Sharron Rush: I'm Sharon Rush, executive director of Knowbility. Happy to welcome you to this episode of BADA, which is Planning Inclusive Events. We find that we really more and more have to think about that not only in the physical space when we welcome people to places like our AccessU conference that's coming up right here in Austin, Texas in just a couple of weeks, May 9th through 12th, but also as we welcome people to online spaces that we've come to rely on so heavily during Covid and since then, as we realize that the idea of being able to attend events both online or in person, gives people a lot more choice, which is a really good thing, especially for people with disabilities. It gives us, as event producers, the responsibility to think about accessibility now in more dimensions than just are the doors wide enough and do we have a wheelchair ramp?
We're going to explore some of those today and I am really pleased and proud to introduce my colleague Melissa Green. Not only is she our senior accessibility consultant, but she has quite a background. She's an experienced teacher, she's a librarian and a technology professional. Melissa has specialized for years in instructional, accessible, and assistive technology, and she helps diverse learners, teachers, and other technology users meet their goals of diversity and inclusion. She got her start in accessibility at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. She holds a master's in education and curriculum and instruction. You're in really, really good hands with Melissa. Besides that, she's a lovely person, charming and delightful, and so it's my pleasure to turn this all over now to Melissa who's going to walk us through, and I might chime in from time to time, but she is definitely going to lead us through this discussion today. Thanks again for being here. What do we do with questions? Do we put questions in the chat? Are you going to take us through that too, Melissa?
Melissa Greene: I will, yeah. Happy to walk us through that. Yeah. Thank you so much.
Sharron Rush: Okay, well take it away. Thank you.
Melissa Greene: All right. Thank you so much Sharron, and thank you all for being here today. As Sharron mentioned, my name is Melissa Greene. I'm a digital accessibility specialist with Knowbility Accessibility Services Team. Before I talk too much more, I wanted to point out that the slides for today's session that I'm sharing on the screen are available to you pasting a link in the chat. This is a Bitly link, so the way that it works is the address is bit.ly/bada, B-A-D-A, 2023 April, is our long shortened link.
I'm thrilled to see folks here for the latest installment in Knowbility's be a digital ally series. Today we are looking at considerations for planning inclusive and accessible events. After this welcome and introduction portion, which typically introduces each BADA session, we'll turn our attention to things everyone can do, event planners and organizers, presenters, participants to ensure events are inclusive and accessible to the widest possible audience. After attending today's session, you should be able to name at least three things to keep in mind when planning an event to ensure it is accessible, and identify at least three resources you can use to design an accessible event. We know we've done a good job today and accomplished our learning goals if you are able to do those things, thank you for letting us be a part of your accessibility journey. We welcome your questions. As Sharron mentioned, you may type them in the chat as they come, and at the end there will be an opportunity to jump on the mic if you would rather ask those by voice.
Zoom offers many accessibility features such as the automatic captions in use today. If these do not address your needs, for example, automatic captions are not sufficient accommodation for someone who needs ASL interpretation. If these automatic features don't meet your needs, we're happy to provide things that do. Please ask for help when registering. Finally, if you need help in the doom space today, please don't hesitate to ask one of my Knowbility colleagues. I'm thankful that they're here to help.
We've heard a little bit from Sharron already about Knowbility's story and our background. I want to reiterate a bit of it because it does come into play when we're talking about events. Knowbility was founded in 1999 as a nonprofit organization. Our mission is to ensure equal access to technology for people with disabilities. We're based out of Austin, Texas, but we work around the globe and our community programs and advocacy work is sponsored by generous donors like you. This work includes programs like this one, Be A Digital Ally or BADA, in which we talk about best practices in accessible design. BADA is designed for any type of content creator, whatever your level of expertise, whether you were voluntold to manage your church group's Facebook page or you are an experienced web developer now shifting to accessibility. No matter where you are in your journey, we're here to meet you.
We also have our annual AccessU conference where tech professionals, content creators, policy makers and advocates come together for deep learning on digital accessible design, accessible digital design. This year's event is a hybrid one. As Sharron mentioned, we'll be taking place May 9th through 12th in Austin, Texas, and online tickets are on sale for what will be, I think for wonderful days of just good hands-on, in-depth learning with peers and experts from around the world on accessible digital design and technologies. The accessibility internet Rally is our annual website competition where we pair development teams with nonprofit organizations to design accessible websites and apps in a practical hands-on setting. Company teams are trained and mentored while building a basic website for nonprofit organizations and artists. Finally, our community programs also engage in initiatives around K-12 digital accessibility. Please consider supporting Knowbility in our mission through our donate page, and that's knowbility.org/donate.
So we're just getting started and you've already heard me say access or accessible or accessibility probably about a dozen times. What does it mean for something to be accessible anyway? For something to be accessible, people with disabilities must be able to access and utilize it as fully and independently as someone without a disability. For example, can they see and hear the content? Do they know where to go, what to do or what to expect? Can they independently navigate using their preferred tools? Can they independently complete tasks and explore all areas? Can they fully participate in an authentic manner? If you thought you might have noticed me emphasizing certain words as I read that, then you're right. To me I think the key there is fully and independently. Can a person with a disability access the full experience on their own just as easily as someone without a disability? To me, that means something is accessible.
