Program staff and partners in the AccessComputing project meet regularly throughout the year to discuss activities, collaborations, and more. Efforts are made to ensure that these meetings are accessible to all potential participants. They apply the principles of universal design.
There is no shortage of platforms for hosting remote meetings. AccessComputing staff researched a variety of these, however, most were not found to be viable options with respect to accessibility and project needs. Some platforms could not host enough participants to meet for our group; others had controls that were not accessible to individuals with visual or mobility impairments, and yet others could not be used by people who are deaf. Christian Vogler, Paula Tucker, and Norman Williams of Gallaudet University conducted a similar quest, focused specifically on accessibility with respect to participants who are deaf and hard of hearing and presented their research at the ASSETS 2013 conference.
AccessComputing staff opted to host meetings via telephone and employ practices to ensure that the meetings are accessible to all participants. These practices include presenting the following information in the email invitation to each meeting and in opening comments at the meetings themselves.
- Email invitations include a statement that tells participants which staff member (with email address) to contact to request disability-related accommodation. Each invitation also includes a list of the touchtone controls for muting and unmuting, and for increasing and decreasing volume of audio.
- All meeting participants are asked to state their name and institution each time they speak. This practice benefits all participants, but especially those who are deaf or hard of hearing, since video relay service interpreters aren’t likely to recognize speakers by their voices.
- Participants are asked to limit background noise in their location to make it easier for other participants to hear the person who is speaking.
After meetings, a recap is sent to all partners that includes a summary of topics discussed and links to relevant websites, online resources, and other materials discussed during the call. This practice, which employs the universal design practice of presenting material in multiple ways, ensures that all attendees have access to the information presented, even if they were unable to take notes or did not hear some of the content.
AccessComputing partner meetings are a promising practice in the universal design of remote meetings because of technology and strategies used are designed to meet the needs of participants with a wide variety of characteristics, including disabilities. Further information about making presentations accessible to all participants can be found in the publication Equal Access: Universal Design of Your Presentation.