Considering some of these tips can help you quickly and drastically improve how accessible it is for your attendees, whether your event was always intended to be virtual or it shifted online unexpectedly.
1. Ask attendees if they have any accommodation requests or needs
While you shouldn’t ask people if they have a disability, you can absolutely ask if they have any reasonable accommodation requests or accessibility considerations they’d like you to be aware of.
As long as you’re respectful of people’s privacy and are genuine in your desire to learn how to make your event more usable for them, many people will be glad to share this information with you.
2. Send out materials before and after the event
If there is something that people can read or view before the event to feel more prepared for it, give them the chance to do that.
Everyone appreciates feeling like they’re prepared for what’s in-store, and for some people with disabilities, this might give them more time to review the material in the way that works best for them. It will also give people a chance to let you know if they need something in a different format or have any questions without feeling like they’re disrupting the live event.
The same goes for the after-party. If discussions, learnings, and anything else is appropriate to share with the group, go ahead and send those materials out after the event to give people a chance to review at their pace.
3. Incorporate some accessibility basics no matter what
While there may not be time to become an accessibility expert overnight, you can still spend a few minutes to learn the basic concepts of what makes information accessible or inaccessible. When you do this, you can begin to identify pieces of your event that may create unintended barriers.
- If you use imagery, think of ways to provide the same information in text or another format for people who can’t see it or see it well.
- Consider ways you can present auditory information in a visual way. If you can’t commit to captioning all of the content in time, can you use visual elements on the screen to capture the essence of what’s heard?
- If there will be attendee participation, is there a way to allow for multiple methods of input and interaction? Relying solely on speech or solely on online chat may not work for some people. Think of ways to overcome this, like giving people the chance to submit questions or ideas before the event.
4. Supplement the spoken with the visual and the visual with the spoken
The presenters or facilitators can really make or break the inclusion of the event.
This simple rule can knock down a lot of barriers that would come up: If there is something that’s displayed visually, talk to it and explain it so everyone gets the information. If there is something that is heard, make it appear visually, even if it has to be typed quickly or informally.