Why does it matter? Well, 15% of the world's population roughly numbers vary, has some form of disability, and this is according to the World Health Organization. We have to be careful with statistics. Many people don't consider themselves as disabled, as defined by the World Health Organization. The disability identity is rich and complex and very diverse. What one person might consider a disability, others might consider just being Melissa, for example. What the numbers do tell us is that there are quite a few folks who are impacted when there are barriers, and there are quite a few folks that we leave out when we fail to ensure that our events are designed to be accessible and inclusive.
Designing for accessibility doesn't just benefit people with disabilities. The things that we do to ensure our events are accessible to people with disabilities improve the experience for everyone. I'll give some examples, not necessarily from an event context, but in a broader digital context. We'll kind of drill down into events momentarily, but let's think about someone who is deaf or hard of hearing. If they're watching a video that has audio dialogue, they're not able to access that audio dialogue unless it is captioned or transcribed. Someone who maybe is not deaf or hard of hearing who could hear the audio track, may not be able to access the dialogue if they're trying to listen to the audio track in a noisy environment or maybe in a very quiet one where they can't turn up the volume or perhaps in a video, the foreground audio is not stand out enough from the background audio. Perhaps their primary language is a different one from the speaker in the video.
There are so many ways in which captions and transcripts can benefit all video users, not just those who rely on them to access the content, the deaf and hard of hearing users. Other examples, we think about color contrast. Someone who has low vision, it's very important that they're sufficient color contrast between the foreground and the background in order to perceive text. This is also important for considering things like viewing content on a mobile phone with a lot of bright sunlight on the screen or maybe from the back of a large room with a projector with a dimming bulb. The considerations that you keep in mind to ensure access for the person with the disability, again, are going to improve that experience for everyone. All of these are reasons why it's important to ensure our events are inclusive and accessible.
Another topic that we often hear discussed in the context of accessibility is assistive technology. Assistive technology as defined by the World Health Organization enables and promotes inclusion and participation, especially a persons with disabilities, aging populations, and people with non-communicable chronic disease. The primary purpose of assistance products is to maintain or improve an individual's functioning and independence, thereby promoting their wellbeing. This is a pretty formal definition. Another way that I think of assistive technology is an assistive technology is something that enables you to do something that you wouldn't be able to do without it or it enables you to do something better using it than you would be able to do without it. Under that definition, a pencil is assistive technology. You can write with it when you couldn't write without it. Glasses are an assistive technology. Those are definitely needed in order to perceive the content that's written on the chalkboard in the front of the room.
Also the things we might more readily think of as assistive technology, things for living independently at home and in the community, wheelchairs, lifts, but also technologies for computer access, communication devices, screen readers, switches, things like that. Anything that you can use to help you do something you wouldn't be able to do otherwise or do it better can be thought of as assistive technology. I've already mentioned some examples of assistive technology specifically when it comes to computer access. Some of the things that we think about are screen readers, refreshable braille display, alternative navigation methods, close captions, transcripts, magnification, dark mode, high contrast, and other ways to adjust colors and web aim, if you wish, has some great examples of additional technologies and strategies.
Finally, the last thing we like to share at the beginning of every BADA is that accessibility is a journey. A colleague shared this quote, "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better." No one is going to get it perfect. Accessibility is a moving target. One of the things to me that's so challenging, exciting and challenging about working accessibility is that content is constantly being created and web technologies are constantly evolving. You're always going to be playing catch up, even if you front load accessibility in your organization, do the best you can until you can do better and then do better I would also add to this.
I'm seeing a question in the chat that I think it's important for me to answer now before we move on. I'm going to going to address it. I referenced switch use. Switches are a type of assistive technology that are typically used by people with mobility disabilities that enable them to access and interact with a device or software. For example, someone who had limited movement in their hands or arms but could have purposeful movement of their head, could have a button mounted on the headrest of their wheelchair that they could use, essentially as a mouse click or an enter button so that you're on the computer and you encounter a link and you want to visit the webpage that it links to oversimplifying it. Essentially a switch user can do that by moving their head and pressing the switch rather than having a controlled fine motor movement with their finger.
There's lots of different kinds of switches. The one that I see the most, I think looks like the easy button from the Office Depot commercials. There are also things like a sip and puff switch where you use your breath to control movement, for example, or other actions. For example, you could have a sip and puff switch attached to a CD player and inhale or sip to start the music and exhale or puff to stop the music, though that's sort of oversimplified. A switch is typically a physical or hardware device that someone uses to help them interact with a technology, whether it be a computer technology or something in the home or otherwise. Hope that's helpful.
All right, so that's a sort of front ended introduction. Quite an introduction, quite a preface. Let's go ahead and move into the main event, which is our discussion of planning inclusive and accessible events. In turning our attention to event accessibility, specifically, I'd like to start by talking about why event accessibility is so important and to provide a framework and some additional context for this. I'll start by introducing some terminology or in the case of a couple of these terms, revisiting them in the context of event planning. Accessible. We started this portion of the session with a definition of accessibility. Another way to think of accessible, especially when we start thinking about events, is that materials and technologies are accessible to people with disabilities. If people with disabilities are able to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as people who do not have disabilities. Accessible media and materials, we'll be talking about that as part of conference and other event planning.
