August 23, 2021
Ensure your events are accessible for attendees of all abilities with our checklist.
With more events, courses and activities moving online, digital literacy isn’t just a “nice-to-have” but a requirement for daily life. However, the virtual format is more likely to exclude people with disabilities. Attendees with disabilities may have difficulty accessing parts or all of your virtual event, or viewing sessions in their entirety.
Not only does this reduce attendee satisfaction, but it affects more people than we think.
According to the Harvard Business Review, 30% of the workforce meets the federal definition of having a disability. Of those, 62% have an invisible disability, meaning that they don’t disclose it unless absolutely necessary.
Summed up, that means many of your guests have disabilities that could diminish their experience at your event. And more likely than not, they won’t disclose that condition to your staff.
So as you host virtual events, you need to proactively ensure that your content is accessible to everyone in our audience—and present accommodations in a convenient and compassionate manner.
We also advise consulting the ADA’s Telecommunications Amendement to remain in compliance with federal law. Although the current law does not explicitly mention virtual conferences, it does require,” … providers of telecommunications services to ensure that such equipment and services are accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities, if readily achievable.”
With some technical savvy and foresight, though, you can host events that welcome people of all abilities. Here’s where to start:
The concept of accessibility, in a digital context, can be hard to grasp at first.
In person, accessibility refers to the physical adjustments made to help attendees navigate your venue, like ramps for wheelchairs, braille on doors, interpreters to communicate via sign language, etc.
In the virtual setting, accessibility refers to the adjustments that help people of all abilities navigate your event website and view presentations more easily. Common adjustments include:
This isn’t about convenience, but about inclusion. Because the presence and quality of these adjustments determine whether or not a person with a disability attends the event at all: 71% of people with disabilities leave a website immediately if it’s not accessible.
So as an event organizer, your job is to provide an equivalent experience to everyone, including those with a disability. Here’s where to start:
From content and design to audio and UX, you need to provide attendees the most convenient and user-friendly experience possible to prevent “othering” their audience members. But that takes a lot of technical know-how, especially when you’re all-in on planning the other aspects of your event.
For that reason, we recommend partnering with a service that is fully dedicated to web accessibility, providing necessary accommodations, and adapting them as technology and regulations evolve.
For instance, BigMarker integrates with multiple web accessibility services built to ensure that your site has the color contrast, text size, closed caption, audio description, etc. necessary to stay compliant with the ADA, WCAG 2.1 AA and AAA requirements.
Your virtual event platform may provide these integrations for no additional cost, or you may need to purchase a separate monthly license for your web accessibility service.
Below are some of the services we use to ensure our events are accessible and compliant with regulations:
AccessiBe is a web accessibility service that embeds directly into your BigMarker event site to bring it into ADA compliance.
AccessiBe's interface is a session-based design and UI adjustment tool that makes accessibility modifications based on a user's individual needs. These include content, color and display and navigation adjustments, all of which are compliant with WCAG 2.1 AA & AAA requirements.
In addition to adjusting users’ interfaces, AccessiBe’s AI machine learning technology also uses AI technology to handle more complex accessibility adjustments such as screen-reader optimization and keyboard navigation.
UserWay is another service that embeds right into your event site to make on-the-spot adjustments for ADA compliance. UserWay’s services include web accessibility, content accessibility, contrast scanners and more. A full list of their solutions can be found here.
Customers need to purchase a Userway license to implement it in their BigMarker event site. Licenses range from $49 to $3300+ per month, depending on the range of service and the size of your event. Once it is purchased, your Event Producer can implement Userway into your event site. For more information, consult Userway’s pricing options.
If you choose not to use a web accessibility service integration, follow the Web Accessibility Initiative’s best practices for site design. This ensures that attendees with vision impairments and/or color-blindness are able to navigate your site and access key event locations. WAI recommends the following:
For more information on implementing these features, consult the WAI resource linked above.
Closed captioning services can help people with hearing difficulties see the text being spoken and thus make the most of your session. In addition to standard closed captioning, you can complement your audio presentation with other accommodations, including:
During the registration process, ask guests if they need accommodations. This will allow your team to plan for and execute any specific accommodations as thoroughly as possible.
You can ask attendees to disclose any necessary accommodations in a custom registration field or free text box on your BigMarker event’s registration form. For those who may want to discuss their request in a more conversational, personalized setting, we also recommend providing contact information for a member of your team. This one-on-one interaction signals that your team takes accessibility seriously, which is reassuring for guests new to the virtual event setting.
List all provided accommodations in the event’s FAQ section. Tell attendees how they can access and use each of these adjustments on the platform itself: Will they need to press an icon or open a drawer on the main interface? Will they need to press a link or access a subpage of your event site? We recommend screen recording this process with Loom or a similar tool, then including in this guide.
Also provide attendees the contact information for someone on your team, in case attendees need more detail about an accommodation. Note that you can create and customize your FAQ on BigMarker to communicate this information in the most impactful way.
Your presenters can also promote accessibility through small tweaks to their speaking style.
Without body language or facial cues to go off of, it’s impossible to judge how each individual participant is following the presentation in a virtual setting. This means that participants will need to proactively reach out to staff with any questions or concerns related to accommodations. And that’s not always comfortable or reassuring. So provide your guests with a contact, either from your support or planning team, specifically to respond to their queries. The faster your team’s response time, the more comfortable guests will be with raising concerns and participating in your full event program.
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