Using Microsoft Teams Chat to reduce barriers

“Instant messaging tools have reduced the barriers that come with a disability. No longer am I restricted to using email to connect with my clients. Now I’m more confident in supporting my clients as I can communicate with them in real time.”

Yash knew that Microsoft Teams instant messaging and captioned video calls would be a game changer for the way people communicated within the workplace, formally and informally. As an employee with a hearing impairment at the Canada Revenue Agency, Yash understood how the Microsoft Teams chat platform would make his everyday work so much easier.

Yash Zandiyeh began working for the CRA in 2011 working in the Information Technology Branch as part of the Western Deskside Support Division. With the onset of the pandemic, and the switch from working in the office to working from home, the Agency’s Service 365 team worked to expedite the Microsoft Teams instant messaging function.

The CRA’s People First philosophy sets out to improve the services we provide Canadians. As part of this this philosophy we are asked to consider how we can improve the ways we work with each other, knowing that this thinking can bring about big changes, which include considering the challenges other people face.

With access to Microsoft chat, right away, Yash used it to communicate with his manager, colleagues and clients. Where Yash would typically play e-mail tag, he could now easily send people messages on Microsoft Teams and use e-mail for other pertinent information. People with normal hearing levels can make a call, but for people with hearing loss, it’s not always that easy. Video calls can be challenging, as video lags can make it difficult to read a person’s lips to know what they are saying. The Microsoft Teams chat feature introduced live captions, so Yash can follow the conversation and he no longer feels left out.

”I can connect with people is so much more easily now. I can chat with my clients as I’m helping them. Before, I had to open Notepad and count on my clients to answer the questions I typed out. Now that people are familiar with Microsoft Teams, the response I get are in the moment and allow a back-and-forth conversation.”

When it comes to meetings, there are also many things that Yash no longer has to do. “No longer do I have to sit there and swivel my head around each time someone’s speaking. No longer do I have to burn mental energy trying to pick up what’s being said. With captioned video calls, I can pick up the majority of discussion and piece it together. It’s not perfect, but it’s a substantial improvement to our traditional form of team conversations.”

When Yash speaks about his experience in the Deskside Support Division, he understands that the accommodations to employ someone who is hearing impaired can present its own set of challenges. In acknowledging the support his team gives him and others with similar challenges, Yash says, “I appreciate that the CRA introduced and improved our communication and collaboration tools. This is an important facet to accommodate all employees. Having a hearing impairment, or other kind of disability, doesn’t make us deficient, it just means our needs are different. One of my guiding principles in life is that people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. My clients come first, and the more tools I have to support them the better I can carry out my responsibilities.” 

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