Those would be things like print and electronic documents, audio and video files. These are materials that can be used by users of all abilities, either directly or with assistive technology. We'll talk about accommodations. Accommodations are adjustments necessary to ensure equal opportunity. These are determined based on an individual's disability and needs, and might include things like extended testing time in an academic environment, things like eText or braille, sign language interpreters or specific assistive technologies. An individual might need these things in order to have equal access to events and programs. Finally, a couple terms around universal design. Universal design, which refers to the design and composition of an environment so it can be accessed, understood, and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability, or disability. This concept grew out of architecture and physical space design where it referred to constructing things that were accessible to the widest possible audience.
A pretty classic example of this is a curb cut. A curb cut is required. It's necessary for a wheelchair user in order to cross the street or someone using a walker, for example. That curb cut is hugely beneficial to someone pushing a stroller as well, or pulling a big heavy suitcase. In the digital context universal design refers to creating digital content that can be accessible to the widest possible audience. Finally, universal design for learning applies that concept of universal design to education and instruction by providing a set of principles for curriculum development that ensure all individuals have equal access to learn and provide some different ways of doing that. These are intersecting and associated concepts that often come up when we talk about accessibility overall and specifically planning accessible events.
We talked about some of the reasons why it's important to ensure your events are accessible. Additionally, when your organization puts on an accessible event, you're demonstrating a commitment to building an inclusive community, ensuring that your organization is adhering to state and federal regulations and guidelines and all other policies and laws it also guarantees the event is available to the widest range of participants. Many, many benefits to having an accessible event. Knowbility has a special connection to this topic, as we've mentioned, as we grew in a from an event, the AIR competition, and this is illustrated on this slide by the AIR, Accessibility Internet Rally logo and artwork featuring a soaring purple airplane. As Austin, Texas was becoming a technology hub in the mid to late nineties, the community of people with disabilities were essentially locked out of participation due to barriers inherent in the technology itself. This is our origin story.
A group of leaders from academia, industry, government and disability advocacy groups created a contest to engage the tech sector in a fun friendly competition to remove tech barriers and create accessible websites. The Accessibility Internet Rally, AIR competition, taught accessibility design in the context of a creative and joyful community engagement event. A hackathon before the world knew what a hackathon was. As AIR gained local fame and began to produce in other cities, Knowbility was formed to be a permanent home for the award-winning community effort. This is Knowbility's birth or origin story. We continue to host events and programs to promote the education and application of accessible digital design, and we're committed to ensuring these events and programs are accessible to the broadest possible audience.
On this slide, there is an image of a jovial looking group of conference participants gathered outdoors with name tags on lanyards around their necks. John Sladen AccessU 2023 is Knowbility's upcoming digital accessibility training conference in person. Attendees participate in live workshops and events at St. Austin or St. Edwards University in Austin. Those participating virtually do so online using Zoom Events. Knowbility is very much currently aware of the need to plan for inclusion when conducting events that are in person, online, and hybrid.
How do we do it? We've talked about sort of what it's about. Why is it important? What do we actually do to do it well? The W3C worldwide web initiatives, making events accessible checklists provides a good jumping off point for this discussion. It offers considerations for presenters, participants, and organizers before and during, in-person and online events. Link to the checklist will be included in the resources portion of the slides. It starts with the basics that apply to everyone. Be open to diversity in your audience and any accessibility issues.
Essentially, you want to be aware that members of your audience might not be able to, and I'm not going to say might not be able to. I'll say you will have people in your audience who are not able to see well or at all, hear well or at all, move well at all or speak well or at all, or understand information presented in some way well or at all. For example, to be inclusive event organizers ensure the remote platform and the in-person venue is accessible. Speakers describe pertinent visual information. Participants speak clearly into a good quality microphone and other considerations that we'll share today.
Most aspects that are generally good practice in conducting an online event or meeting or any of it or meeting are also particularly beneficial to individuals with cognitive disabilities. For example, it's considered in a meeting or presentation to be a best practice to start with an overview and end within a review of the most important points. Everyone can benefit from this type of introduction and synopsis. Consistent design and slide presentations to reduce cognitive load. Using clear and understandable content. These are things that are vital for individuals with cognitive disabilities, but improve all participants experience.
When planning for an inclusive event, you should respect participants' needs and be open for other accessibility issues. People might have accessibility needs that you didn't think of. For example, someone might need to take breaks at sometimes to take an insulin injection. Someone might vocalize and randomly shout out during the session. Someone with a physical disability who can't take notes might need to record the session. There are many things that might come up. I'll pause. Often speakers won't know if participants have disabilities, for example, at a large ...
Melissa Green: If participants have disabilities. For example, at a large conference where organizers didn't ask the registrants, the speaker may have no idea who was in their audience. In some cases you might know of participant's accessibility needs ahead of time, but even then, something could change. A new participant could join at the last minute or someone's ability status could change before the training for example. Make your event and your presentations accessible so you are prepared for such situations and they won't require accommodations or special adjustments. One way that you can ensure the event is accessible to everyone is to ensure that the materials and media you provide are accessible. You want to offer them an accessible formats, using formats that allow users to adapt the presentation to meet their needs, such as word processing, HTML, EPA. Most users are skilled at adapting word processing formats. You want to avoid providing material only in one format that a user can't adapt.
For example, a PDA or a protected Word document. Those are things that if they aren't created with accessibility in mind may be difficult for someone to access and interact with. But particularly if they're locked down and they can't change the font or the font size or the background color of the page. Some participants will need print material and alternative formats such as large print and braille. If you give participants accessible digital material in advance, then you usually don't need to provide these alternative print formats. When it comes to the materials, you want to make sure that the electronic materials are accessible. For example, alternative texts for images, marking up headings, HTML material. For example, the conference website should minimally meet web content accessibility guidelines standards, I'd say 2.1 AA, although depending on your context, different standards and guidelines might apply. But ensuring that alternate formats are available for print materials and electronic or digital materials can be transformed.
