When hosting meetings or providing live training online using a platform such as Webex, being mindful of the following issues and strategies support accessibility for people with disabilities.
Many of the most effective strategies that assure an accessible online meeting are not technical and involve simple practices such as the following:
- Use UMBC-supported technology that is a good match for the presenter(s), meeting content and attendees. Become familiar with general best practices.
- State the meeting purpose or agenda in advance, and get familiar with accessible features of the meeting software and tools that will be used.
- Provide a point of contact with the invitation or announcement to follow up with logistical questions and/or access needs.
- Have slides and all other shared materials available for distribution in advance, and check them for accessibility before distribution, including the captioning of video links embedded within presentation slides. Check captioning accuracy early by playing the video with the sound off and the captions on. Sometimes existing video with closed captioning is available, other times captions may require editing for accuracy.
- Ask panelists/presenters to state their name when they speak, to orient and include people with visual disabilities as well as people with technology irregularities that may attend by phone, During Q & A, restate questions/significant content in chat before providing an answer or follow-on content. Mention name and details like position (moderator) or department (if posted) as relevant to support the exchange and continuity of transitions.
- Plan for pauses during or between activities. Some participants may need to stretch, catch up or shift based on internet bandwidth, notetaking strategies, and more
- Be descriptive when sharing visual content – this includes attendees who are blind and low vision, much more frequently, people who connect by phone due to technical complications.
The following UMBC resources include a variety of additional tips
- DoIT’s wiki has a wealth of information for supported technology including FAQs, training videos, best practices and more.
- Event Planning provides resources and training for event planners to support a successful event for people of all abilities
- Commonvision can design and produce accessible promotional and print materials.
- Instructional Technology has PIVOT resources for faculty
Faculty, staff, students and campus guests who are Deaf or hard of hearing depend on live captions and sign language interpreters in order to access spoken content of an online meeting. Undergraduate and graduate students who seek these services enroll with Student Disability Services for accommodation, while UMBC employees (faculty, staff and student workers) work with the employee accommodations via Accessibility and Disability Services..
Other meeting participants enjoy the benefit that auto-captioning can provide with both live and recorded meetings. The following pages have additional information about captioning:
Accessibility of Online Meeting Software
Most of the tools used at UMBC to support teaching and learning have help pages that connect users to strategies such as keyboard shortcuts and provide instructions on how to use tools with screen readers and accessible technologies. Meeting hosts, trainers and instructors should be familiar with software accessibility resources and share them (if appropriate) with meeting participants upon request.
- Webex Accessibility
- Blackboard Accessibility: with Ultra and Ally
- Panopto Accessibility
- Google Meet
- G Suite/Google Workspace
- Microsoft Office 365 Accessibility