5 Tips To Help Ensure The Accessibility Of Your Online Events

Posted by Sophia Duplin

Create Your Virtual Events To Reach A Wider Audience

In 1990, the United States Congress passed one of the most important civil rights laws: the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Created to supplement the legal protections granted to certain groups by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the ADA addresses discrimination in the workplace against Americans that live with one or more disabilities or need assistive care in the workplace. 


Around the same time that the United States Congress passed the ADA, the Internet started its ascent as one of the foundations of not only popular culture but also as an indispensable tool for conducting business. 

As your organization plans its next virtual event online, you should implement five strategies to ensure the accessibility of your online events.

A person with a prosthetic hand uses a laptop

Photo by Anna Shvets


The Importance of Providing Access for The Disabled

With digital communications becoming the standard way we interact with each other, providing accessible events online is an important part of the planning process. 


Planners of online events like webinars and online conferences need to consider web accessibility in their planning process. Similar to face-to-face occasions, event organizers need to provide accessibility features to attendees, such as real-time captioning for those with hearing impairments, enhanced visual materials for those with low vision, and other assistive technology based on participant accommodation requests. 


While organizations want to create an inclusive event to draw the biggest crowd, the truth is that event planners often fail to realize that making online conferences accessible to people that struggle with a disability must be an integral part of the planning process. 


According to data released by the Pew Research Center, disabled Americans are less likely to use technology such as the Internet because inaccessibility remains an obstacle.


It is not just easy to detect signs of a disability that matter when devising an accessibility strategy for online attendees of an event. According to the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), 62 percent of employees live with an invisible disability, which presents unique challenges for planners of online events such as an employee meeting conducted in a webinar or virtual conference.


More than 70 percent of people with disabilities immediately leave a website if it does not accommodate their disability, so your event planning process needs to include making your event accessible to people with a wide range of disabilities.


Let’s look at five ways you can create a more accessible meeting to ensure your audience is able to consume your content and adhere to the needs of your attendees.


1. Interact with Attendees

When your company or organization holds a virtual event, you typically send out a digital registration form that includes several questions that require short answers. 


One of the questions you should ask involves accommodating the special needs of attendees that live with various disabilities. A simple question such as, “Do you need accommodations to attend this event?” helps you prepare for the needs of disabled attendees, whether their disabilities are visible or invisible. 


If attendees identify themselves as someone with disabilities, you can provide additional steps for them to explain their needs. This process is a vital part of event planning and ensures your audience receives the technology they need to get the most out of your virtual event or webinar.


This process should be baked into the online platform that you host your event through, but if your platform does not offer this functionality, then you can provide an email address for your company or organization to allow attendees to communicate their request for accommodations.


2. Focus On Creating An Inclusive Event

We hear about the importance of inclusion in the workplace, but inclusion is also an important principle to follow when you plan your online events. 


During the event planning process, recruit disabled speakers, performers, and other participants to become part of the team of organizers that create your virtual event. 


Having a diverse lineup of speakers could help your audience learn more about a topic that they may have never thought of before and will help those in your audience with disabilities connect with your brand and the message your speakers share throughout the virtual conference. 


For example, if your organization holds a fundraising drive online that features local radio personalities, recruit one or more of the well-known local celebrities who live with a hearing disability to provide input on how to accommodate attendees that suffer from hearing loss. 


If your event is about teaching attendees how to manage their money, a financial advisor with low vision can help you develop easy-to-see charts that educate attendees about money management issues. This insight can also provide tips and tricks for people without disabilities to improve their workflow and gain the results they are looking for. 


3. Optimize the Presentation

When you develop a presentation for a specific topic, you want every attendee of the online event to enjoy a similar experience. 


Webinars and other virtual events typically rely on visual materials to get a message across to the target audience. For any visual elements used in a presentation, provide an audio description of each image to help those with vision problems understand what they are viewing. 


You can help those with disabilities consume your visual materials by adding the option to increase font sizes, limit the number of colors used in slideshows, and offer captioning services on pre-recorded videos. Captioning videos represents another effective way to provide an overview of each image and video sequence.


Attendees who are having difficulty consuming visual materials will appreciate sharp color contrasts between the text and background of each slide, image, and video frame. 


Using a color contrast tool can help you develop visuals that accommodate the needs of attendees that deal with vision issues. In addition to presenting visually generated information, ask every presenter to read the content presented by a visual aid aloud. 


Provide access to the visuals you plan to use for an online event ahead of the occasion in an email attachment.

A person does ASL for a webinar on a laptop

Photo by Shvets Production


4. Audio Quality Matters

Develop an online presentation for an event that presents clear audio quality to assist those in your audience who are hard of hearing. Poor audio quality makes it difficult for attendees with hearing issues to absorb all the information and can also detract from how much the general audience consumes and enjoys your content. 


Presenters should filter out background noise such as music and applause to give hearing-impaired attendees access to the content presented by guest speakers. 


Providing each speaker with a headset can help improve the quality of the audio as well, and your team should educate presenters on how they can deliver clear audio for those in attendance. 


One of the most effective strategies to accommodate attendees with hearing loss involves taping speaker presentations in a quiet room where there are little or no disturbances. You should also look for an online event platform that works with assistive listening devices and other assistive technology for people who are deaf or hard of hearing in your audience.


5. Address Invisible Disabilities

People that struggle with a developmental or intellectual disability have trouble adapting to online presentations, webinars, and other types of virtual events due to how information is presented. 


Not every online communication platform provides access to attendees that struggle with a developmental or an intellectual disability. One of the ways to address this issue is to send attendees a copy of an event to allow someone with a developmental or intellectual disability to attend the event at their own pace.


For a live presentation, schedule short breaks to give attendees an opportunity to refocus on the content that is about to be presented.


Conclusion: Adapt Your Accessibility Strategies

There is no template for providing equal access to every attendee of an online event. You have to adapt to different types of conditions. For example, the accessibility strategies you implement for a small online conference do not have the same positive impact for a large event held in a bustling venue.


Learn how to make your next online or hybrid event accessible to people with disabilities by contacting BeaconLive.



Topics: Accessibility & Social Impact, Virtual Events, Virtual Events: Best Practices

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How can I make my online events more accessible?

Be sure to ask your attendees if they need additional accommodations before your event. You will need an online platform that offers captions and other assistive technologies to help your audience can consume your content easily. 


What are the benefits of closed captioning?

Captions are a great way to make virtual events more accessible for those who don't speak the language of speakers, and for those people who are hard of hearing or deaf. Closed captions also help the audience consume content easily when in loud environments so your entire audience will be able to retain the information you present.

What is a webinar?

Webinars are a great way to reach your audience and make them feel like they're actually there with you. This can be accomplished by hosting an online event, broadcasting it over the internet via their computers.