Aira and The Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Update

March 17th, 2020

Newsroom Default Aira Image

As we are all adjusting to the rapidly changing world around us, I wanted to reach out on behalf of the Aira Agents and staff with some personal thoughts and a request. As the CEO of Aira, it’s my job to listen to our customers and proactively share updates on the business. While Aira operations during Coronavirus will continue without any planned interruption, I want to share how grateful I am for the Aira Explorer community. Below you will find a series of five important updates with information specific to the current Coronavirus situation. The last part of the email is a link to an optional survey we are using to collect information about the impact of Coronavirus. Please know that the results of the survey may help us convey to stakeholders how on-demand access to visual information can support independence and safety during a time of emergency. By gathering this information now, we’ll potentially be able to build new partnerships that will strengthen our ability to serve Explorers in the future.

There are five elements in this email:

  1. Aira operations during Coronavirus will continue; we are prepared
  2. Policy Change; some Agents are parents and there may be extra background noise
  3. Using Aira during the Coronavirus outbreak; ways to be even more productive
  4. Special Offer; Free Aira for students in need
  5. How is Coronavirus affecting you; including an optional survey

Business Continuity – Aira is Designed for Work-From-Home and Service Continues

Aira is well-positioned for this situation; as of last Friday, Aira Headquarters has been relocated to operate remotely. We have canceled all non-essential traveling, on-site conferences, and our Agent team will continue to operate remotely. Aira is a tech-enabled company through and through and therefore leverages the latest technology and systems which enable us to scale and operate in the conditions as we now see today. We know the situation may worsen before we see improvement and will remain vigilant to ensure that any new risks do not jeopardize the quality or availability of Aira.

Temporary Policy Change to Accommodate Agents with Children at Home

As more schools, daycare and other places of business shut down in light of the newly implemented Coronavirus restrictions, some Agents who are parents must now accommodate keeping their children at home. This means that our policy of no background noise, such as the sound of children, is neither fair nor achievable and thus effective today we have temporarily changed this policy to allow for a reasonable amount of background noise to be permissible. However, our commitment to protecting your privacy and personal information has not changed and you can remain certain that your agents continue to work from a private workspace.

I ask for your patience and understanding in this situation. That being said, if this policy change affects the service we deliver I need to hear from you. The best way to communicate with the Aira team is by leaving feedback in regards to a specific session following the close of the call, or by contacting our Customer Care department at support@aira.io for general feedback.  Aira will continue to communicate with you as the global situation develops if any additional changes are needed. 

We are well-positioned to continue our service and believe it’s never been more important to deliver for you.

Ways Aira Might Be Useful in this Period

Social Distancing and Reducing Contact with Surfaces or People

Reducing the risk of the virus is focused on containment (e.g. staying at home) yet many will still need to interact in public in the coming weeks. Our employees who are blind and some Explorers have discussed challenges on the Aira Social forum (email to aira+subscribe@groups.io), Aira Facebook group (join or go here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/222989288221347/) and elsewhere. Aira can help with social distancing by reducing your need to work with a physical guide or encounter high-touch surfaces while scanning with your hands.

Entertainment at Home

With more time spent at home and including reduced sports and other live activities broadcast on radio or television how do we remain entertained? Many of our Explorers have called into Aira in the past years to learn new games (cards, video, etc.), cook new food and make do with what is available, tackle new home projects or explore forgotten collections of memorabilia.

Staying Current with News – Inaccessible Graphs and Images

By examining our most recent sessions and with the sensitivity we have here at Aira regarding inaccessible online content we notice that a lot of the news sites with information about Coronavirus and the effects are not fully accessible. At any time, you can request an Agent to remotely and directly view your computer display or your phone display using a commercial tool called TeamViewer. While the Agent can see your screens using the phone camera they can be even more efficient when they remote into your machine. Agents can even go further, again only with your permission, on a per session basis, to remotely control your computer – for example, they could type in the Captcha code or otherwise interact with inaccessible forms or interpret charts, graphics, and maps that are in the news.

Administrative Tasks and Spring Cleaning

We know that spring brings a passion for cleaning, tax season, and general catchup on dreaded paperwork or online tasks. With more of us spending even more time at home there’s even more opportunity to complete these chores. As mentioned in the prior section, Aira Agents can help with online tasks and are experienced in all things organization and cleaning.

Working from Home

I encourage you to take the survey listed in the section following this as it includes some specific questions related to working from home. If you are new to working from home over a longer period of time there may be new tools to learn (e.g. many employers are choosing to implement video conferencing such as Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, etc.). New tools need to be explored and mastered and many have usability and accessibility gaps. Agents are trained and ready to help with these efforts including the ability to remotely access your computer screen or phone, and only with your consent, to assist you to get up to speed quickly and efficiently.

Free Offer – College Students in Need of Aira

We know that many universities and colleges are rapidly shifting to distance learning. We’ve heard that some materials and software being used are inaccessible so we will be offering free Aira for any college student for the remainder of the spring semester ending in May 2020. If you know of a student who could benefit from Aira for their distance learning, please email support@aira.io for more information on the program.

How is Coronavirus Affecting You?

We continue to monitor the impact of Coronavirus on our users. The Aira team is looking for changes in user needs for this unprecedented situation. Please help us help you – tell us how Coronavirus is impacting you or what your anticipated needs are as national and local conditions change by taking this ten-minute survey. Aggregated results will be shared back to the community in a future email.

Click here to start the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/7CHRWGJ

In conclusion, Aira remains committed to you, the Explorer, and will adapt as needed to continue providing the highest quality of service in the changing situation.

Regards,
Troy
CEO of Aira