As remote and hybrid work continues to become the norm in many workplaces, online meetings have become an essential part of our daily work lives. However, not everyone has equal access to online meetings, and some people may encounter barriers that prevent them from fully participating. As a result, it's important to run accessible and inclusive online meetings that ensure everyone can participate and contribute.
Preparing for an online meeting
To ensure that your online meeting or event is accessible and inclusive, it's important to consider the following steps when preparing for the meeting:
- Ensure that the platform you plan to use for the meeting, such as Microsoft Teams, Skype or Zoom, has accessibility features that can accommodate participants with diverse disabilities.
- Prior to the meeting, test the video and audio features of the remote meeting connection to ensure they are functioning correctly.
- Invite participants to share their accessibility requirements ahead of time, such as an AUSLAN interpreter. Include this in the meeting invitation and be prepared to implement their requirements.
- Ensure that all documents, presentations, multimedia, and other materials to be used in the meeting are compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.2, preferably at Level AA or higher.
- Offer a telephone number as an alternative option for participants who may not have access to a computer or the internet, which can also serve as a backup in case of poor connectivity.
- Distribute the meeting agenda and materials in the preferred accessible format of each participant well ahead of the meeting or event. This will enable those who are blind, have low vision, or a learning disability to review the materials beforehand.
- If possible, turn off the ‘lobby’ feature before the meeting. The constant notifications and alerts can overwhelm participants, particularly people using screen readers”
- Provide the contact information of a person who can assist with accessibility issues and troubleshooting both before and during the meeting.
Running an online meeting
To ensure an inclusive and accessible online meeting, it's important to consider the diverse needs of all participants.
Tips to run online meetings
It is important to inform participants if the meeting will be recorded. This helps people to decide whether they are comfortable with the recording being available. Additionally, it also allows participants to take precautions to protect their privacy.
In larger meetings or events, use a roll call to introduce participants. This technique is especially helpful for visually impaired participants as it provides them with a verbal list of everyone present. If a roll call isn't possible due to the meeting size, asking participants to announce their names before speaking is a helpful alternative.
The chat feature lets participants send written messages, files, links, and emojis during the meeting. It's especially helpful for those who can't speak and need to ask questions or clarify information. Monitoring this function is particularly useful in larger meetings where a lot of information is shared.
Using built-in captions/live transcription is important to ensure all participants can understand and follow the discussion. Many popular video conferencing platforms, such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Skype, offer this feature. Captions can help people with hearing impairments and those who struggle with accents or speaking styles that differ from their own. It also improves the meeting's overall accessibility and inclusivity.
Muting all participants or asking them to mute their microphone reduces distracting background noise for attendees and ensures everyone can hear the information being shared.
This ensures that all participants can understand the questions being asked and can provide an answer if necessary.
Providing a break between agenda items is not only beneficial by allowing all participants to take a moment to stretch, but it also gives Auslan interpreters, captioners, note-takers, and support workers a break.
If a participant is using a co-located Auslan interpreter, it’s important to ensure that the focus is on the participant and not the interpreter. This way, all attendees can clearly see the person speaking and understand the conveyed information without any hindrance.