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Virtual spaces are more accessible and inclusive when you:
- Strive to meet the needs of everyone in your virtual space.
- Create a welcoming environment for all visitors.
- Offer alternative methods to access the material you present.
- Provide support to prevent and fix technology challenges.
- Avoid elements that could negatively impact an attendee’s participation and experience.
- Pace presentations to allow attendees time to process and reflect.
Consider these steps for improving your virtual spaces
Strive to meet the needs of everyone in your virtual space.
- Clearly convey to attendees and any presenters how to communicate requests for accommodation, and by which date they should make such requests.
- If there is a dedicated contact person for accommodations, share that information as well.
- If you plan to include co-hosts from other institutions, determine which accessibility or accommodation assets are already available for use from all involved institutions. These may include auto-captioning in webinars and web meetings, ASL interpreters for online events, or translation services for non-English speakers and attendees.
- If accessibility services are available, or needed, for your virtual space, be sure to consider:
- Is there an additional fee involved in securing these services?
- How far in advance should these services be requested?
- What is the procedure for requesting these services?
- Be sure to share with all presenters, co-hosts, and support members the planned accommodation and accessibility services, and ensure their needs are taken into account as well.
Create a welcoming environment for all visitors.
- To help your attendees prepare for successful engagement, consider leveraging any registration process to collect additional optional information. You could include:
- Do they plan to call in or use video?
- Do they consider themselves a pro or a novice in virtual spaces?
- Are they relying on slower internet or devices to join?
- Do they have other concerns or info they would like to share with hosts?
- Event organizers and hosts are encouraged to review A Guide to Planning Accessible and Inclusive Events from the Learning Assistance Center – Disability Services (Campus Life).
- Assume attendees and presenters have a variety of technology skills and tools and plan ahead to offer them support during the event.
- Encourage speakers to identify themselves at appropriate intervals.
- Invite attendees and presenters to rename themselves (if security considerations allow) and to add their personal pronouns to their name. Hosts should introduce themselves with personal pronouns.
- Attendees might have variable language skills for spoken and written content. Strive to be concise, clear, avoid jargon, and define terms and acronyms.
Offer alternative methods to access the material you present.
- Prior to a session, provide documentation in accessible formats including slides, notes, and lists of links. The next-best practice would be to share a link to these materials during the session or send them afterward.
- If you’ll use a script during your presentation, share a text-based version with attendees before the event.
- Offer your attendees live captions whenever feasible. Ideally, captioning should be in a form that can be turned on and off by the individual user.
- Use chat to repeat instructions and share relevant links.
- If you use video clips without audio descriptions of the action, describe the visual elements before the video begins, or do so while it’s in progress if there’s no existing audio.
- Be verbally descriptive about presentation elements, such as slide text, images, and polls. When sharing your screen, describe how you’re navigating and what actions you’re taking. Let attendees know the relevant slide or page number if you are referencing a shared resource.
- Consider bringing the chat conversation into the spoken dialogue so no one misses out on the chat engagement.
- When it is feasible, record your engagement, and provide an accurately-captioned recording and transcript for later review.
Provide support to prevent and fix technology challenges.
- When planning, keep in mind security and privacy best practices.
- If your virtual space will have more than 50 participants, including external participants or requiring a level of audience interaction, please refer to the WFU Large Teleconferencing Video Conferencing Policy and complete the AskDeac Common Request Form to Schedule a Large Video Conference to obtain a special license and consult with a Multimedia Specialist. Consider reviewing this short video presentation on best practices when scheduling a large video conference.
- Include a co-host whenever feasible to offer additional support and engagement.
- Be thoughtful about the kinds of meeting tools and apps you select and use, as well as documents or websites you ask attendees to reference. Consider and understand the accessibility of these before deciding to use them.
- Prior to an event, advise attendees of the technology platforms or sites they will be asked to use, so they can familiarize themselves in advance.
- Share keyboard shortcuts and other resources for the virtual space before and again at the start of a session to reduce potential challenges.
- Let attendees know if a co-host is present to assist and how they should ask for help, for instance by using chat.
Avoid elements that could negatively impact an attendee’s participation and experience.
- Always strive for the best audio experience. Sharing audio files through your microphone may produce harsh and unclear sound. Instead, share the audio using the controls included in the meeting platform.
- Allowing the key dialogue to be heard by all and keeping the audio experience clean can reduce processing fatigue for attendees. At the start of the session, let attendees know that they will be expected to remain on mute as others speak. Co-hosts can ensure that only one person is unmuted at a time.
- Turning off participant videos may become necessary to avoid distraction or challenges to the group. Advise attendees at the start of a session that the host and co-host may do so when needed.
- Using simple, static backgrounds and minimizing moving slide elements, such as transitions, can enhance concentration and successful engagement for many attendees. Blinking or rotating images on the screen could trigger migraines or cause other challenges with attendee focus.
Pace presentations to allow attendees time to process and reflect.
- Take periodic breaks to allow everyone an opportunity to process the information being provided.
- Let attendees know before you launch polls or breakout rooms and allow adequate time for successful reactions, transitions, and participation.
- Clarify at the start if and when you will set aside time to bring the chat conversation into the spoken dialogue.
This resource was created by members of the Accessible Content Working Group
Additional Related WFU Resources
Student Organization Event Planning Guide – The Office of Student Engagement
Checklists and Worksheets – University Events
Know of other Wake Forest resources for virtual spaces? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss including them here.