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Accessibility, Inclusion

Value of Inclusive Design in XR-Based Training

November 04, 2021 / by Ashley Coffey, Meryl Evans

Ashley Coffey

Consultant on Emerging Technology Accessibility, Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology (PEAT)

Meryl Evans

U.S. Department of Labor; Meryl Evans, author and digital marketing consultant on accessibility and disabilities

Exploring how inclusive design and accessibility can benefit employers and make XR-based training more usable for all employees in fast-growing jobs.


00:00:00,701 –> 00:00:19,534
-Stephanie: All right. Let’s go ahead and get started. Welcome to this session. I’m Stephanie Montgomery, and I’m with XRA. I wanted to thank you for joining me today
to the “Value of Inclusive Design in XR Based Training” breakout session with Meryl E

00:00:00,701 –> 00:00:19,534
-Stephanie: All right. Let’s go ahead and get started. Welcome to this session. I’m Stephanie Montgomery, and I’m with XRA. I wanted to thank you for joining me today
to the “Value of Inclusive Design in XR Based Training” breakout session with Meryl Evans and Ashley Coffey. And I’m just going to let them lead the show. Your show, ladies.

00:00:19,534 –> 00:04:44,400
-Ashley: Thank you, Stephanie. And thank you, everyone, for taking the time to attend our breakout session today on the value of inclusive design in XR based training. In this session, we will be exploring how inclusive design and accessibility can benefit employers and make XR based training more usable for all employees in fast-growing fields. We will get to hear from speaker, Meryl Evans, who will be sharing her perspectives on the value of using inclusive XR design through her own personal experience using VR. My name is Ashley Coffey, and my pronouns are she/her. I’m a white woman with brown hair, wearing a patterned blazer. I’m an accessibility and emerging technologies consultant at the Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology, also known as PEAT. PEAT is funded by the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy. My background is quite diverse with experience working at Apple and in higher education as an emerging technologies librarian at the University of Oklahoma. And I am passionate about ensuring that emerging technologies are born accessible for all because innovation truly belongs to everyone. During our time together today, we will be exploring how inclusive design and accessibility can benefit employers and make XR based training more usable for all employees in fast growing fields. XR technologies have the ability to close the skills gap by hiring people with disabilities, and today we will get to hear from speaker, Meryl Evans, who will be sharing her perspective on the value of inclusive design. And we will have time for a few questions at the end of our session from our audience members. But now, let’s go ahead and dive into the value of inclusive design in XR. First, I’d like to emphasize that XR technologies can enable businesses to attract and hire more diverse talent pools, but we have to remember that XR tools must have accessibility features by design, and not as an afterthought. Inclusion really can strengthen businesses, and according to an Accenture report, organizations that hire and retain people with disabilities earn 28 percent higher revenues, two times the net income and 30 percent higher economic profit margins than their peers. Accessible technologies can enable everyone to succeed. Usability features such as volume control, captioning, voice commands and different ways to interact in an immersive environment are just a few examples. And we’ll get to hear from Meryl Evans today about her experience using some of these inclusively designed features and virtual reality. XR technologies, as we’ve heard today, are key to jobs in fast growing fields. They have the power to assist with things like employee training,remote assist, collaboration and customized interactions. Uses of XR include warehousing and inventory management, collaboration, product engineering, upscaling and virtual healthcare patient monitoring and just much more. And for more on these resources… this was just a peek into it… You can download a recently published brief and white paper on inclusive XR in the workplace, co-authored by PEAT and the XR Association. You can visit and, that is, to learn more about these resources and share them in your workplace. But next, I’d like to introduce our speaker today, Meryl Evans, who will be sharing her experience on using virtual reality and inclusively designed experiences. So, without further ado, I’d like to intro Meryl Evans. Meryl, take it away.

