When organising and hosting meetings, it’s likely that you’ll have attendees with additional hearing, sight or other needs, so it’s important to ensure that they can take part in the meeting as effectively as anyone else.
In terms of physical accessibility, especially with COVID-19, hosts need to make sure that individuals can attend remotely wherever possible, and that accessibility isn’t hindered in any way because of this.
Firstly, and most importantly, ensure you have accessible software
The first factor in ensuring equal access is choosing a platform provider that offers accessible features. Check out Microsoft Teams telephony for relevant accessibility features, and also make sure to look for closed captioning, keyboard accessibility, automatic transcripts and things like screen reader support before deciding on a platform provider.
Before the meeting
Like with most things, the key to success is preparation. Prior to the meeting, send invites in advance to give people time to prepare. Remember to include contact information for those who wish to request accessibility accommodations. Also, ensure there is an RSVP submission form with clearly labelled fields.
If you’re planning on sharing a presentation, make it available to attendees in advance so they can make any necessary modifications that will make their experience a little easier. They might wish to change colours or magnify text or images, for example.
During the meeting
Don’t forget about the importance of the basics. Make sure that all attendees are taking part from a location with minimal background noise and clearly stipulate that only one person should be speaking at any time. Also, as the host, you should speak as slowly and clearly as possible to help those who may be blind to be able to participate in the conversation as effectively as anyone else.
Depending on the platform you’re hosting on, participants will have different options for asking questions. They may be able to raise their hand and unmute themselves or they may post any questions into the chat window instead. Either way, take the time to read any comments or questions aloud to provide context for anyone who can’t access the chat for whatever reason. This will also improve the quality of captioning, something we’ll move on to now.
Whether you provide captions by someone in house or hire a captioning vendor, providing live captions will ensure that information is accessible to all attendees.
Whilst applications with whiteboard options are great for explaining certain topics, they’re not fully accessible. If you plan to use whiteboard annotation, think about other ways you might be able to share the information if participants express any difficulties with the technology.
After the meeting
When it comes to accessibility, what you do after the meeting is just as important as what happens during the meeting.
Ensure you send out accessible feedback surveys, so you know how to improve any future meetings. It’s best never to make any assumptions when it comes to accessibility.
Another way to ensure your meeting is accessible is to post a video recording of the meeting with accurate captions for those who couldn’t attend or wish to revisit key elements.
With these tips and ideas in mind, you will have the core knowledge to begin making your meetings more accessible in the future.