For multimedia, that means making the media fully accessible, including audio and video used in sessions and recordings of sessions provided afterwards. For example, provide captions or transcripts for audio and provide audio description of visual information in videos. By keeping these considerations in mind, event participants can create accessible materials and media which are necessary for some participants, but help everyone.
Turning now to guidance specifically for organizers, organizers should ensure the event is accessible to speakers and participants. And this is in reference to an in-person event. For example, ensure the building entrance, the meeting room, the presentation stage, the bathrooms are accessible. There's a lot of checklists online. There are many checklists online to help ensure facilities are accessible. You want to provide accessibility information about the space to participants such as the accessible route between meeting rooms. If possible, let speakers and participants check out the space in advance in order to suggest optimum positioning of the speaker, check out signage and so on. Ensure they can navigate and use the space.
Sharron Rush: Melissa, can I tell a story about inviting speakers and not?
Melissa Green: I hope you will.
Sharron Rush: About their accessibility needs. Because years ago when ... There's a big interactive festival in our town called South by Southwest, and it's really exciting. It's a lot of new technology and things where you just get really excited about all the things that technology is doing and can do and a lot of future thinking. And it started pretty small. It's now grown to where it's, I mean, it takes over our city in the beginning of March every year. And at the start, I was pretty determined that if we're going to talk about technology, we're going to talk about how to include people with disabilities. And so I would put together panels of people to talk about that. And one year I invited this woman who was a blogger. She had cerebral palsy, and her language was very difficult to understand, so she used a communication device that she would program, but she was a wiz.
Twitter had been introduced at South by Southwest the year before, and she was called herself the two thumb blogger or some name like that. Anyway, so I invited her to speak at AccessU. They put us in a room with an elevated stage with stairs. She had a big heavy motorized wheelchair. And so when they realized when she got there and they realized, "Oh, well, okay, well we'll go get this portable wheelchair lift and we'll be able to put you up on the stage." So they go and they get it and they bring it in. Nobody had tested it, it didn't work. And so she just said, "Look, I don't care. I'll be over here."
But they insisted. And so they got, I don't know, four or five guys and they lifted her wheelchair up onto the stage. So now we're like 10, 15 minutes into the time that was allotted for her talk. But she just recovered with absolute grace and did her talk and then used Twitter. She had the screen up there and she said, "I'm going to tweet and let's see among us who can do the tweet the fastest." Well, she was remarkable. And they had the whole Twitter feed up there and she was answering people and talking in Twitter, and it turned out to be a great event. But it was pretty embarrassing for South by Southwest. And what they did after that was they started asking their speakers on the form, will you need accommodation? So that as they accepted speakers to their conference, they integrated that.
And exactly as Melissa said, you learn as you go along and if you make a mistake, you don't let that stop you from trying. And we have too. We have made many, many mistakes along the way. In creating the AccessU conference. We've learned about ways to improve. And so I think one of the things that we all have to trust each other about is the fact that if you are clear in your intention, you let people know that, "Oh yeah, I didn't think about that. I'm sorry, and I'm do it better next time."
And also that you think about alternative ways to do things. I think that's one of the benefits of trying to create inclusive events is that it does expand your imagination for, okay, we're going to do this thing. How are we going to be able to do it in a way that's in inclusive? So for example, we had a karaoke night at AccessU one year and we had ASL interpreters up there dancing and doing their sign. So I think this planning thing is just really terrific to think ahead about what are all the different use cases that we might need to meet. So thanks for letting me tell that story.
Melissa Green: Thank you for sharing it. And as you were talking, it brought to mind an experience I had as a member of a planning group for an event I organized at university about deaf history and culture. And our planning group was comprised primarily of deaf and hard of hearing colleagues, but we still messed up. We booked this gorgeous room that we were very proud of that happened to have a huge wall, window wall right behind all the speakers and all the light kept coming in, made it very difficult to see our mouths, which made it difficult for the interpreters and the participants to figure out what we were saying. And we thought we were quite inclusive. We had all the interpreters and everything, but we didn't physically go to the space at the time of day at which the event would be held to determine that the sunlight would make people's mouths difficult to see.
So we did better the next year. As Sharron suggested, sometimes people do. So a number of things that organizers can do to ensure that accessibility needs can and will be met in advance and won't require accommodations. When it comes time to set up, organizers should ensure an adequate sound system and arrange for microphones. This is huge. Particularly it comes to recording, the best thing you can do to get a high quality recording that someone can hear and understand is making sure you capture the sound well in the first place. Having a high quality microphone that's positioned appropriately.
Wireless lapel microphones might be best for speakers so they can move around. It's important that when the audience is commenting or asking questions that they're provided with microphones as well. I've seen this done in a few different ways. If you're able to, I think it's nice to have a separate mic for that so we're not the prisoner running back and forth. But regardless, whatever you have to do. I think it's my opinion that anything that is said in a conference session that is not said on a microphone doesn't exist. Basically it's like a white text on a white background. If it's not on the microphone, the person probably didn't hear it presented or didn't hear the question.
