The year 2020 brought many new challenges for organisations and one of these has been how to move to online meetings and events, whilst at the same time ensuring they remain accessible and inclusive for all. There has been no shortage of appetite from Business Disability Forum Members and Partners to continue to work together to create a better world for disabled colleagues, customers, and friends.
Moving online and working from home has made it more important than ever to ensure that your meetings and events are fully accessible. Whilst this may have seemed an overwhelming prospect in early 2020, this should be viewed as a great opportunity which we should embrace.
There are many platforms for providing online meetings and events and every organisation will need to find the one that suits their personal needs and security concerns. Examples include Microsoft Teams, Zoom, StreamYard, HopIn, Crowdcast, WebEx and Google Meet – check out our User’s guide to video conferencing software. The best thing you can do when researching is to ask the right questions and think about BSL, subtitles, accessible slides and audio description.
There are small changes you can make, and actions you can take, such as:
- Consider adjustments from the very beginning of your event planning and set aside a small part of your events budget to provide adjustments.
- Use live subtitles instead of automated subtitles can make a huge difference to the quality of your event.
- Research different platforms and ask questions about accessibility and security.
- Familiarise yourself with your chosen platform as much as possible and run multiple tests.
- Ask your colleagues and audience what platform they prefer and what their needs are.
- Create FAQ documents for your guests and for your speakers.
- Provide a mix of pre-recorded and live sessions. Prepare back up videos and back up speakers where possible for those unexpected internet connection issues.
- Provide different options on how to join the meeting or event (application, browser, conference call).
- Make your events interactive. Platforms such as Sli.do can be integrated to most platforms to engage your audience via comments, questions and polls. Prepare colleagues to be ready to answer audience questions.
- Arrange to welcome colleagues and speakers in advance of the start time. Set aside time to test sound, videos, presentations and answer short notice questions.
- Be willing to try and learn new things. Embrace change and remember that it is okay to get things wrong.
Whilst there are many other actions we can take to make our events inclusive and welcoming for all, the above may provide some support as you think about accessibility for your online meetings and events.
Our experience over the last year tells us that online events are here to stay, and if you and your organisation can ensure that both your online events and in-person events are inclusive and accessible for all, this will only benefit you and your organisation.
To find out more on what you can do to make your events accessible or if you have any specific questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Members and Partners can also access our Inclusive Communication Toolkit, which may prove useful.