Never did we think that over a year and a half ago, the world would come to a screeching halt. Everything was turned upside down in our personal and professional lives. However, it seems that the working world quickly adjusted, and remote work became the norm.
Video conferencing (which was available pre-Covid!) became a daily activity as we saw inside the world of our co-workers and realized we all could get a lot of work done outside of the office. But now things are slowly opening back up, travel is beginning to happen more and more, and in-person meetings are an actual reality. We are all anxious to put 2020 behind us, but let's not leave the accessibility and inclusion lessons behind. What did we learn?
Over this past year, I had the fortune to transition from a corporate job to open my own company. This journey has allowed me to work with clients from all industries to include organizations that fight for inclusion and representation of the disability community. I say all of that because I’ve learned a tremendous amount about accessibility during the pandemic.
As we approach the 31st anniversary of the ADA, I offer you a few small tips on how to make your meetings and events more welcoming to others.
1. It Starts with the invite.
Make the content screen-reader friendly. If the invite is a graphic, provide a text version as well as an image description.
Include alternative text for all images – this is a must for social media.
Have transcripts and captions for all videos. YouTube does add automatic captions to videos, but it’s not perfect so take the time to review and adjust as needed.
Be upfront about your event’s accessibility.
2. Ask Participants, "What do you need to make this meeting work for you?"
Make sure to ask participants if they need an accommodation. You can include a simple message to contact the event planner to request accessibility and accommodation needs. Or you can provide a checklist in the RSVP form.
Make sure to follow up individually with those who requested an accommodation.
Obtain feedback. Did the accommodations or adjustments work? Could things have been done differently to create better access and inclusion? What worked well?
3. Make Virtual Events Accessible
Review accessibility features at the beginning of the event so all participants understand the multiple ways in which they can access the event. (e.g. close captioning, interpreters etc.)
Use audio descriptions of all images to include asking speakers to give a virtual description of themselves.
When hosting an event over video conferencing software, offer the option for attendees to dial in by phone and participate without a computer or internet.
Provide multiple ways for attendees to submit questions – emails, Q&A section, chat room, via phone, etc. For the Q&As that are submitted in written format, re-read questions out loud.
Record the session so individuals can access it after the event along with the transcript.
4. In-person Event
There is a lot that goes into planning an in-person event especially with Covid-19 protocols in place so I encourage you to consider the questions in this Easterseals Blog post.
This is by no means an all-inclusive list of how to make your event accessible. What would you add to the list?