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.
Our world can be challenging for the hearing impaired. According to the Canadian Hearing Society, hearing loss is becoming more and more prevalent:
- Nearly 1 out of every 4 adult Canadians reports having some hearing loss
- Hearing loss is the third most prevalent chronic condition in older adults and the most widespread disability. Its prevalence rises with age – 46% of people aged 45 to 87 have hearing loss
- Aging is the number one cause of hearing loss and the incidence of hearing loss is poised to climb dramatically as our population ages
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.
Skype for Business – A Unified Communications Tool?
The most “fame” Skype has received is probably from the sitcom “The Big Bang Theory” where the cast uses it regularly to communicate. For example, Raj’s parents who live in India are fringe characters in the show and viewers only know them via Raj who is using Skype on his laptop in the USA.
I use the word “fame” in quotes because TV has given Skype a level of notoriety, which most technology just doesn’t reach. The show has to some extent normalized the use of Skype. And note that the word Skype isn’t actually mentioned on the show but we assume that Skype is the program that is being used, as opposed to other system designs.
Skype – the Most Popular Internet Communications Software in the World for Voice and Video
Millions of people use it every day for personal communications.
According to TeleGeography, ”While international phone traffic growth is slowing, traffic from voice and messaging applications like Skype continue to increase at a stunning pace. TeleGeography estimates that cross-border Skype-to-Skype voice and video traffic grew 44 percent in 2012, to 167 billion minutes. This increase of nearly 51 billion minutes is more than twice that achieved by all international carriers in the world, combined.”
And those personal users are extending Skype for business use as well.
Skype is used for a lot more than video. In fact it really started out and is still primarily used for voice calls. Skype offers a full Unified Communication (UC) technology stack, which is pretty powerful, but not as “industrial” as some enterprise UC technology offerings from say, Cisco or Microsoft.
Skype’s full UC capabilities make it a lot more useful than any of the single communications capabilities on its own.
What Are the Core UC Capabilities Required in Order to Qualify as a UC Product?
- Instant Messaging (IM)
Skype’s UC Capabilities
Presence is about knowing the status or availability of the people that are part of your list of contacts in Skype. If you had 25 people that were on your list of Skype contacts, with a quick glance at the list you can determine if they are online, available, busy, etc. Presence is a handy tool to quickly see how your contacts are currently connected into the Skype world.
IM (Instant Messaging)
IM is no technology breakthrough but is very handy as part of a UC suite. IM let’s you send instant messages to your contacts, or create group message forums. This is handy in a number of situations; your contact shows as busy but may answer an IM message still keeping their voice or video call going; when you establish a voice or video call, one of the parties may have their mic on mute. IM allows communication to advise that they can’t hear the muted party; sending messages to one of the parties in a multi-party call as a side bar conversation. Interestingly Microsoft, which owns Skype, recently announced that they will be retiring Windows Live Messenger forcing users to upgrade to Skype.
Here is where Skype really shines. Free calling computer-to-computer anywhere in the world. That is how Skype went viral, established a huge user base and became a household name brand service. Skype’s voice offering capabilities have grown significantly since the early days and includes: Skype to landline; Skype to mobile; and multi-party conferencing calls (can still be dicey), and voicemail. Note: Most of the additional services are chargeable.
Skype video is pretty good for person to person but their multi-party video offering is chargeable, requiring one participant to have a premier account and doesn’t work that well. I have used other products that allow me to conduct a good video to video call with limited bandwidth, where the same call using Skype, has Skype telling me to turn off my video because there is not enough bandwidth.
Skype will likely continue to develop this part of their technology solution. A case in point is that they just recently announced a new Video Messaging service where users (for a fee) can leave video mail messages.
Beyond Unified Communications
Skype also offers features, which go beyond the UC stack, such as: content sharing, files transfer, and SMS messaging. These features make the product more powerful and useful.
Skype also works on lots of devices, PC, Macs, tablets and phones, but typically the full UC suite is not available on all these platforms.
Skype is a powerful communications platform and is getting better all the time. It is not always the best platform for business or for connecting outside participants to meeting rooms.
Time will tell whether this changes as the product continues to develop. Skype’s continued growth and feature enhancement paints a rosy future for it. Skype is a great starter technology for enhanced communications.
But as you start to pay for more Skype features and push the limits of the technology, there are other viable options, which solve some of its limitations and are offered at a comparable price point. Contact us to discuss these alternative options like commercial grade video conferencing solutions like our HybridX.