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The Group Representative Body for Disabled Employees is driving forward digital accessibility at RWE

IT expertise meets inclusive work culture

Norbert Gooßens, RWE Supply & Trading GmbH

How many apps and applications do we use at RWE? There are a few thousand. IT expert Norbert Gooßens from RWE Supply & Trading (RWEST) checks them for accessibility throughout the Group so that colleagues with disabilities can use them without any problems. He has already taken a close look at over 500 apps - and has been able to make many improvements.

Norbert Gooßens combines his IT expertise with his commitment to an inclusive work culture: he works at RWEST in the IT back office, is part of the Group Representative Body for Disabled Employees (KSV) and represents the interests of people with disabilities in the IT committee of the Group Works Council. In order to ensure barrier-free IT, he therefore takes on two roles at once. In the Works Council IT committee, he represents the KSV and checks almost all applications that are presented to the committee. In addition, he is the contact person for disabled employees who need special software or hardware.

The ways in which Norbert becomes aware of potential improvements are therefore varied. "Sometimes colleagues approach me directly and point out problems," says Norbert. "But even in the internal development of applications, I’m either directly involved from the beginning or check them for accessibility after completion." The improvements that have already been implemented include specialised apps, as well as applications that almost all colleagues use regularly in their daily work.

From real-time subtitles to eye control to voice commands - many improvements have already been implemented

"Many colleagues already know and use the real-time subtitles in MS Teams. The feature not only promotes our inclusive work culture, but also makes it easier for many employees to participate in international meetings," he explains. "The live subtitles came about after a colleague approached me because he kept having problems following meetings and understanding everything." The service needed to be made usable for all employees in the group, so the live subtitles were designed to work in different languages.

For colleagues who work on a computer every day and may have difficulties using it, there are other helpful applications. Norbert Gooßens gives two practical examples: "If a staff member isn’t able to use a mouse, they can use eye control instead. You look at the screen where you want the mouse to go, the computer recognises the position and independently guides the mouse to the desired point. There is also voice control which allows any action to be triggered by a voice command."

Norbert also puts internally developed apps through their paces - and not just from his desk. In order to check whether a newly developed app for the maintenance of large-scale equipment in opencast mining also stands up to the demands of live operation, he took a look at the result on site. "In this case, it was a question of whether the contrast in the app was sufficient. Of course, I couldn't decide that with the lighting conditions in our offices. So I went to the opencast mine and tested it under real conditions," he explains. The result was very satisfactory: "Everything was fine, because the app does what it promises and fulfils what we planned together beforehand."

Software should be equally accessible to all - many apps still need to be evaluated

Norbert still sees plenty of room for improvement in many apps. "The goal of my work is very clear to me," he says. "Software should be equally accessible to everyone and no one should be at a disadvantage. What we are creating here is digital accessibility for all our employees worldwide." 

Digitisation is also important for RWE - whether in our power plants, in the control of wind farms and large machines or in our offices. "We take the issue of accessibility very seriously at the KSV and I’m glad that in 2020 we created the position of an IT contact person for colleagues with disabilities. This will help us improve digital accessibility across the Group and support RWE's growth. I also think it's great when we make applications available to our colleagues so that they can all work easily and effectively," says Guido Hertel, Group Representative for Disabled Employees.

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