00:04:44,400 –> 00:10:11,868
-Meryl: Thank you, Ashley. We can go to the next slide, please. Howdy. I’m Meryl and my pronouns are she/her. I am a native Texan from Plano and a member of Generation X. I have glasses, shoulder-length, curly hair, pale skin and a black top. By now you’ve noticed that I have an accent that doesn’t hail from anywhere. That’s because I was born profoundly deaf. Here’s something that will surprise those of you who haven’t met me. Many people make the assumption, they all assume I know sign language, but I don’t. That’s neither a good thing or a bad thing. There’s no right or wrong, it just is. Deaf and hard of hearing people are all different and I can only speak from my experience. When you’ve met one deaf person, then you’ve met one deaf person. To listen, I rely primarily on lip reading and my bionic ear, which is my cochlear implant that I’ve had for almost 20 years. And yes, that’s me at age 2, when I wore a vintage hearing aid on my shirt. I got that when I was a year old and switch to behind-the-ear hearing aids when I was 9. Enough about me, let’s dive in. I’ve had vertigo my whole life. When I experience it or sense it coming on, it makes me feel like the room is moving, even though I’m not. Other times I feel light-headed and tired, have bad eyestrain or all of the above. I never knew it was tied to my deafness until the cochlear implant surgery. That’s because the surgery would cause the worst vertigo of my life that led to a referral to a vestibular specialist who told me my lifelong problem with vertigo is due to being born deaf. This piqued my curiosity about the connection between deafness and vestibular disorder. One study has found that when you looked at a deaf and hard of hearing children born with sensorineural hearing loss, like me, have a vestibular disorder. Anyway, the specialist gave me exercises that I didn’t stick with because it drained me. I wished somewhere it was possible to get the same kind of benefit with VR. I think where we are going, VR is a heck of a lot more fun than vestibular exercises. Thankfully, the Oculus app store provides the comfort rating for each app. An app comfort rating will have one of these: comfortable, moderate and intense. Unfortunately, there are no search filters. All I can do is search through an app and then look at the app description. If search for caption or subtitle doesn’t help find caption apps, some games have on-screen and audio instructions. These aren’t called caption. It turns out vestibular disorders affect more than those who are deaf. The Vestibular Disorders Association says, “More than 35 percent of US adults, aged 40 and older, experience vestibular dysfunction at some point in their lives.” It’s always the better user experience that viewers have control over the motion. Here, it’s important for the VR industry to think about vestibular challenges when creating product. Any step to minimize motion can make a big difference. Next slide. When I go into a VR with a friend, we meet in Zoom or a Google Meet, pick an app and meet in VR. It was hard to communicate in VR since I can’t meet them without lip reading, I constantly pull up the goggles to see my friend. In doing so, I accidentally hit the button, including the one that turned off the screen. Another recommendation is to move these buttons somewhere where you’re less likely to press them while shifting the goggles off and on. So, there’s no way to send me text messages in VR. My friend’s Bluetooth keyboard wouldn’t work in VR chat or Oculus Messenger, and read in the VR screen, on-screen keyboard is slow. Oculus has voice dictation, but we haven’t tried it yet because they only work in the US. The first think I need to do is learn how to adjust the strap on the goggles. My bionic ear fell out every time I put them on. The next recommendation is for headset makers to do user experience testing with people who are hearing deficient, people who are older and other things around the face. Maybe they can find a way to design them to be more effortless to put on. Next slide, please. The first stop is the Anne Frank House. It’s the first caption app I found to get through…

00:10:11,868 –> 00:10:22,267
-App: Margot and Mother are on pins and needles. Shh. Father. Quiet, Otto. Shh. It’s 8:30. Come here.

00:10:25,501 –> 00:13:19,868
-Meryl: Due to vertigo, it takes me two sessions to get through the Anne Frank House tour. Plus, the app’s captions, as you saw briefly, are scrolling or moving. They were also out of sync at times. It would be a better experience without scrolling caption. Pop-in captions work better because they let the viewer read at their own pace, and it has less motion. I’m going to… In hopes of finding caption app, I searched online only to find everyone asking the same question. No one had an answer. I knew that I could find caption content on Youtube VR, so I opened that. Youtube captions were all over the place as they any one of these problems: very short lines of captions, more than two or three lines of caption, all upper case, no music notes to indicate song and scrolling or moving caption instead of pop-in. Just because a video says it’s caption, doesn’t mean they are quality captions. Quality captions matter, however, we have to rethink caption for VR because of the 360-degree view. Even with that, some standard caption and best practices would not apply to VR. We also have a challenge in figuring out how to turn captioning into transcript, as Screen Reader and refreshable brail devices work with transcripts, not captions. Anyway, one thing I like about Youtube VR is that it has a filter for caption video and a vertical title, select CC, and it will only show stories that have captions. Next slide, please. You have to turn on the captions in Vacation Simulator, and it’s tricky. So, it took me a good 5 minutes to do after I used hand tracking to play the game, but it works with controllers too. Some games have different robots to identify the speaker, the captions show the icon of the robot speaking. The captions are transparent and move with your view. These are called fixed captions. If you turn your head right, the captions shift right. When the captions don’t move with your head, it’s called headlock. I prefer headlock, as fixed captions affect the vestibular system. I advise not using transparent caption because you can see what’s behind them. Sometimes it’s hard to read the caption with the distracting movement behind them. Here’s the clip.

