Tips for Accessible Online Meetings

Introduction

  • Difficulties that meeting participants experience in the real world are amplified online.
  • In a physical meeting, a person who is deaf or hard of hearing might use a combination of lip reading, residual hearing and a hearing aid. In an online environment, lip reading is difficult and audio quality is poor. They might only pick up 40% of what is being said.
  • In a physical meeting, a person with low vision might sit near the screen so that they can see better. Screen sharing over the internet makes small or low contrast text even harder to read.
  1. Ask

    • Ask users what they need to be able to participate in meetings effectively. Would they like live remote captions provided by a third party? Would they like documentation to be provided ahead of time?
    • Ask participants ahead of time if they have a preferred platform. Different meeting software has different accessibility features. A person with a vision impairment might prefer Zoom because of its ability to interact with their screen reader. A hearing impaired staff member might prefer the auto-captioning feature in Microsoft Teams. A staff member with anxiety might want to participate via audio only.
  2. Tell

    • If you have a disability, you don't have to disclose it. But sometimes it can make things easier if you are explicit.
    • If you have a preference for a particular meeting platform, let the meeting organiser know beforehand.
    • You might want to send an email outlining your requirements, prior to the meeting.

    Example: Email prior to a meeting

    "I have a moderate hearing impairment, so meeting via video conference is more effortful and exhausting for me than it is for most people.

    You can help make our meeting easier for me in a few simple ways:

    • Ensure your mouth is clearly visible, well lit, and not blocked by your hand, cup or book
    • Speak fairly closely to your microphone
    • If you’re using the built-in microphone in your computer, turn off other sounds that the computer will make, such as pings when emails arrive and try to reduce background noise as much as possible
    • Turn on the auto-captions in MS Teams via ‘More Options’
    • Follow the captions as we talk
    • Use the text chat on the side if the sound breaks up or content seems misunderstood"
  3. Distribute printed materials ahead of time

    • Everybody knows how much it easier it is to attend a meeting that has an agenda and papers distributed beforehand.
    • Distribute documents prior to the meeting. This makes it easier for everybody to follow along and increases engagement.
    • Even if you have your presentation on Powerpoint, it will still look blurry for some users if you are screen sharing.
    • Documents with a lot of detail are very hard to read on screen.
  4. Reduce background noise

    Background noise is particularly difficult for meeting participants who are using assistive listening devices. Assistive devices don't know if someone is speaking or just banging the desk accidentally. Both sounds will be amplified.

    To minimize background noise:

    • Remind meeting participants to mute their audio when it's not in use
    • Have one person speaking at a time
    • If using the computer microphone, turn off reminders or close applications that will send reminders
    • Put your mobile phone on silent
  5. Use chat

    • Most video conferencing platforms have chat functionality built in
    • Use chat functionality to avoid the need for users to use the microphone. Agreement can be indicated by typing '+1', disagreement with '-1'. To join the queue to speak type 'q+'
    • Post links to web pages in the chat window
  6. Use non-verbal feedback

    • Whilst chat is great for small groups, it can get unmanageable when there are large numbers of participants.
    • Zoom offers the ability to provide non-verbal feedback, including 'yes', 'no', 'go slower', 'go faster', 'like', 'dislike', 'clap', 'need a break' and 'away'
    • To access non-verbal feedback in Zoom, click on 'Participants'
    • If you can't see non-verbal feedback icons, log into your Zoom account, click on 'Settings', scroll down and make sure that the 'Nonverbal feedback' option is selected
  7. Describe what you are seeing

    • If users are viewing documents distributed prior to the meeting, let them know where you are up to, e.g. 'We are on slide titled Financial Planning'
  8. Summarize meeting outcomes

    • When an online meeting ends, so does the record of the discussion.
    • If there are resolutions from the meeting or important information and links that are raised, send these to participants after the meeting via email or chat

Contact Us

For assistance or to report accessibility problems please contact:

Andrew Normand
Web Accessibility Lead
Email: anormand@unimelb.edu.au
Phone: +61 3 9035 4867