Arrange for good visibility of the speakers and interpreters. I mentioned my own personal experience with this momentarily. You want to have good lighting on the face and upper body and avoid distracting background such as bright sunlight or flashing light. Arrange for good internet connections. In person, participants might need internet access to follow along with an online version of displayed material. If you're using remote captioning, you'll need a reliable connection that has enough bandwidth for transferring that audio. When it comes to remote events, strong, stable internet connections help speakers come through clearly. So for example, requiring your presenters to use a hardwired internet connection or a connection that meets certain requirements. Consider accessibility when planning the schedule. Some people need breaks to take care of medical needs. For in-person, it may take more time to get from room to room. I have noticed and appreciated that a couple of accessibility conferences I regularly attend tend to leave more time between sessions because folks physically need more time to get from room to room.
While I may not need extra time to physically navigate, I appreciate that time for a cognitive shift. Just take a little break, finish learning here, make my way down the hall and learn something else. So providing space and time for people to get around as they need to. Keep to the schedule as much as possible. Inform participants ahead of time of any changes. This is important for any event, but can be particularly important when individuals have medical or personal care needs that need to be scheduled around or have caregivers that they schedule that if a schedule change happens, that could be pretty significant. So try to keep things to the schedule. Plan to limit distractions. Catering, setting up during a meeting or presentation. This is one that is hugely distracting for me, whether it's because it's loud and it's making me difficult for me to hear or it's loud and it's distracting me or I smell it and I'm hungry. If possible, if you can have catering wait to set up or set up in an adjacent space like a hallway, that's preferable.
Consider not having background music in the halls or conference rooms including during breaks or keep the volume low. Background noise can be difficult for people who are hard of hearing and for captioners. I often play music. I teach a class online as an adjunct faculty instructor and often play music at the beginning of class and while they're working on activities. And I once had a student very gently point out to me that I had asked them to watch a video. Yeah, I was playing music for them over my speaker, so they were trying to watch a video with audio on their own device while I was playing audio, and that was not good. So I learned and I'm doing better. Give speakers accessibility requirements and guidance. Tell them that you expect their material and presentations to be accessible to people with disabilities. Consider including accessibility requirements in any contracts.
There is a resource from the W3C web accessibility initiative that includes a suggested language that you can use around expectations for speakers. Coordinate getting material to participants, interpreters and captioners. Work with the speakers to get the material to participants with accessibility needs to interpreters and to captioners before the event. This one's really hard as an organizer and a presenter. I know as a presenter, I'm often working on things up until the very last minute. And it's easy for me to think, Ooh, well, I'm just uploading it to the conference website or sharing a link. I can keep working on it," but at some point, someone who needs an alternate format or someone needs to print that out to take notes needs me to stop changing it. So it's important to work with organizers to make sure presenters get their materials in and they can be provided to attendees. Sharron, do I see you raising your hand and trying to get my attention? No, you're just moving? Okay.
So that is actually a concern that I have heard around a number of conferences, including a recent large accessibility conference, which was, "Well, they said all the stuff was going to be online, but none of this speakers had uploaded it yet." So in some cases the organizers are handling it and others it's the speakers. But if possible try to get those materials available in advance. Speaking of speaking, speakers planning their sessions should provide material ahead of time. Again, that's through the coordinator or the planner's roles to move the material the presenter provides it. Provide slides, handouts, and other materials to the participants, the interpreters, and the captioners as needed, making it accessible. One thing to keep in mind is that content and screen sharing is often not accessible when it comes to remote or hybrid event situation. And this has continued to evolve as these applications are becoming more mature.
But if you are sharing material by showing what is on your screen, if what is on your screen is essential information, assume that an assistive technology user is not receiving any of it. Assume that their only way of accessing this information is you describing it. So I've been trying to put this practice into practice as we've been meeting today. So I haven't been describing the appearance of every slide because I'm providing the same information or content in my voiceover. But in a couple of instances where there was information conveyed visually in a way that was important, I described it. So on this slide, there's an image of the AIR accessibility internet rally featuring a soaring purple airplane, for example.
Providing those materials in advance is particularly helpful for interpreters and captioners. If you can provide a glossary or a list or even just any sort of explanation of terms, acronyms, and names that you will use, that is also very helpful as well. You want to caption the audio or otherwise make it available. So if you as a presenter are including any audio in videos or otherwise, you want to make sure that you provide it in text or video that is captioned. Consider the activities you plan to do as a presenter. For example, it may be difficult or impossible for some people to use an online polling feature, arrange sticky notes on a virtual or physical board, or respond quickly to questions. And again, this is one of those things where necessary for some, beneficial for all.
I had the experience of doing this in the class that I taught. I was really excited about incorporating all this rich interactive instructional technology polling and visualizations only to learn the second week of class that many of my adult graduate students were attending class by listening on their phone in the car, and they weren't able to access any of those activities. So it didn't mean I couldn't do a poll. It is meant I needed to make sure I provided a mechanism for the folks who didn't have the polling feature on their app to chime in, whether it be raising their hand or typing the response in the chat.
Sharron Rush: And Melissa, I think that's a really important point to emphasize because a lot of times when you start talking about accessibility and inclusion, people who are not familiar with it think you're saying you can't do these things, they're forbidden, you have to dumb everything down, you have to minimize everything. And I would just really emphasize the fact that, again, I think that designing inclusive events is a real spark for our imagination because it says, "Okay, I'm going to do this interactive thing. If I have people in the room who have mobility impairments and can't get down on the floor and do these things," or whatever the barrier might be, just be sure that you're thinking of alternative ways for them to participate and get the same information and a relatively similar experience.
