work or activities we love. These hopes help us through the challenges of physical distancing. Moreover, these challenges show us that we can be more flexible or more creative than we thought we could. For instance, organizations, from media outlets to stores, have adapted to new ways of providing information during the pandemic. Many of these adaptations are also practices that make information more accessible for viewers with disabilities. More information is being offered online, in accessible formats, or with communication supports. In the post-COVID-19 future, more people may recognize the value of adapting information to meet citizens’ diverse needs. Consequently, more educators may offer accessible school resources after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Accessible School Resources After the COVID-19 Pandemic

Remote learning requirements mean that more school and library resources are now online. Teachers, school staff, and school board personnel are presenting lessons and other school information in new ways. For instance, teachers are now receiving and grading student work online, rather than in hard copies. Similarly, students may be using online learning resources more often than print textbooks.

School staff, and other producers of educational resources, are adapting to the need for school resources in new formats. In the same way, schools, school boards, and other educational institutions can learn to improve the accessibility of school resources.

Accessible Formats for School Resources

School staff may now upload lessons or handouts in formats that are not accessible. For example, many portable document format (PDF) documents are not accessible. Due to the rapid transition to online learning, some staff may think about accessibility as an afterthought. For instance, staff may post accessible versions of documents after PDFs have already been posted. Instead, staff should make these documents accessible from the start by creating the original documents in accessible formats, such as Word or HTML.

Likewise, ebooks can be an important alternative to hard-copy print books. Currently, many publishers have ebook options available, but the ebooks are not always accessible. As a result, publishers must convert an ebook into an accessible format after a school or student has bought or requested it. However, if all ebooks were accessible from the start, publishers would not need to convert them later.

Similarly, all academic publishers could create accessible-format versions of all the books or journals they publish. Therefore, accessible formats would be available for all books school libraries buy, and all journals they subscribe to. As a result, school library staff would be better prepared to meet the research needs of students with disabilities.

Schools and school boards are becoming accustomed to providing information in different ways. They can adapt just as easily to making more learning resources accessible. In this way, they can better serve students, educators, and parents with disabilities.




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Communication Supports After the COVID-19 Pandemic


As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, we cheer ourselves by thinking of future socializing in-person. We also think about returning to work or activities we love. These hopes help us through the challenges of physical distancing. Moreover, these challenges show us that we can be more flexible or more creative than we thought we could. For instance, organizations, from media outlets to stores, have adapted to new ways of providing information during the pandemic. Many of these adaptations are also practices that make information more accessible for viewers with disabilities. More information is being offered online, in accessible formats, or with communication supports. In the post-COVID-19 future, more people may recognize the value of adapting information to meet citizens’ diverse needs. Consequently, more service providers may improve their communication supports after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Communication Supports After the COVID-19 Pandemic

As the pandemic progresses, media and government are providing communication supports to reach a wider audience. For example, the Premier’s speeches now include American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation. In the same way, businesses, the media, and other organizations can just as easily implement other supports to communicate with more people. For instance, Real-Time Captioning (RTC) would allow more people to access media releases. Likewise, more people can access TV shows and movies when they include described video and closed captions.

In addition, businesses are adapting to customers’ needs to use other communication supports or communication devices. For instance, people using ASL or speechreading need to see others’ faces clearly. However, the masks that people now wear in public make reading facial expressions difficult or impossible. As a result, it is difficult for people to communicate with medical or other staff who must wear masks. However, one student is designing partially transparent masks to remove this barrier.

In short, media, businesses, and other organizations have started adapting the ways they communicate in order to reach a wider audience. Moreover, these organizations may recognize the benefits of these supports and offer them on an ongoing basis. Furthermore, other organizations are becoming accustomed to providing information in different ways. These organizations may want to start making their information accessible, to welcome new viewers and customers.




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Accessible Formats After the COVID-19 Pandemic


As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, we cheer ourselves by thinking of future socializing in-person. We also think about returning to work or activities we love. These hopes help us through the challenges of physical distancing. Moreover, these challenges show us that we can be more flexible or more creative than we thought we could. For instance, organizations, from media outlets to stores, have adapted to new ways of providing information during the pandemic. Many of these adaptations are also practices that make information more accessible for viewers with disabilities. More information is being offered online, in accessible formats, or with communication supports. In the post-COVID-19 future, more people may recognize the value of adapting information to meet citizens’ diverse needs. Consequently, more service providers may improve their accessible formats after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Accessible Formats After the COVID-19 Pandemic

As businesses encourage people to stay home and contact them remotely, people rely more on online information. For instance, more people may now use apps to access store flyers instead of reading hard-copy print versions. Similarly, people may order groceries online rather than browsing store aisles in person. Moreover, these ways of accessing information online may be new to some customers. As a result, staff may be supporting customers by describing how their online services work, or troubleshooting remotely.

