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Co-Authored by Meg Dalling and Anna Spiteri.

Image: ANZ Service Consultant Christopher Simms, working from home.

Zoom. Netflix. FaceTime. Jabber. Endless smartphone apps.


These are just some of the digital platforms that have become our new normal. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift to digital to a whole new level. 


With most of us working remotely - ANZ has about 90 per cent of its Australian staff working from home - our reliance on digital channels is greater than ever. Many organisations have brought forward and ramped up digital programs from necessity. And while some take accessibility into account, unfortunately others do not.


“I understand a little of the frustration that people can feel on this topic,” says Gerard Florian, ANZ Group Executive for Technology. “I have visual disorder called Keratoconus – I had to have corneal transplants as a teenager – which makes things difficult to read, especially from a distance.  Consequently, tools like Jira and Teams are much more accessible than a physical Kanban wall, as I can zoom in as needed.”


Approximately 15 per cent of the world’s population live with a disability. In fact, having a disability is the one ‘minority’ that absolutely anyone can join at any time. And once you hit 65, your chance of having a disability is one in two.


We use the internet every day to source information, shop, learn and connect with others. It’s become such an essential part of life that long before COVID came our way, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognised access to information, including the internet, as a human right. 


Unfortunately for some, digital access is not easy, simply because the internet and the many digital tools we use are not always designed with accessibility in mind.


Accessibility needs to be considered as part of the initial design of a product, service or policy, however too often it tends to be left to the end, when it’s too late, difficult or costly to make changes to suit different needs.


Service Consultant Christopher Sims has been with ANZ for four years. An avid concert-goer and aviation geek, he enjoys following YouTube videos from experienced pilots, describing the experience as “It’s as if I am sitting in the aircraft with them.”


With a penchant for playing around with technology, his contribution to user acceptance testing of new technology at ANZ gives a strong voice to people with disability.


Christopher is blind and uses a cane to help him get around. At work, he relies on a range of assistive technologies to navigate desktop programs and internet content using only his keyboard and audio feedback.


Christopher caught up with Anna Spiteri to chat about his recent experience as he works in the contact centre to help our customers during this difficult time.


Anna: How have your working arrangements changed since we started working differently during the COVID-19 pandemic?


I’ve been at home for six weeks, working from home for the last two after the contact centre was split between three buildings due to social distancing restrictions. I rely on knowing my way to the floor and my desk, so given the restrictions, I had to go straight to working from home.


While it took some time to get me up and running from home, my manager checked in with me regularly over that time and kept me updated and I am thankful for the good working relationship we have; however, I was going crazy. I wanted to go back to work as soon as possible.

I was really excited to receive a call when I was told ‘get ready to go, get everything set up.’ I always thought at some point they’ll get me back to work, I wouldn’t have allowed them not to. I drove pretty hard to get back and I’m proud that my own perseverance has paid off.


While I was excited, I admit I was also a little nervous. I had never worked from home for this role and was very used to the office set up. I’ve had to get used to the home set up and everything is now on a laptop rather than my desktop at work. I’ve had to start using some software I hadn’t used previously. I initially felt some trepidation over the new piece of software but it’s fine now, I’m used to it.

Anna: What hardware and software do you use on a day-to-day basis?


Christopher: I use my laptop and a standard headset that feeds from my phone. So I can access the information on my laptop, I use Jaws screen-reading software which is part of the Fusion suite, which also has screen enlargement capability.”


Standard software mostly connects okay with Fusion/Jaws, but there are issues with software update cycles where accessibility updates are not necessarily being applied or prioritised. This is not ideal, however where software is not available, we cope and we work around it.


Anna: What’s it like for you taking calls and working in your team environment?


Christopher: At times it gets challenging - I’ve gotten really good at listening!


My current headset set up means I have both audio feedback and customer calls coming in the same ear. In addition, there is often extra noise on the line at the customer end. It is challenging and I do get tired. I have come to really appreciate my breaks - it’s always good to take a breather - that applies to everyone!


Customers rarely pick up that I’m blind. Occasionally I disclose this to customers if they’ve revealed to me they are a person with disability.


For the most part, being blind doesn’t affect me too much in the team environment, my sighted colleagues will guide me to meetings and if miss out on information when someone sends a screenshot or picture, I’m comfortable calling that out and asking for more information.


Anna: What tends to be the most problematic document format for you in terms of accessibility?


