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Communications of the ACM

Research Highlights

Technical Perspective: Pandemics, Remote Work, and Accessibility

remote worker sits at a computer on a desk

Credit: Microsoft

Many of us dramatically pivoted at the beginning of COVID-19, dropping in-person meetings, and taking up a variety of remote collaboration tools with little sense of how to keep productivity high. The good news was that productivity across many sectors did not fall. The even better news was the flexibility afforded by remote work (and the absence of lengthy commutes) improved work-life balance for many. The bad news was that accessibility considerations were not sufficiently supported by our tools and practices when thrust into a fully remote environment. New barriers to full participation in the workplace arose as a result.

Seeing this as an opportunity, a team of accessibility researchers at Microsoft spent the summer of 2020 observing their own experiences. The following paper reviews what they learned. Their observations are insightful and sometimes quite surprising. Their recommendations are actionable and would improve both our collaboration tools and the practices surrounding their use.


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