Accessible Meetings

15 Tips for Accessible Meetings

Accessible Meetings

To make meetings accessible to everyone, you don’t need to know about disabilities. According to the CDC, one in four US adults has a handicap, and many are invisible. Temporary or situational impairments exist. Noisy environments can affect a person’s hearing, requiring closed captioning at a meeting.

Increase people’s comfort and participation, even if they don’t have a disability, for more inclusive and productive meetings. Introverts, non-native English speakers, and others can make meetings more pleasant.

Video conference software and technology can make meetings more accessible, but they’re not the only factors to consider. Culture matters. So do hosts and guests’ speech, actions, and interactions. Here’s how to make meetings more accessible. Virtual meetings are more accessible than in-person ones, as you’ll see.

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1. Encourage speaking out

Create a speaking-up culture to make meetings more accessible. No matter how inclusive and accessible meetings are, you can’t please everyone. If your meetings are safe spaces where people can ask for what they need, you can make adjustments and offer access as needed. If a participant feels safe posting, “Your screen-share is unclear. ” or ” Please adjust your camera angle and surroundings “Then everyone succeeds.

2. Prepare an agenda and materials

Meetings need an agenda. For regular meetings, the agenda may be in the name (weekly check-in, for example), but it helps if everyone knows what the meeting will address. A clear agenda helps participants prepare. If a disabled person is asked on the spot to participate in a meeting, they may not be prepared.

Provide guests with any materials, such as presentations, before meetings—or at the start. When you give individuals a copy of your presentation, they can utilise screen readers, zoom in as needed, follow along at their own pace, and make notes if a technical malfunction stops the real-time presentation.

3. Add Alt Text to Slides

Before distributing meeting materials, add alt text to all important photographs. Alt text gives visitors who can’t see the image a quick explanation of it. If you include a financial chart, the alt text should be “Chart showing 50% growth from January to June 2022.”
Some meeting software doesn’t allow adding alt text to chat-shared photographs. If the image is significant to the meeting, the presenter can give a quick verbal description, or someone can type it into the chat: “Alt text: a room on fire and a dog sitting in a chair saying, ‘This is fine.'”

4. Partially asynchronous meeting

Sending slides or meeting materials before a meeting can be asynchronous (meaning people are not interacting in real time). Asynchronous meetings waste less time and allow participants to process, reflect, and brainstorm before discussing live. Introverts, people who don’t know the meeting language, people with speech difficulties, and others find it helpful to arrive to meetings prepared.

5. Call recording

Record critical meetings, huge meetings, and webinars and post the footage. Having a video means everybody who couldn’t attend may watch it. It enables people replay critical meeting segments, take better notes, and explain anything they didn’t understand. People watching the video can slow down or speed up the playback, turn on closed captions (many video conferencing solutions offer them), and obtain an audio transcript.

6. Closed captioning

Zoom Meetings, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams all offer machine-generated closed captioning for meetings. Microsoft Teams has a feature called Live Captions(Opens in a new window) that translates captions into 34 languages (counting several dialects of English among them). Windows Live Captions prioritises accessibility. Google Meet can transcribe and translate languages.
Auto-generated captions always fall short, but Teams now lets you ask a professional stenographer to transcribe meetings in real time and display more accurate closed captioning to participants. It’s called CART captions, and you must provide your own stenographer.

7. Opt-out, not opt-in, accessibility features

Virtual meeting software familiarisation is an often-overlooked stage. Few people knew how to safeguard meetings during the COVID-19 outbreak, which led to many Zoom bombings. Zoom should have emphasised security.) Explore your software’s accessibility options and see which ones you may turn on permanently. This makes meeting accessibility opt-out, not opt-in.

8. Slideshow best practises

Review best practises for generating and presenting slideshows before a virtual meeting to promote accessibility. Slideshow type should be 40pt for in-person meetings and 24pt for virtual meetings. Making the font that big forces you to limit page text, another recommended practise. Don’t overcrowd slides. Always list essential products, places, and people (including titles) in full. Some may hear “Cary” instead of “Gary.” Record it.
PowerPoint Live allows users to activate a screen reader on PowerPoint presentations; screen readers don’t work on screen sharing presentations. You should still distribute the presentation before or at the start of the meeting, but PowerPoint Live is handy if someone didn’t get it.

9. Video and Face Centering for Presenters

Enable your video and centre your face when presenting. Ensure your face fills the screen. People can read your lips and facial expressions, which helps them grasp what you’re saying. If you’re using sign language, back away from the camera to show your torso.

Presenters should use video cameras. I think enabling cameras is a personal option for other players. Presenters and meeting hosts find it useful to view the audience’s faces during a meeting since it tells them if the meeting is engaging and if people are grasping the topic. If a presenter’s microphone cuts out, muffled participants may cup their ear or wave.

10. Speak clearly, slow down, and repeat information

During meetings, speak clearly and calm down. Better audio and closed captions will result. Repeat crucial information if it’s missed. This advice applies to any business circumstance, but it’s especially important in virtual meetings, where technology concerns might inhibit dialogue.

11. Use headphone mics

Using a headset and microphone improves video calls and increases accessibility. The headphones prevent feedback, and the microphone amplifies your voice. Even cheap headphones with an inbuilt mic are better than nothing. Bluetooth devices are normally good, but as they age, they may cause static or garbled audio for meeting attendees. Ask for a thumbs-up if everyone can hear you clearly.

12. Blur your background

A crowded background can hinder focus. When speaking, make sure your background is uncluttered and impartial, or use a blurring filter. This is standard in video conferencing software.

13. Mute yourself, passive participants

Passive meeting participants who don’t mute their microphones are disrespectful and inaccessible. Accidental noises can disrupt others’ hearing and degrade closed captioning.

14. Include full name and pronouns in profile

Most meeting software lets you add your name to your profile so attendees may recognise you. Make sure to include your full name and pronouns. Zoom features a pronoun field. Your name and pronouns let others identify you. Normalizing pronoun clarification can enable others feel comfortable discussing theirs and promote an inclusive workplace.

In large meetings or meetings where not everyone knows you, say your complete name slowly and clearly so everyone can hear and pronounce it.

15. Long-meeting breaks

Schedule breaks for meetings over 45 minutes. Everyone will appreciate them, but they’re especially helpful for pregnant women, persons with chronic pain, and anyone who find sitting still irritating.

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