Virtual events can have accessibility challenges – particularly for participants with audio and visual disabilities. Virtual event platforms are increasingly addressing these issues, and it’s important that event organizers are aware of what options are available to them and what actions they can take.
Inclusive Design Principles can be an excellent source of guidelines for anyone involved in the design and development of websites and applications. Before the event, be sure to include dial-in numbers on the event website and all other marketing materials. Video Relay Services are used by some people with hearing disabilities to get sign language interpretation for virtual events. Make it easy for your attendees to request – anonymously, if desired – that specific access needs be met. Providing any written or visual materials ahead of time will help participants prepare themselves for the event. If you are using Microsoft documents, Microsoft’s Accessibility Checker can be run to ensure your content is easy for people of all abilities to read and edit. Be sure to offer all accessibility information upfront and publicly to interested attendees.
During the event, all participants should be muted upon entry. This will minimize excess noise, which can be distracting for those with visual impairments or neurodivergent issues. Some event platforms offer live captioning, which works best for one to one meetings or small group conversations. They become less accurate if more people, voices, and noise are added to the call. Live captions can be helpful for people who are hearing-impaired, deaf or the elderly. They can also help improve understanding for non-native English speakers.
After the event, offer your attendees the opportunity to provide feedback – including accessibility – to help you prepare to plan the next one.