In short, businesses and other organizations have started adapting the ways they communicate in order to reach a wider audience. In the same way, organizations can just as easily provide more information in accessible formats. For instance, online information, from COVID-19 news to flyers about sales, reaches more people through websites accessible to computer users with disabilities. Websites become accessible by complying with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA, an international standard. When online information is accessible, computer users with disabilities can read it in many ways, including:

  • Braille, through a Braille printer or Braille display
  • Large print, using screen magnification software
  • Audio, through screen reading software

Businesses and other organizations are becoming accustomed to providing information in different ways. These organizations may want to start making their information accessible, to welcome new viewers and customers. Furthermore, organizations that have started offering accessible formats may recognize their benefits and offer them on an ongoing basis.




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Audio Book Month


This month is Audio Book Month!

Audio Book Month takes place in June every year. During Audio Book Month, people around the world celebrate how audio books give them more ways to read. Moreover, Audio Book Month raises awareness about how products and services designed for people with disabilities benefit everyone.

Audio Book Month

Organizations that produce accessible-format books for readers who are blind made the first audio books on records in the 1930s. Today, organizations such as the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA) create accessible books, newspapers and magazines for non-print-readers. These recordings are made using Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) files, which allow readers to navigate to specific sections or pages as they could if holding a printed book.

Though only readers who were blind read the first audio books, sighted readers now also enjoy them. Many audio books are now available commercially. People buy them from book stores, borrow them from libraries, or stream them online. They allow people to enjoy a book while they do other tasks, such as:

  • Driving
  • Exercising
  • Housework

Many mainstream companies that produce audio books abridged them to reduce cost. However, companies now produce more unabridged books because readers download them instead of buying hard copies. Individuals and companies also produce audio versions of classic books that are out of copyright and distribute them for free online. Some narrators are amateurs while others are professional actors. While some books have one reader, others have a different person reading the dialogue of each character. Some books become more dramatic through music and sound effects.

The Curb Cut Effect

Audio books show how social developments created to benefit people with disabilities also improve quality of life for non-disabled people. This idea is called the curb cut effect. The curb cut effect happens when something is created to help one group of the population and ends up benefiting many more people. Its name comes from the concept of curb cuts, which allow people using mobility devices to cross streets. Curb cuts turned out to be helpful for many other people, including people:

  • With children in strollers
  • Wheeling carts or luggage
  • Using bicycles, skateboards, or roller blades

Similarly, closed captioning displays the dialogue on a TV program or movie so that viewers who are Deaf can follow what is going on as they watch. Many other people also benefit from captions, including people trying to watch TV in noisy environments and newcomers learning English.

Audio books, and other examples of the curb cut effect, show us that accessibility can improve everyone’s quality of life in surprising ways. Happy Audio Book Month to all our readers!




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Audio Book Month


This month is Audio Book Month!

Audio Book Month takes place in June every year. During Audio Book Month, people around the world celebrate how audio books give them more ways to read. Moreover, Audio Book Month raises awareness about how products and services that support people with disabilities benefit everyone.

Audio Book Month

Organizations that produce accessible-format books for readers who are blind made the first audio books on records in the 1930s. Today, organizations like the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA) create accessible books, newspapers and magazines for non-print-readers. These recordings consist of Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) files, which allow readers to navigate to specific sections or pages as they could if holding a printed book.

Only readers who were blind read the first audio books. However, sighted readers now also enjoy books in this format. People buy audio books from book stores, borrow them from libraries, or stream them online. Furthermore, people read this way while they do other tasks, such as:

  • Driving
  • Exercising
  • Housework

Many mainstream companies that produce audio books abridged them to reduce cost. However, companies now produce more unabridged books because readers download them instead of buying hard copies. Individuals and companies also produce audio versions of classic books that are out of copyright and distribute them for free online. Some narrators are amateurs while others are professional actors. While some books have one reader, others have a different person reading the dialogue of each character. Some books become more dramatic through music and sound effects.

The Curb Cut Effect

Audio books show how social developments created to benefit people with disabilities also improve quality of life for non-disabled people. This idea is called the curb cut effect. The curb cut effect happens when something is created to help one group of the population and ends up benefiting many more people. Its name comes from the concept of curb cuts, which allow people using mobility devices to cross streets. Curb cuts turned out to be helpful for many other people, including people:

  • With children in strollers
  • Wheeling carts or luggage
  • Using bicycles, skateboards, or roller blades

Similarly, closed captioning displays the dialogue on a TV program or movie so that viewers who are Deaf can follow what is going on as they watch. Many other people also benefit from captions, including people trying to watch TV in noisy environments and newcomers learning English.

Audio books, and other examples of the curb cut effect, show us that accessibility can improve everyone’s quality of life in surprising ways. Happy Audio Book Month to all our readers!




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