Making your meeting places audibly accessible

Is your company AODA compliant?

Different real time communications technologies, (audio, video, content, and interactive whiteboarding), can be combined in unique ways to suit each collaborative situation. A collaborative session is like a spinning top made of varying amounts of each of these four technologies. The tops may be different shapes and sizes, each top suiting the needs of the participants in the collaborative meeting, but the point of the top is always the audio technology. If there is no audio, there is no real time collaboration session – the top will not spin.

Audio technology is often taken for granted. Even though it is the most fundamental of the conferencing technologies it often gets the least focus. Audio technology has been compromised ever since mobile phone technology has become ubiquitous and more prevalent than landlines. Why? Because a mobile phone call gets packed into an 8kbps call.

A digital music file compressed into 128 kpbs sounds pretty good, however, at 64 kbps the fidelity drops off significantly and a 32 kbps song is hardly worth listening to. An 8kbps voice call, which people have become accustomed to, does not provide good audio quality.

Why do we put up with this inferior audio quality? For the convenience that the mobile phone gives us. We sacrifice a lot of audio quality for mobile convenience, but good audio in a conference call is fundamental. It is often the difference between communicating and not communicating.

You can get the right technology to make the audio portion of your conferencing better, so people can hear what is being said properly – better communication.

Hearing Impairment

Our world can be challenging for the hearing impaired. According to the Canadian Hearing Society, hearing loss is becoming more and more prevalent:

You can get the right technology to make the audio portion of your meeting places better, so hearing impaired people can hear what is being said properly – accessible communication.

Legally, you don’t have a choice.

Equip your organization with the necessary formats for accessible communication

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) recognizes the history of discrimination against persons with disabilities in Ontario and aims to implement and enforce standards to achieve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities. This includes providing tools necessary for persons with hearing disabilities to be able to attend and/or participate when in an assembly area.

The 2012 International Building Code states, “Each assembly area where audile communications are integral to the use of the space shall have an assistive listening system.”

An assembly area is defined as any space where people gather, whether it’s a boardroom, a banquet hall, or a classroom.

When the AODA was passed its goal was to make Ontario a more accessible province to all people with disabilities by 2025. As part of this act every obligated organization will be required to provide accessible formats of communication to persons with disabilities upon request.

So what does this mean for your company?

First, you must determine by what date your company must be AODA compliant.

Affected Organization Compliance Dates
Government of Ontario and Legislative Assembly January 1st, 2014
Designated public sector organizations with 50+ employees January 1st, 2015
Designated public sector organizations with 1-49 employees January 1st, 2016
Private and not-for-profit organizations with 50+ employees January 1st, 2016
Private and not-for-profit organizations with 1-49 employees January 1st, 2017

At this point the Government of Ontario and the Legislative Assembly must already be AODA compliant as well as designated public sector organizations with 50+ employees. As stated in the table above designated public sector organizations with 1-49 employees will be the next group that must get up to date with their accessibility provisions and lastly private and non-profit organizations.

Assistive Listening Systems or Devices help to reduce background noise and compensate for distance from the sound source and are specifically of great value to persons of varying degrees of hearing loss when present in a space of assembly, be it a government institution (i.e. courtroom) or an organization’s conference room.

ET Group offers the ListenRF, ListenIR, ListenLoop and ListenWiFi systems that provide the flexibility for any person to adapt to a wide range of meetings.

The ListenRF system is great for large and small boardrooms. It is on an FM frequency and allows anyone with a receiver tuned to that frequency within a certain distance to connect to the transmitter.

On the other hand the ListenIR system is most effective for closed spaces where private conversations are held such as courtrooms and private boardrooms. With the ListenIR system only receivers that are in the line of sight of the transmitter will connect so that no one outside the room with a receiver will be able to hear what is being said.

The ListenLoop is a great system for stadiums, schools, auditoriums, places of worship and other place where large groups of people gather. With the ListenLoop you create a virtual boundary where anyone with existing hearing aids that support T-Coil technology will be able to connect.

