Over the past two years, video calling technology has allowed us to continue to connect, socialise and work throughout the pandemic. Having harnessed the benefits of this technology, video calling is very likely to stay for many of us. Fortunately, there are a number of steps that we can all take to ensure inclusivity for people with a disability or additional access requirement. Below are some of our top tips, to help us all enjoy the benefits of fully accessible video calling:
- Many of the platforms we use for video calling, (Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Meets etc.), already have in-built accessibility features. These include automatic captions, high contrast settings, screen reader compatibility and more. So, a great place to start is by making yourself familiar with these, enabling as required, and making sure all your fellow participants are comfortable doing this as well.
- Some people prefer the accuracy of live captions (generated by a human speech-to-text-writer), so you may need to consider booking separate captioning service such as My Clear Text to support your meeting.
- Some pre-meeting instructions can help you outline features people can use before joining the call. This can also be a space to provide a written plan of key information you wish to convey or explore and planned discussion points. Providing this information in advance gives additional processing time and avoids anything being missed.
- Remember with video calling, visual communication can be a significant part of the call, so be aware of additional steps you can take (such as providing verbal descriptions, particularly when screen sharing) to make sure people with sight loss do not miss out on content.
- Some attendees use lip-reading or rely on non-verbal cues to help them to participate in the meeting. During a video call, make sure each speaker’s face can be seen clearly, consider position on the screen and shadow. It can also be helpful to avoid backgrounds which might be distracting or confusing.
- The chat function which goes alongside many call platforms can be a useful space for idea sharing, questions and comments. It may also be helpful to provide an email address for people to direct comments to “as live”. This gives the opportunity for people using a screen-reader to participate in this chat using a different device for information clarity.
- For presentations, consider how much information is being shared on each slide and what colours and effects are used. When building your presentation in PowerPoint, be sure to use the in-built accessibility checker, this will show you how to add alt text to images and check the reading order, and other key accessibility features.
- Consider assigning a moderator to run the call, to check participants are comfortable with pace and content.
- Ask people to introduce themselves before speaking. It is good practice to provide a short self-description of what you look like, as this helps visually impaired attendees and can be a good ice-breaker. If users are comfortable to do so, having their personal pronoun and name displayed (or included in their self-description) can also help to create a more inclusive environment.
- Asking participants to indicate before they wish to speak can help to make sure everyone gets their voice heard and only one person speaks at a time. Making use of tools such as the “raise hand” feature in Zoom, (which displays a hand icon when activated) can be really useful for this. The call host can also control this feature to moderate the meeting if required.
- It can also be helpful to remind people of in-call etiquette such as muting their microphone when not speaking to avoid distractions.
- For larger group calls, also consider utilising the break-out room features offered, so that smaller scale discussions can happen. If you do use break-out room features, you will need to check whether it’s possible to add in accessibility support such as live captions and ensure all break-out room hosts are briefed on accessibility and inclusion.
- Be mindful of including breaks in your call and setting time limits overall.
- If possible, consider if a transcript of the call or captioned video and any materials shared during the session can be made available after the event.
We hope this quick guide has made you feel confident that your video calls can be made accessible to all. For further information and for a free consultation to ensure your next event is accessible, contact us at Attendable today.