Tips To Create A More Accessible Virtual Event
The use of virtual events and webinars has become more and more popular as organizations see that these online events provide many of the same benefits as face-to-face meetings without the cost associated with traditional meetings.
This new way of meeting with people can take on many forms, including virtual conferences, webinars, and virtual classrooms to help organizations train employees and reach a wider audience for a variety of needs. With this new approach to getting things done, it is crucial to continue to stress the importance of accessibility for people with disabilities to ensure your event can reach as many people as possible.
Webinars require a significant amount of event planning, and organizers need to consider how they can implement various features and assistive technologies to create an accessible event for people with low vision and who are hard of hearing.
As your competitors look to reach your target audience, your event planners need to begin thinking about how to allow people with a variety of disabilities the opportunity to experience your online events. Planning goes far beyond just content, however. You will also need to address accessibility with various technologies such as assistive hearing devices, captioning services, and even real-time captioning for some of your audience.
Let’s continue to dive into the top virtual meeting accessibility best practices that you should consider as you create a more accessible meeting.
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Questions To Ask Before You Host A Webinar
One of the first things you should do when planning an event is to consider who your target audience is based on your business goals. The most important thing that you can do to help ensure that your virtual event is not only successful but also accessible to all, is to choose the right platform.
You should ask yourself these questions about the platform you are considering when hosting a virtual event if you want to ensure accessibility:
Is your virtual event platform optimized for people with disabilities?
Here, you are wanting to check to make sure that there are features available such as captioning services for those with hearing impairments and options to help those with low vision with tools like screen readers in order to address the most common disabilities. Event organizers need to think about how their online platform will support the needs of those with limited web accessibility and how that platform can ensure their audience is able to consume their content.
Has the platform been tested by people with different types of disabilities?
You never really know if something works until you have tried it, and this is no different. You want a platform that has a solid reputation and has been well tested by many people with differing abilities and levels of development. Be sure to test how well your platform delivers content to people with disabilities before the virtual event actually takes place to avoid unnecessary complications and headaches.
Is the platform compatible with assistive technology like screen readers?
Many people who have impaired vision or hearing already have and use technology and devices to make visual materials accessible for those with impairments. To be more accessible, make sure to choose a platform that is compatible with the most common forms of these technologies.
Does the platform support captioning?
We all know that captioning is important, and it is normally available in a platform’s settings. Should you be researching or considering a platform and you find that it does not have an option for captioning, it is better to find a different option.
Does the platform offer shortcuts if the user doesn’t use a mouse?
This is an option that may not be so obvious to you, but it can be very important to some people who would like to access your virtual event. Like captions, this is a pretty easy feature to check for, but one you definitely want to make sure that you have.
5 Best Practices To Consider For Your Next Online Event
Accessibility is about more than merely meeting a requirement. The truth is that you want everyone to feel welcome and comfortable at your virtual event, online conference, and webinar to ensure your message is received by as many people as possible.
Here are five of the most widely accepted best practices for accessibility that you should consider implementing for your next online event:
1. Offer Attendees The Opportunity To List Accommodation Requests
It’s important to understand what types of assistive technology your audience needs before an event. You can gather this information by including a field in your registration form and providing your contact information for audience members to reach out to you before the virtual event begins.
Asking your attendees is a wonderful way to make sure that you don’t miss anything and that everyone has good access to your event. It lets your attendees know you care because it adds a personal touch. This will help you understand what functionality you will need your virtual event platform to offer, and then you can train your volunteers on how to use the different types of technology before the event begins.
2. Ensure Your Hosts & Staff Understand How To Use The Platform’s Accessibility Features
Features are only as good as the experience of using them. Make sure that your hosts and staff are fully instructed and understand how to use all of the platform's accessibility features. It is a good idea to make them aware that they may need to help guests with using these features.
It’s important for event planners to factor in training time for their volunteers before the occasion begins. During these training sessions, your team should review what types of assistive technology are offered on your event platform and how to use it properly.
3. Inform Attendees About Accessibility Accommodations During The Event
It is also a good idea to make sure that your attendees are aware of all of the features that you are offering and how they can use them. People with disabilities should already know what accessibility features are available to them, but it’s never a bad idea to include additional emails and messages to those attendees who have identified that they need assistive technologies for your virtual event.
Consider sending an email before the start of the event at the time of registration or simply go over the features at the start of your conference. Also, give everyone a channel to get ahold of a host or member of your staff if they need help and have your volunteers ready to receive requests in a private chat.
Photo by Mart Productions
4. Dedicate A Staff Member To Address Questions In A Private Chat
One way to make sure that your guests will have an easier time is to have a member of your staff man a private chat to answer questions.
If you are having a large event, you may want to have several staff members dedicated to this job. Guest satisfaction is a huge part of your success and these staff members will go a long way towards ensuring it.
5. Ensure Attendees Can Use Different Communication Methods As Needed Throughout The Event
In today’s online world, your virtual events need to be built with web accessibility in mind to ensure your audience can understand the message you are sharing in your webinars and online conferences.
You will need to make sure that all of the different communication methods being used are working and that everyone is included, regardless of the specific activity. This may involve asking if everyone can hear okay, checking to make sure you are not going too fast, describing images and videos aloud, and even sending electronic copies of information before and after your event via email or another service.