Melissa Green: Thanks for that. Yeah, thank you Sharron. I love what you said about a spark to the imagination there because I think about that a lot with universal design for learning. I'm thinking of an instructional activity where students in my discipline sometimes have to do a Venn diagram, so overlapping circles to represent searches and or not [inaudible] operators. So a pretty common instructional activities to have students draw those diagrams. Well, what if you can't draw a diagram on the whiteboard? Well, there's lots of other ways that it can be fun to make them, like having students place hula hoops on the floor or bracelets as smaller manipulables or do something digital. Moving a colored circle onto another colored circle. Doesn't mean you can't do the Venn diagram activity because everyone in the class can't stand at the board and write with a marker. But you get to think of a whole bunch of other ways to do it too, which is really cool.
When preparing slides and projected material, it's important to limit the amount of texts on the slide. I'd say this slide is on the text-heavy side. Even though the text is large and fairly spaced out, I wouldn't want to put a lot more text than this on a slide. It's difficult for many people to read text and listen to the speaker at the same time. You should avoid putting everything you're going to say on the slide. Instead, maybe put a sentence, a word or two. If you need additional notes as the speaker, maybe use the presentation notes for that. Make text and important visuals big enough to be read even from the back of the room. Use an easy-to-read font face. Simple fonts with consistent thickness are often easier to read from a distance. You want to avoid kind of fancy fonts that are difficult to read, things that are overly stylized and scripted.
Using sufficient contrast between colors, such as the contrast between the text color and the background color in between colors and graphs. There's guidelines for webpages that can help you determine sufficient contrast, even if the medium is different. But using those appropriate text and background colors assures everyone will be able to perceive the content. Consider how best to use the motion or animations like text or images flying in from the side. Does the motion make the information easier to understand? Is it necessary? Certain types of motion can be distracting for some people. And other types of motion can even make some people ill, such as blinking or flashing, which could be problematic for people with photosensitive epilepsy, other seizure disorders, migraine, so on. And again, already talked several times now about making sure your material is accessible by providing best practices such as descriptive link texts, semantic HTML, image descriptions, and so on.
During the meeting, speakers can ensure accessibility by describing all relevant visual information. So saying all the information that is on the slide, text and graphics. Describing the visual information in the environment, so if I were to ask everyone in the room, raise your hand if you've ever had an accessibility question and you didn't know how to answer, I should then say to the audience, "About half of the attendees raise their hands." Or, "Left side of the room is laughing," or something like that because that allows everyone to kind of participate in that experience. "Wow, it looks like about half of us have had difficult questions," or, "Oh, these people think that's so applicable to them that they're giggling." So describe what's happening in the room. This one is a tough one for me. You might have perceived it, but I'll go ahead and call attention to it anyway.
Speaking clearly, avoiding speaking too fast. And this is important so participants and interpreters can better understand you and keep up. Use simple language. Keep things at a lower reading level. Avoid jargon, acronyms, idioms, things like that. Give people time to process information. Pause between topics. When you ask if anyone has questions, some people will need more time to think and kind of form their thoughts into words. Some people won't have the questions or have that ability to do that until days after the session. Be visible and in good light when you talk so participants can see your face. That helps people hear and understand better. Be careful not to face away from the audience. When you turn to the slides or if you're on your webcam, it can be easy to kind of get out of practice, but be careful.
Use a good quality microphone. Ensure that all of the sound is audible through the sound system if it's relevant. For example, if someone puts a question in remote chat or if someone doesn't have a microphone, repeat their questions or comments into your microphone before replying. And limit distractions. Ask people to turn off mobile phone notifications while they're in your session. Ask your co-presenters to turn off system notifications.
PART 2 OF 4 ENDS [00:54:04]
Melissa Green: The presenters to turn off system notifications, discourage side conversations during meetings and presentations. I'll back up. Other things to keep in mind in addition to these very helpful suggestions from the W3C WAI. A conference or event is not just the formal sessions, it is essential to consider the accessibility of social and networking events that are a part of the conference. Sharron shared one example already of the karaoke event from AccessU and how attention was paid to make sure that that was accessible and inclusive. Sometimes event organizers will do a really good job of arranging for interpreters for the sort of formal scheduled content, the keynote, the sessions, but that won't be provided for social and networking events, and that is a vital part of the conference experience as well. So give consideration to providing accommodations for those things as well.
Communications and marketing, when you're promoting your events it's important to ensure your materials are accessible in order to make sure that message a promotion gets to the widest possible audience. Things like if you're using Facebook, captioning the videos you post there. If you're using Twitter or Instagram, describing your promotional images in the alt fields there. Very important to consider the way you promote and tell people about the event before it takes place, not just the accessibility during the event. You will receive accommodation requests, expect to receive these ahead of time and say yes if you can. You probably can say yes, you may not think you can say yes, but say yes if you can.
Some examples of accommodations are, let's say chemical and light sensitivities. A conference might have a fragrance free policy, no flash photography policy, ASL applause instead of clapping noise, canceling earmuffs, sensory free rooms. These are all kind of accommodations that might be provided at a conference. And again, the more you do upfront as the organizer to anticipate and provide, the less burden it places on the speaker or attendee to have to request. A colleague who shared some feedback on the slides today, I think, put it really well. She said, accommodation request ahead of time, demonstrate your care and alleviate the burden on disabled folks. So, prepare for accommodation.
