Is your Virtual Event Accessible to All?

by Melinda Colon

With the transition from in-person to virtual events, the need to make all your event content available to all participants has changed. For some, online events can be a challenge. The accessibility of your virtual event refers to whether presentations, materials, and technology used are suitable or adapted for use by attendees with disabilities. In the virtual world, having a physical, sensory, or cognitive disability can restrict the use of online materials and platforms, making them inaccessible to participants. Assistive technologies are designed to support and improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities and many were invented for online use specifically. 

  • Speech-recognition software allows individuals with a visual or physical impairment to transcribe their writing without typing.
  • Screen reading applications bypass the need for braille translation, visual aids can magnify or enlarge portions of a computer screen for individuals with visual impairment.
  • Closed captioning allows individuals with hearing impairment to read the speech.
  • High contrast ratios help those with visual impairment distinguish text from its background.
  • The list goes on! 

With so many technologies available to make online content accessible for all users, it is our responsibility to prepare virtual event materials with all participants in mind. Below are some tips to make your virtual meeting or conference accessible to your attendees.

Platform

  • When selecting a virtual meeting platform, set accessibility and usability as a priority in the request for proposal process.
  • During demonstrations, ask to see how the platform will support accessibility tools such as screen readers, magnifiers, and closed captioning. 
  • Determine if transcripts of sessions are available to share after the event and how soon after the event you will receive them.

Registration

  • Provide a text box for your attendees to share if they have technology accessibility needs.
  • Follow-up with these attendees to confirm what support the event staff can provide.
  • Designate an accessibility point person who can troubleshoot or manage issues as they arise. Provide the contact information of the point person to attendees.
  • Ensure any registration forms are 508 compliant by filling out a compliance checklist. These guidelines are used by the Federal Government to certify electronic materials are accessible to people with disabilities under the Rehabilitation Act. 

Materials

  • Review all PowerPoint slides, handouts, emails, etc. using a compliance checklist to confirm they are intelligible to screen readers.
  • Edit images to include alternative (alt) text/tags which is a succinct description of what the image is portraying. Here are some considerations for writing alternative image text.
  • Make sure there is a minimum contrast ratio of 4.5:1 between colors. Here is a quick resource to determine the contrast ratio between the colors of your text and background! 
  • Use text instead of images of text. 
  • Try to avoid using color as the only way to distinguish web links or other action items. 

Closed Captioning

  • Budget for a professional Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) for closed captioning sessions. Multiple closed-caption reporters may be needed depending on the number of sessions and hours of your event.
  • Select a closed caption reporter with the national CRR/CRC certifications to ensure a high level of skill. 
  • Provide the closed caption reporter or team as much information in advance as possible, such as agendas, speaker names, specific terminology, etc. to increase the accuracy of the closed captioning. 
  • For shorter programs, some slide presentation tools such as Google Slides and PowerPoint have added closed captioning features.
  • Rehearse with your closed caption reporter prior to the event and have them join early to configure and test day-of.

Speaker Tips

  • Speakers should be well lit and have their cameras on to assist those who need to read lips.
  • When possible, speakers should describe their slides or videos shown.
  • Read the questions typed in chat boxes or Q&A fields to make sure the questions are captured in recordings, if applicable, and closed captioning.

We hope that our team at Collaborative Communications has provided some helpful tips to make your virtual events inclusive for all your attendees! As noted by the World Bank, 15% of the world’s population is living with a disability so it’s important for us to work together to ensure these individuals aren’t overlooked in virtual settings. With our modern accessibility technology and tools, we have the power to ensure all individuals have the opportunity to enjoy and learn from our virtual events, all it takes are a few extra steps of consideration.

Want to learn more from Melinda?
Email her at colon@collaborativecommunications.com.