As in-person events have had to shift to virtual events this year, the silver lining has been that they’ve opened up the opportunity for events to be more accessible to more people, where travel, time, and related expenses aren’t a barrier to participation. That being said, virtual events do require some additional love and care to really make them accessible to all people, especially those with disabilities.
To make a virtual event accessible, here’s a helpful checklist that covers accessibility across the full timeline of preparing for an event, to wrapping it up.
Before the event
- Check the accessibility of all digital promotional material, such as website banners, emails, and social media graphics.
- If images include important information, e.g., registration details, dates, or calls to actions, then ensure that information is also available in text format.
- Ensure your social media images and text are optimized for accessibility. To do this, be sure to familiarize yourself with the accessibility features and best practices for each social media platform you are using.
- Check the accessibility of the registration process, e.g., can it be completed using a screen reader? Is alt-text implemented on images and buttons?.
- Ask participants if they have assistive needs during the registration process. This will allow you time to prepare to meet those needs.
- Check the accessibility of the virtual event platform(s) you will be using. What accessible features does it include? For example, does it include live captioning? Can people with vision, hearing, or mobility disabilities use the platform?
- Have a plan to include people who may not be able to access the conference platform. What other options could you offer? For example, can you live stream the sessions, can you make sure participants joining by phone have a positive audio-only experience?
- If you are planning to record presentations and sessions, ensure that videos will be captioned and transcripted.
- Prepare a checklist for speakers to encourage them to consider accessibility and plan for it accordingly.
Preparing for the event
- Familiarize yourself with preparing presentation decks optimized for accessibility.
- Use plain language. Test your text with the Hemingway Editor.
- Use inclusive language. Reference APA Style: Bias-Free Language.
- Define specialty terms. Don’t assume everyone has expertise in your area.
- Spell out acronyms.
- Include alternative text for images. Alt text decision tree.
- Make body copy at least 18px or larger.
- Use sufficient color contrast. Test your color contrast with the WebAIM Contrast Checker.
- Review any accessibility features available to participants, such as captioning.
- Let the participants know if and when video recordings and presentations will be available.
- Let participants know that the videos will be captioned (and if you will also be providing a transcript).
- Include your speaking points on a slide so people can choose to read or listen.
- Use live captioning, if available.
- Describe the visuals on your slide.
- Include key takeaways as text on a slide.
- Repeat questions asked both verbally and in written form.
After the event
- Ensure that videos are captioned. Live captioning is not always accurate and doesn’t capture everything. You will want to have videos captioned after the fact.
- Provide a transcript. A simple text-based document is sufficient.
- Make recordings and transcripts available on accessible platforms, e.g., if content is posted behind a login, make sure someone using a screen reader can access it without needing to ask for help.
- Ask for feedback. You participants are the best position to recommend how you can be even more accessible and inclusive for future events.
Making your presentation more accessible ensures that your content is more inclusive and easily available for a wider audience. When executed well, these tips will make your virtual presentation smoother and easier for all audiences.