Lastly the ListenWiFi provides you with all the same benefits of the ListenRF system but it is more secure and can host more channels.

Having an Assistive Listening System may be the law but it is also the right thing to do. Make sure that anyone and everyone that comes to your assembly areas are given the opportunity to have the best experience possible.

Contact ET Group today to find out which assistive listening system would be best for your organization.

Video vs. Audio: how the video meeting is changing the game

If you’ve ever been on an audio-only conference call, you’ve probably experienced the following: 

While this old fashioned technology definitely serves its purpose at the right time and place, we can all admit that nowadays there are better conferencing solutions available. 

The rise of the video meeting

Over the past two decades, we have seen more and more video conferencing technologies becoming available. Applications such as Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, GoTo Meeting, Blue Jeans and Webex (to name a few) have been popping up left and right, offering organizations a clearer and more personal way to communicate. 

Video meetings make it easier to actually see who is present, get a visual on who is speaking and notice when participants join or drop off. 

Most video meeting platforms also offer the ability to screen share, and feature live chat boxes as well where team members can provide input and ask questions without interrupting the speaker(s).

You can access most video calling applications from any device, whether that’s a computer, a phone, a tablet, or other meeting room technology like Microsoft Teams Rooms equipment.

Video calling also provides a meeting experience that feels more secure, as you can see who you are speaking to. This means less chances for someone to join a confidential meeting who should not be there, or to impersonate someone on your team. 

How do audio and video compare?

While audio and video calling have some major differences, there are also a few similarities. 

For example, both are great at helping you connect with remote team members, clients and other offices (if you have them). Both are also great for a spur-of-the-moment conversation, where you don’t have the time or the need to trouble yourself with booking and setting up a conference room or meeting space.

However, whichever option you choose will lead to drastically different meeting experiences. Like mentioned above, an audio only conference call can create a lot of confusion and is best for calls between no more than 2-4 people. The lack of visual aid during an audio-only call means you may only be able to convey simple information that gets followed up with an email, or files may need to be shared with other participants before the call begins. 

With a video meeting, the experience offers much more detail. You can see the people you are speaking to, making it easier to notice who is or isn’t present. You can comfortably have a large number of people on the call without needing to re-introduce yourself every time it’s your turn to speak. 

Most video platforms are quite easy to navigate, allowing you to join a call with the click of a button from within the application (like Webex) or directly from an email or calendar link (this is common with applications such as Zoom or Google Meet). No more manually dialing in! 

Why do people prefer video meetings?

Video meetings also offer a more personal experience, which — today more than ever, with so many businesses offering remote work — is an aspect of the workplace that we need to nurture and encourage. 

With video, you can see peoples’ facial expressions, learn what kind of environment they like to work in and even notice the little things like if they wear glasses or cut their hair recently. 

Audio today isn’t dead, just different

None of this is to say that you can’t still choose to have an audio-only call over a video call. Sometimes it is the better option depending on your circumstances. Luckily today, we have the technology available to make the audio call a better experience.

The great thing about all of these video meeting platforms is that they still offer audio-only capabilities. Though some applications are better at implementing this feature than others, the video function is not required to be used. 

One downfall is that the use of an application is typically required to be able to host/join this type of audio meeting, as opposed to joining an old school conference call where you dial in just using your regular phone. 

These applications also typically require a device with screens, however this can be to your benefit, because with many platforms you will still be able to access functions such as screen sharing or chat. And even when video is turned off, the screen will often still show the names of the participants in the call, and highlight the name of whoever is currently speaking. 

Choosing the right platform

There are a lot of video meeting applications available today, and they all offer such a wide range of features. Depending on the work your organization does, and the unique needs of your team, the platform(s) you choose should be the one that will best accelerate communication among your employees. 

Figuring out what those needs are and how to fulfill them can be overwhelming, but that’s why ET Group is here to help. 

Book a Discovery Call and learn how, together, we can find the right tools to help your team feel more connected than ever. 

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