00:13:19,868 –> 00:13:16,000
-App Character 1: Auto board, more like old and bored, ugh, but someone has to do ’em.

00:13:32,934 –> 00:13:51,634
-App Character 2: Oh, hi, there. Are you also on vacation? Great. My sibling bots and I couldn’t decide which vacation we wanted to go on, so we each went with our favorite. Now I have to prove to my siblings that forest vacation is the best vacation.

00:13:51,634 –> 00:15:04,567
-Meryl: Next slide. VR networking platforms are social networks that place in virtual reality. Accessibility VR holds a monthly meeting in HUBs. While Hub doesn’t have caption, we add them by putting the captions below the presentation and the image shown. To attend an event in AltSpaceVR, requires downloading the software. You can either go to the 2D walk through a web browser, or a 3D walk through a VR headset. And I have a clip for AltSpaceVR, so here are some screenshots. Oh, I forgot I took them out. We’ll move on. Spatial, the caption and spatial aren’t bad, they mean less transparency. Unfortunately, this network requires paying for caption on a per user basis. They provided me with caption at the trial, but it captioned me. I needed to caption the other person. The company turned on a trial caption account for my colleague. Here are a couple short clips from Spatial.

00:15:04,567 –> 00:15:54,767
-Clip: I am speaking to show the captions are hard to see in front of the bright window, and they move with my head. It’s kind of awkward. But if I look up, there’s no caption. If I look down… they’re in the middle view. It was a joke on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” I watched last night. I am…

00:15:54,767 –> 00:17:27,200
-Meryl: The beginning of that clip showed multiple language options. The reason they charge you for caption is because they have to pay Microsoft for the use of Azure technology. Accessibility shouldn’t cost extra. We hope the company finds a way to offer it free. I like Oculus and other VR platforms that add options to games with captions, subtitles, language option and on-screen text instruction. It goes for apps too, not just games. It would be helpful to have search filters for comfort rating, player mode and ESRB game ratings. Hardware developers need to review the headset design to work better with hearing devices and older people who have a hard time getting them on and test them with real users. I’d like to see captions other times, like we do in Google Chrome live caption. While we have to think of caption differently for VR, some best practices still apply and need to be readable. When they are too transparent, they cause eyestrain. And I understand the need to have captions follow you, but I don’t think it will be a good feeling for a lot of people. But I’m also hearing some people got sick when the captions didn’t move, so we have to try to offer as many options as possible. Thank you. Back to you, Ashley.

00:17:27,200 –> 00:18:42,100
-Ashley: Thank you, Meryl. And I’m so appreciative that you’ve shared your experience, here because I think it’s important for the audience to understand that inclusive design is not just limited to software, it’s also in hardware as well. So, it’s important to engage employee resource groups and people within the disability community to test these applications and test these pieces of hardware to ensure that they’re inclusively designed. And one question that I wanted to ask you before we dive into our audience Q&A, and for everyone that’s attending, if you have questions that you would like for us to answer, please go over to the chat. We also have a few poll questions as well. And if we end up running out of time, we will be at our virtual exhibit booth after this as well. But, Meryl, we were discussing earlier, specifically about AltSpace VR. And AltSpaceVR recently rolled out immersive captions, and you shared a really interesting clip with me on translating languages. And I think it’s important for the audience to hear that inclusion isn’t just limited to software and hardware. It also includes language as well. So, would you mind sharing that experience?