Christopher: Any document can potentially cause a problem with screen readers, however screenshots are by far the most problematic – they need a description of the image. On our company internal social network, screenshots are the norm given the nature of social networks. I generally let people know they need to image describe screen shots. People are apologetic and appreciate the insight – it’s about consistent education and awareness.


Christopher’s accessibility tip

All Microsoft office applications have an 'Accessibility Checker.'Use it to improve the accessibility of your documents. To find the checker in your Office applications, type ‘Accessibility Checker’ into the ‘Tell me what you want to do’ search box above the toolbar.


Anna: What do you think will change in the future in terms of your work environment?


Christopher: I’ve had a conversation with my boss about potentially doing a hybrid set up in future, where I work from home a couple of days a week. Working from home has a great vibe in its own right, although I miss my colleagues. I like having weekly team meetings and catching up with everyone.


For me, it would be great to be in the office a couple of days but also be able to work from home – a great balance.


Why is digital accessibility important?


Digital accessibility is essential for people with disability, and more often than not brings benefits for everyone else.

A well designed website with a clear layout and easy navigation is essential for a person with dyslexia or cognitive impairment, and provides everyone with a better user experience.


If we adhere to colour contrast standards that are essential to people with colour blindness, we also help people looking at a screen where there is glare. 


And if we embed captions in every video, we don’t just help people who are deaf or hard of hearing access the content, we also make the content easily available to people accessing the content in a noisy environment or where they need to be quiet.


A young artist working on a tactile art piece while seated in a production setting. Text, "SBS presents, Perspective Shift, Exploring new dimensions in the arts". Image source: attitude.org.au

Audio description- gaining traction


Imagine watching a film and only accessing the dialogue. Much of the richness, depth of the story and imagery may be lost. Audio description allows a person who is blind or has low vision to access these creative layers. For a long time, Australia lagged behind as the only English-speaking OECD country that doesn’t legislate for a minimum number of hours of audio described content on mainstream TV.


Thanks to the advocacy of organisations such as Blind Citizens Australia, audio description will now be funded for a minimum number of programming hours on ABC and SBS in Australia. This is a small but important first step in improving the accessibility of TV content.


Emma Bennison, CEO of Blind Citizens Australia says that people who are blind or vision impaired are eagerly anticipating the introduction of audio description: “We are hopeful that the commercial networks will follow suit and that legislation will be passed to ensure audio description is mandatory."


Late last year, SBS broadcast Perspective Shift, the first Australian program to include audio description in its original version on public TV. With a long standing commitment to accessibility ANZ is proud to be a founding partner of the Attitude Foundation, which brought this ground-breaking series to Australian TV, aiming to shift public attitudes and perceptions of people with disability in our community. 


At ANZ, we continue to prioritise accessibility in the design and testing of our digital channels. In 2019 we received the inaugural Access Award for our mobile Banking App.


Gerard says, “Increasingly we’re seeing well-designed tools with accessibility support built-in; helping address various audio, visual and other needs i.e. automatic captioning on video, screen reader capability, colour correction (for colour blindness) and high contrast settings, etc. The situation with COVID does show, however that the software is part of the solution. We also need to think about our approach and our preparedness to work in ways that benefit all.”


While there is more to be done to embed accessibility across ANZ, this work is critical to our vision of a fully inclusive workplace and service provider, which supports flexibility for all, and strives for positive user experiences in the ever changing digital world.


Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) 2020

21 May 2020 marks Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). At ANZ we are encouraging everyone to try something different and take on an accessibility challenge.


Go “mouse less” for an hour (use your keyboard only) and try navigating websites using just the tab key on your keyboard.


Have a play with the accessibility settings in your phone. You’ll be amazed at what’s there and you might just find something useful in the accessibility toolbox too!



Meg is the Head of Accessibility at ANZ. Anna is a Change and Communications Manager, and Co-Chair of ANZ’s Abilities Network.



The right attitude

The way we treat people with disability has a direct impact on how they are included in society. ANZ community partner, Attitude Foundation, is working to change mindsets.

Defying the odds

People with disability can achieve their dreams just as much as any other person. James Leonard shares the importance of disclosure, communication and having a positive attitude.

Breaking the silence

Disability Discrimination Commissioner Dr Ben Gauntlett talks to ANZ’s Meg Dalling about the importance of changing societal attitudes toward people with disability in Australia and why the culture of silence surrounding disability in Australia needs to end.