Quiet rooms have come up a couple times in a couple different contexts, that is a sensory disability consideration that benefits everyone. Having a designated pet area or animal area, this is in reference to making sure that there's appropriate spaces and facilities for service animals, emotional support animals, other animals that may be present. Train all staff and volunteers to answer accessibility questions, I can't remember who wrote it, Sharron, I don't know if you saw it or not, but I saw a recent post from a colleague in our field who asks like seven different people for accessibility information at a conference before they finally got to what they needed, which was a room number. Just because someone has a disability, they may not need special help. It's likely they need information that any volunteer could be trained to provide. Train all staff and volunteers to answer accessibility questions. And finally provide wayfinding maps that are clear, easy to understand and accessible.
But I'll conclude the presentation portion of our session by sharing three sources addressing event accessibility. First is the resource around which this presentation is built. The Making Events Accessible Checklist from the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative is for organizers, presenters and participants and meetings, conferences, training and presentations that are remote or virtual in person or hybrid. I also really like W3C WAI's Accessibility of Remote Meetings, this document was published by the Accessible Platform Architecture's Working Group as a group note, it summarizes things people should consider when conducting remote and hybrid meetings. And the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network Hosting Inclusive Events Guide. This guide has instructions for setting up accessible events and conferences in which everyone can participate. It presents an accessible event planning process that includes four steps, universal design, physical accessibility, sensory accessibility, and cognitive accessibility. Especially like that this guide is written in plain language, it addresses scenarios of conflicting access needs, so in which two participants have different access needs that are kind of coming into conflict. It includes suggested timelines for planning, multi-day conferences and single-day events, and provides a helpful checklist for assessing the physical accessibility of meeting sites. Particularly like that resource due to its focus on cognitive accessibility and its authorship by self-advocates.
All right. So we've shared a lot of information with you for the last hour. I've seen some questions have been coming in via chat, I haven't had a chance to review the specific questions, but open things up now. What questions do you have colleagues? Is there anything in the chat to which I need to respond or would you like to jump in? Share thoughts? Let's open up the discussion. What are your questions? Feel free to raise your hand or ask in the chat.
I see a question from Caroline. Hi Caroline, thank you for sharing your question. Are certain live stream platforms more accessible than others? And if so, which ones? Similarly, which have the best automatic captioning features if we cannot afford CART? I don't know if any of my Knowbility team colleagues were involved in the selection of what made us choose what we choose for our virtual meetings.
Sharron Rush: Well, in terms of AccessU, we've done AccessU in person at St. Edwards University, this is our 20th year, so for a long time. And we had that production down pretty much to a science where we had the ASL interpreters there, they were on call for people who wanted them. We did ASL and CART for all the keynotes. But then in 2020 we had to pivot to do online presentations, I mean, we had to pivot on a dime and try to make our online AccessU just as accessible as had gotten our in-person one. And we looked at all the conference conferencing apps, and I don't want to mention them by name because absolutely none of them met accessibility requirements in January, February of 2020.
And so what we did is we sort of cluged together this series of Zoom presentations, but it didn't have that conference cohesion. You couldn't like wander down the hallway and go into one classroom and another classroom. And so we kept looking, but by 2021 we still hadn't found one that actually where we were able to feel like we were producing an online conference that was fully accessible using any of those apps. So, we've pretty much stuck to Zoom. Last year we were able to be back at St. Ed's, but because we learned from a lot of people with disabilities that it's great for me to participate remotely because then I don't have to worry about travel and accommodations and it's really nice, so please don't stop doing the remote part. So then in that year we said, okay, we're going to do a hybrid, but still we didn't find a good alternative to Zoom. So we have pretty much kept to the Zoom.
I don't know if Mark is still here or not, he's our systems administrator and this year we're going to do another hybrid event for AccessU, but Zoom has met this demand. They now have sort of a conference app, it's not as sophisticated as some of the others but you do have the ability to go to just one URL and be able to access all the different, what we call, classrooms, because AccessU is a training conference. So I would say from our experience, Zoom is still the most accessible choice for meetings, webinars, conferences. And the other thing that we've really appreciated about Zoom is the fact that they listened to us. When we give them the feedback that this thing didn't work or for a while with the captions, you had to set up captioning ahead of time. So if you hadn't remembered to do that, or if, for example, I love to have captions anytime I go to any online thing because of the fact that it helps me just focus, my attention will wander and so I will routinely whenever I go to a webinar ask, can you please turn on the captions? Well, it used to be in Zoom that if they hadn't made that accommodation ahead of time, they would've had to stop the meeting to turn the captions on and proceed. So we complained about it, I'm sure other people did too.
But I just loved the way that the Zoom folks listened to the accessibility needs of the public and respond to it. Because other places, there was one conference app that we wanted to use, and this was pre-COVID, but we wanted to have an app for AccessU so that when people were there, they could access the schedule on an app. So we worked with a company that was pretty good but not quite there, and we paid them, we, this tiny little nonprofit organization, paid this development corporation $8,000 to improve the accessibility of that app so that we could use it and we used it that year and it was really fun to have an app. And then we went back next year to do it again, and in their iteration they had just written over the code and gotten rid of all the accessibility features that we had paid for.