00:18:42,100 –> 00:20:14,167
-Meryl: Sure. That was an amazing experience. So, one of the accessibility VR meet-ups, even though we mostly met up in HUBs, we did have one meet-up in AltSpace because our speaker was somebody who worked with AltSpace. And what happened was, the caption is doing better. So, you can’t just go in AltSpace and they will be there. You have to request them anyway. So, my friend, Makoto, from Japan, was in there. He speaks Japanese. That’s his primary language. So, he was talking to the audience in Japanese. I had my caption turned on and set for English, of course. What happened was, the Japanese that Makoto said was translated to English and showed up in English as the captions. And I was playing with the language feature. I would change my language into different things, and it was just fun to see other different languages. Everybody’s English or Japanese being converted to whatever language I had selected. So, it’s really cool, and I think this is going to be big and we’re going to see more of it. So, it’s like you saw in the Spatial clip, they also have language options. AltSpace is managed by Microsoft, so that’s why they both have the similar functionality, but the caption looks different because they’re different platforms.

00:20:14,167 –> 00:21:07,100
-Ashley: Thank you, Meryl. And it looks like we have a question from Alexa. Are there examples of inclusively designed XR experiences you’d recommend that we look into? Some experiences, off the top of my head, that you’ve covered today, Meryl, I think Spatial is definitely something that the audience could look into in addition to AltSpace. But alternatively, just out of VR, there are also a lot of different opportunities to incorporate immersive captioning into two dimensional screens as well. For example, AltSpace, like you mentioned, you can get on to AltSpace in a two-dimensional screen and be able to see those immersive captioning. I’m curious, from your perspective, Meryl what are some additional XR experiences outside of the ones that you’ve shared today that you think would be beneficial for the audience to look into?

00:21:07,100 –> 00:22:15,968
-Meryl: Well, another game that I found called “Cookout.” A friend of mine told me to look at it because it had a different… It’s not captioned technically, but what it did have was on-screen text for all the audio. And that has been a feature for years. I mean, my kids’ games, when they were playing on PlayStation or Xbox, there would be on-screen text for everything that was said and heard. Back on AltSpace, you should be… Those of you who have goggles, you can go to AltSpace via… You can contact me after, and I’ll explain it. But Burning Man, which is in AltSpace, can be viewed with caption, so that’s a great opportunity trying to see what the captions look like. But you must go through the goggle, not through the PC. And I am still looking for more apps that have caption or on-screen text. And I haven’t been able to get very many suggestions, so if anybody knows of any, please let me know.

00:22:15,968 –> 00:23:38,067
-Ashley: And one thing I’d like to add to that, Meryl, is recently Facebook Oculus announced that they would be rolling out immersive captioning across their platform. Recently, they did add a few accessibility features that involve color contrasting, reducing the haptics vibrations in your controllers in addition to a few additional features that are being baked into the platform. But if people are looking for how to bake accessibility and to XR based training experiences, my colleague, Bill, will be leading a complimentary session, right after this, actually, to talk about how to bake accessibility into XR based training with his former colleague, Tim Stuts. So, I recommend audience member definitely check that out because that will give a little bit more insight into all the steps that are involved on incorporating these inclusive design practices. And something that I really wanted to emphasize here is that we are embracing this digital transformation as we progress and recover from the pandemic. So as companies are starting to incorporate these immersive experiences for training or collaboration, it’s just so important to make sure that they’re inclusively designed because accessibility should not be an afterthought. All technologies should be born accessible. How do you feel about that, Meryl?

00:23:38,067 –> 00:24:12,901
-Meryl: I totally agree. You know you’re not getting an argument from me. I want to mention one thing I saw last month, a wonderful demonstration of how people who are blind or have low vision can use virtual reality. It was very cool. There was this app, the A11y VR. We have a recording of it, and they’ll share the length of of A11y VR. But the recording can be found at I’ll put it in the chat box.


00:24:12,901 –> 00:24:34,534
-Ashley: Thank you, Meryl. And I think we’re out of time here but thank you to everyone who attended this session. If you have more questions, please visit us in the virtual exhibit booth. We will be there following Bill’s session right after this. And thank you so much, Meryl, for sharing your experience in using virtual reality.

00:24:34,534 –> 00:24:42,40
-Stephanie: And thank you, both, for joining us. And we’ll see you all at the next session in about 5 minutes, at 3:35.

00:24:42,400 –> 00:24:44,367
-Ashley: Thank you, all.
-Meryl: Thank you.

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