The Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth was launched by the ILO in 2016 to scale up actions and impact on global youth employment and create a world in which young people can have a decent job. Under the tagline “Rights and Voices of Youth”, participants from governments, social partners, academia, youth and civil society organizations, and many more were invited to discuss certain topics such as youth voices, future of work and the like. As the only Chinese representative invited, Huang shared Tencent QQ's experience in improving product accessibility and empowering visually impaired youth with equal communication rights, thus creating a more inclusive labour environment.

Focusing on Vulnerable Groups – Tencent QQ helps visually impaired youth integrate into the workplace

Huang pointed out in his speech that one of the pain points of the visually impaired entering the workplace: “In the digital era, workplace communication through social apps is increasingly common. Though an efficiency boost for general employees, it creates greater information divide for the visually impaired.”

Data reveals that in China, nearly 4 million young people under the age of 30 suffer from visual impairments. For these people, an essential premise of decent jobs is the right to equal communication.

In China's workplace, QQ prevails in everyday work and is heavily used for online communication, teleconferences, and file transfer. For the visually impaired, it is of utmost importance that they can utilize QQ as well as their right-sighted colleagues. “Therefore, we take it as our duty to help the visually impaired to access QQ and be included in the workplace.” Said Huang.

QQ has started its accessibility improvement since 2009. Now, QQ, with its 800 million active users, has become one of the most important social platforms for the visually impaired in China. It has accumulated rich experience in exploring and promoting accessible Internet products to eliminate communication barriers faced by visually impaired people and help them integrate into the workplace.

In the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, “accessibility” is an important principle and obligation. According to the World Health Organization, there are more than 280 million visually impaired people worldwide. Accessibility optimization of Internet products is of great significance to them. During the session “Innovative approaches to include youth with disabilities in the labour market“, representatives from QQ, McDonald's, WHO, European Disability Forum and Fundación ONCE shared their innovative approaches to include young persons with disabilities in the open labour market, which helps raise public awareness on the disabled and create a more inclusive society.

Reducing Communication Barriers – Continuous Optimization of QQ's Accessibility

In his speech, Huang introduced QQ's exploration journey of accessibility and demonstrated some of the accessibility features, including the Optical Character Recognition (OCR), QQ Sticker Reader and Voice Description of Image in Qzone.

One of QQ's accessibility features, OCR, enables the visually impaired to hear the text on the picture. When they receive a picture containing texts on QQ, they will no longer have to turn to their colleagues like they used to. Now, they can just press on it, choose “text extraction”, then the text will be read out. Besides, it also works in their everyday lives; say when they are buying medicine, they can use QQ to scan the drug bottle to hear its instructions.

QQ also makes stickers more accessible. To deal with the problem of stickers not being “read out”, QQ launched a new function called sticker reader, allowing stickers to be recognized and voiced, so that the visually impaired can hear what the stickers indicate.

Last year Qzone launched a new function called “Voice Description of Image”, allowing visually impaired to just click on the picture and hear AI-generated voice description, such as “a man making a speech”.

Up to now, mobile QQ has enabled 2,425 accessibility features that were used over 160 million times in both QQ and Qzone in 2018. Besides, Tencent launched the “AI for Accessibility” project to help more companies and developers have free access to technology.

Promoting Social Justice – Adhering to “Tech for Good” vision

“The 20-year-old QQ will continue to fulfill our corporate responsibility and provide services for the visually impaired.” said Ross Liang, Vice President of Tencent.  

At the end of his speech, Huang emphasized that “providing more equal rights to communication and decent jobs for disadvantaged youth is not something that can be achieved overnight and on one's own.” He also believes that “once we have the accessibility of information, the power of the Internet can enable both the visually impaired and ordinary peopleto achieve true equality in life and work.”

QQ's promotion of accessibility is the result of practice and implementation of Tencent's corporate vision “Tech for Good”. Pony Ma, Tencent's Chairman and CEO said of the company's new vision and mission, “We hope that 'Tech for Good' will become part of Tencent's vision and mission in the future. We believe that technology can benefit humanity.”

Today, QQ's accessibility improvements demonstrate Tencent's practices of the “Tech for good” vision. These efforts are aimed at bridging the information gap, promoting social fairness while enabling vulnerable groups to enjoy the benefits of the digital age. As Huang stated, “This is not a charity, but an embodiment of social equity.”

SOURCE Tencent


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