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Build Accessibility into Summer 2020 Digital Events

Jun 9, 2020

Summer. The sun in shining, the grill is lit, and the Wifi has been upgraded for a reliable connection during the season's virtual events? With many of the in-person gatherings being replaced with digital ones, it may be particularly important to keep accessibility top-of-mind as those events are planned and carried out.

3 reminders to make this summer's sessions accessible

Consider your audience

How well do you know the people who will be attending your virtual event?

If the list of attendees is defined and limited to people that you know well, then you may already know what accommodations will make consuming the information and contributing to the session more accessible to them. Make sure to meet the needs you already know about, and if you don't know if what you're planning will be sufficient and you're close to the attendee(s), ask them.

Still, just knowing someone doesn't mean you necessarily know their preferences and needs for accessing digital content. And, if the event is larger or you don't have personal knowledge of everyone who might attend, be mindful that 25% of US adults have a disability that might impact how they use the web.

It isn't appropriate to ask attendees if they have a disability, but it is okay to ask if anyone has accommodation requests and to let them know you'll do what you can to learn about and meet them.

Meet a basic level of accessibility no matter what

Regardless of the individuals who might attend your virtual event, strive to meet at least a minimum level of accessibility anyway.

Here are a few tips to help:

  • Choose fonts that are large enough for most people to easily read. If people are spending time and energy trying to make out what something says, they have less attention to give to the presenter.
  • Use colors that have sufficient contrast for most people to distinguish. People perceive color in different ways and checking for color contrast is one of the easiest ways to make sure more people can see the content.
  • Add captions and transcripts to pre-recorded multimedia, like videos or podcasts.
  • Add text alternatives to anything that is graphical. Images, charts, or anything that isn't already available in text should get duplicated in text.
  • Do not use any visual elements that strobe or flash, as these are distracting and can be dangerous to some people.
  • If there is any interactivity or participation allowed or expected, check the platforms and expected use cases for accessibility ahead of time.

These simple checks can make a world of difference, and not only for people with disabilities. Everyone appreciates not having to work so hard to take in the ground-level information.

Send out materials before and after

Give people the time they need to understand what is expected of them during the event, to prepare by reading any helpful information beforehand, and to get a better sense of the accommodation requests they might have. Whether there is user participation or not, for example, can determine what accessibility considerations might be best to focus on.

After the event, send out any of the materials that are appropriate to share. For participants who missed important information, need more time to digest the content, or simply didn't want to be identified by their disability or accessibility needs, distributing accessible versions of everything covered in the session can really help. Make sure to let people know that you'll be doing this so they can plan how to make the best use of the session time.

This also gives you a great opportunity to make things accessible that you weren't prepared or able to do during the live event. Live discussion or unexpected visual elements that weren't captioned or didn't have alt text can be captured in an accessible way and distributed.

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