Whether in person or online, there are concrete steps that anyone can take to ensure that their meetings, events, and presentations are more accessible to a wide audience. Begin by thinking about who might face barriers to an event. These may be disability-related barriers for individuals who are blind or have low vision, deaf or hard of hearing, have mobility impairments, or have other disabilities. Also consider whether events are accessible to non-native speakers of English, individuals connecting to virtual meetings via phone, or other groups.
For virtual meetings and events, consider whether the software that you are using is accessible. Many options do not easily interface with screen readers or other assistive technology used by people with disabilities. Some may not support captioning or sign language interpreters. Become familiar with accessibility features of your software and share relevant details with your participants. If your software supports automatic captioning, consider turning it on.
When you are announcing a meeting, make it clear to participants how they can request accommodations and respond promptly to requests that you do receive. Common requests include sign language interpreters or live captioners, access to presentation slides in an accessible format, or assistance navigating an in-person event space.
Ideally, share accessible versions of the agenda and presentation materials ahead of time, and provide materials to any interpreters and captioners. For online meetings, designate someone separate from the presenter to manage an online meeting and mute all participants as they join the meeting. Work with presenters to ensure they are well lit and encourage them to use non-moving backgrounds, headsets for high-quality audio, and presentation visuals with large fonts, uncluttered pages, high contrast color schemes, more than color coding to communicate information, simple graphic images, and captioned videos with audio description if available. Encourage speakers to incorporate a variety of presentation methods, including polls, breakout rooms, and/or discussions in chat. Remind them to speak all the content on their slides and verbally describe images or graphics since some participants may not have access to content on the screen. Share links to resources mentioned in the chat. Let participants know the best way to ask questions or engage and encourage them to voice their names each time they speak.
After the meeting, follow up with URLs, resources, and action items. Consider recording virtual events to allow participants asynchronous access after the event. Gather feedback about accessibility on any evaluation that you conduct. Make adjustments to future meetings or events based on this feedback.
For more resources on this topic, read DO-IT’s Accessibility and Universal Design of Online Meetings, SIGACCESS’s Accessible Conference Guide and Accessible Virtual Conference Guide, or the Knowledge Base article Whom do I work with on campus to secure accessible venues for meetings and events?