Non-Techie Tips for Inclusive and Accessible Virtual Holiday Parties

December 15, 2020

Throwing a virtual holiday party that everyone can participate in isn't about not getting sued. Like the party itself, the point of making it accessible is to let everyone participate, feel appreciated, and take part in team activities that don't involve crunching numbers or meeting deadlines. Even without technical knowledge, you can still help create remote holiday celebrations that are more accessible and inclusive by keeping the focus on people and their needs.

Here are four tips to help.

1. Open the door for requests and reminders

Make sure employees know that they can reach out to the party's organizers or other contacts confidentially to share any specific accommodation requests or accessibility reminders.

Someone who doesn't typically watch video content with closed captions, for example, simply might not remember that some people need them or they'll be excluded from the talking and sounds happening in a virtual event. Even if a company has done a great job of making their website or other materials accessible, the same best practices might not be realized for one-off or special events.

A reminder to the organizers and to the attendees that accessibility is on the agenda doesn't hurt.

2. Consider if materials should be sent ahead of time

If there will be reading materials, videos, or other forms of media that will be used or referenced in real-time during the event, think about whether those things can or should be made available early.

During the event, it will be more difficult and possibly more uncomfortable to pause the natural flow to figure out accessible alternatives on the fly. Just as likely, someone may do without accessible materials because they won't want to cause a disruption or be singled out.

One way to avoid that and work out the kinks is to plan ahead, which can mean literally sending materials ahead so accessibility issues can be identified sooner.

3. Consider sharing generally what to expect

Along a similar line of thinking as sending materials ahead of time, it can be hard for organizers or attendees to really know what accessibility barriers might come up if they don't know what's going to happen during the event.

If attendees are told ahead of time that the event will feature several speakers or presenters, for example, that may have different accessibility considerations than a gathering that is more interactive or loosely-planned.

It's also worth noting that not everything that impacts how successful and accessible an event will be falls on the organizer. Attendees may simply need notice to set up their equipment in a particular way or to make sure they have a certain device ready to go, or any other number of aspects attendees might want to plan on their end.

4. Think of how each planned activity can be accessible to those attending

Ultimately, there are countless considerations for the best way to make your holiday event the best it can be. If there are specific activities planned, like opening gifts or sharing stories, think of each one individually and try to identify ways to make each scenario work for everyone attending.

The shape this takes won't be the same across the board. A small company of five employees and a large corporation probably won't settle on the same solutions, but they can settle on the same approach: making every activity inclusive of everyone involved.

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