So, I think this is where we as the public have a lot of power because if we all are asking these conference providers, platforms, I think learning management systems for classroom activities, all of the platforms that we use for different purposes, if we say we're not going to buy it, we're not going to subscribe to it, we're not going to use your tools unless you are making those considerations, I think that's a very, very powerful position for us to be in as consumers of those products. And the more people are aware of it and the more they ask for that, then that's how things are going to change I think on those platforms.
That was a lot, but what you wanted to know was who's the most accessible and the answer is Zoom.
Melissa Green: Thank you, Sharron. I think it's helpful for folks to hear that experience of coming to choose Zoom and the things that didn't work along the way. I did share a resource in the chat while Sharron was responding the W3C WAI Accessibility of Remote Meetings resource I mentioned has a section on selecting an accessible remote meaning platform that has some things you might consider when evaluating whether to use Zoom or Teams or what have you.
What other questions do we have or thoughts to share? Well, when questions come following the session, I hope you will reach out-
Melissa Green: Oh, yes.
Caroline: I have a question. I just didn't want to bring it up until-
Melissa Green: Hi, Caroline.
Caroline: I don't know if anything can be done about this. I'm an intern in Canada and my internship does not have more money for me to do professional development. And I discovered this conference a week ago and it looks amazing, but the scholarships closed in March. Is there any kind of support for someone in the field of accessibility who's precariously employed, who'd really, really loved to [inaudible] the whole conference in one or two sessions in particular?
Sharron Rush: Send me an email. Let's talk.
Caroline: Thank you so much, Sharron. I will definitely connect. Because honestly, I had this open at work today and I was looking at it being drooling at how amazing it looks and knowing I had no way to [inaudible]-
Sharron Rush: Well, I have to tell you, it is amazing. I've been going now since the first one and the top of my head comes off every year. It's just incredible the work that people are doing. We get in our bubbles of thinking that everybody in the world cares about it in the same way that we do. I interrupted you, Melissa, you should tell them about... Did you say we need your feedback, y'all? It would be really helpful.
Melissa Green: I will go back, I'm just bringing up some visual as we're [inaudible]-
Sharron Rush: Oh, the AccessU slide. Yeah. It's so much fun. The St. Ed's campus is gorgeous, so I imagine you wouldn't be able to travel to that. But still, we make all of the classes now since we had that experience, we make every single class available to... Well, maybe there's two exceptions because some of them are interactive. But most of the classes are also available remotely. We make some of the networking and the social events available remotely too. So yeah, it's an absolutely wonderful event. And if you can come, please do. And if you need a scholarship, I bet I can find one.
Caroline: Thank you so much. I can't wait to connect.
Sharron Rush: But yeah, let's talk about the feedback because that really does help us. We'd love to know more about what kind of short seminars like this, webinars like this would be helpful to you and how we did on this class today.
Melissa Green: Yes, we would love to hear from you through the link in the chat. There's also a QR code on the screen if you want to take a quick snap in the next five seconds. Five, four-
Caroline: I think it's really useful to have... There's not a ton of free training out there for folks who are not total beginners on their accessibility journey, but also aren't developers, which is one reason I'd love to attend your conference. But for example, learning about the sip-and-puff specifically today was super useful to me, even though there's other things I've heard before. So kind of that intermediate level workshop that maybe is even more specific than inclusive events, but specifically like inclusive conferences or something would be really cool.
Melissa Green: Thanks for that feedback. I appreciate it. And if you aren't already, if you're a Slack user, you might want to check out the Web Accessibility Slack. There's many channels in there, including one that posts events and professional development around digital accessibility, that's how I generally find out about free webinars and things like that to keep up. A lot of intermediate stuff in there because it's accessibility professionals having the discussion. So another place you might look.
All right, well, we welcome your feedback. Please do fill out the survey. Let us know what you thought about today, what you might like to learn with us in the future. Speaking or the future. Our next session is scheduled for May 18th, this is actually Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Be digital allies on the third Tuesday of the month, and in 2023 that happens to be Thursday, May 18th. We hope you join the global celebration of digital access and inclusion by joining us for an exploration of the tools and strategies people with disabilities use to access digital content. You can learn more and register at Knowbility.org/digitalally. When you arrive at the BADA page, there should be a link to tics to register. If not, I'll provide it direct link in the chat.
You might have heard us mention AccessU a few times, it's definitely what's on the brain right now. I'll just add, because I didn't realize until it became a Knowbility employee that the John Slatin AccessU Conference is named after Dr. John Slatin, a pioneering leader in web accessibility. In case you're wondering what's that about. Come to the conference and Sharron will tell you more about him. Our goal isn't to not just talk about accessibility, but to teach coding, usability and inclusive design skills and more in an interactive and communal environment. So I do hope you'll visit our website to learn more and register. We are all in for AccessU right now, clearly.
Knowbility's community programs, including today's workshop, are funded by donors just like you. Your generosity supports our work in digital equity for people with disabilities. If you are inspired to make a gift, please visit knowbility.org/donate. If you are able to give, thank you. And thank you for your presence today, the gift of your presence and your participation. We look forward to continuing to learn and grow with you as we all work together to ensure digital access to technology for people with disabilities. Thanks so much for joining us today. Have a great [inaudible]-
Sharron Rush: Thank you, Melissa. Great job.
Melissa Green: Thank you.