ICER 2020: A Promising Practice in Accessible Virtual Conference Presentations

Throughout 2020, as conferences moved online in response to the global pandemic, it appears that only a few organizations took proactive steps to make their conferences accessible to people with disabilities. The 2020 Association of Computing Machinery International Computing Education Research Conference (ICER) is an example of one conference that chose to take proactive steps to caption the presentation sessions and provide clear guidelines to presenters about accessible design of presentations.

Presentations for ICER 2020 were prerecorded, while discussions and networking took place within the conference schedule. Presenters were asked to submit videos that satisfied a number of criteria related to length, format, file, size, and accessibility. The accessibility-related guidelines, included below, ensured that individuals who cannot see the slides or hear the audio of presentations had access to the content.

  • Read critical textual content. This does not mean reading everything on your slide, but everything that you want attendees to notice, ensuring that blind attendees get the same information that sighted attendees get.
  • Describe critical visual content presented. This also ensures that blind attendees get the same information that sighted attendees get.
  • Don’t rely on color to communicate information. There are numerous kinds of colorblindness, and the diversity is such that color is not a reliably accessible signal. Consider alternatives such as contrast differences, pattern differences, or labels.
  • Be captioned. You can caption the video yourself, include a caption file in one of YouTube’s supported caption formats, or you may choose to use YouTube’s automatically generated captions. If you choose this last option, remember that captioning will be imperfect. We will send you your video’s automatically generated captions and give you an opportunity to send corrections.

These guidelines are a promising practice for addressing accessibility within virtual conference presentations. Feedback about the policies was positive, and there weren't any complaints about captioning videos. Some people praised the policy, and a significant number mentioned in the post-conference survey that despite not being deaf, they greatly benefited from the captions before, during, and after the conference. Taking proactive steps to provide guidelines to presenters is an easy way to ensure that presenters consider the accessibility of their presentations when submitting recordings to online conferences.