Accessible Remote Attendance

Conference organizers, please consider creating your own accessibility statement, and a FAQ site on accessibility issues. For an example of good practice visit the accessibility statement page from UbiComp 2020 , and their Accessibility FAQ site.

Whether organizing a fully remote conference or allowing remote attendance to in-person sessions, conference organizers should make sure that remote attendance is accessible. Click the links below to jump to that section of the page:

Considerations in Choosing a Videoconferencing Technology

Organizers should be thoughtful about their choice of videoconferencing technology, including considering the cost of the software, how easy it is to use with a screen reader, and the level of support for captions.

Specific Technologies

Advice on specific technologies was written in March 2020 and may be out dated. However some of the concerns and considerations will be important.

  • Microsoft Teams
    • Supports blurring your background.
    • Teams seems to be screen reader accessible. This accessibility support article from office support has specific details and useful keyboard shortcuts for screen reader users.
    • Teams has a preview feature to support live captions. They support only english US at this time. You can learn more in this microsoft support article on using live captions in meetings.
    • It may be best to arrange an alternate mode of communication for text chats that require immediate attention, and to send out the text of all in-meeting chats to attendees after the meeting.
  • Zoom
    • All parts of the app, excluding the chat messages are screen reader accessible on windows and Mac Os X (link to zoom keyboard shortcuts).
    • When using chat messages for in-meeting or in-conference communication:
      • Have an alternate communication channel setup for chat messages that require immediate attention.
      • It may be best to send attendees the text file of the chat that zoom generates after the meeting. This zoom help article explains how.
    • Include information about multiple ways to join, for example, phone (for multiple countries if you are expecting an international audience) in addition to the meeting link while dissemination.
    • Zoom does not have live automatic captioning support. They however have options to add a captioner  or a third party captioning service. Hosts could assign a participant to type captions, type captions themselves, or link with a third party captioning service through Zoom’s API. This getting started with closed captioning page contains instructions to set this up.
  • Hangouts/Google Meet
    • Google meet is screen reader accessible.
    • When dialing into google meet, this G Suite updates blog informs that the dial-in number will update to the attendee’s country based on location. In case the attendee’s country is not supported, the next best alternative will be suggested. This would help international attendees participate without incurring additional cost.
  • Webex

Running an Accessible Multi-Session Virtual Conference

When planning for breaks, social events, and other elements of a multi-session virtual conference, be sure to consider the accessibility of those events. For example, a moderator might be required even for breaks to help to mediate turn-taking and connect the chat to the video interactions.

Best Practices for Meeting Participants

Participants in remote sessions can also make important contributions to the accessibility of the session, for example (we summarised the most important ones, see a more detailed list from University of Washington here):

  • State your name and institution each time you speak.
  • Limit the background noise as much as possible and mute yourself when not speaking.
  • When URLs or other resources are mentioned, have someone designated to type them into the chat window – or follow up with other participants after the meeting.
  • Allow folks to ask questions either by (1) using a hand raising function and asking verbally or (2) by typing in the chat.
  • Check your name in the chat and change it to the name you are known by professionally if it defaulted to something else.
  • Have your video camera on when you’re speaking (if possible), since video can help with understanding speech for non-native speakers and people with hearing impairments.
  • Have the chat up and visible so that you can see input from people who are participating via chat.

Best Practices for Moderators and Session Chairs

Moderators and sessions chairs can greatly influence the behavior of participants and help to make a session as accessible as possible. For example, moderators should do the following:

  • Notify participants if you plan to record, for example saying, “We plan to record the meeting for the purposes of notetaking. If you have any concerns let us know in advance.”
  • Pause regularly to make sure all remote attendees have a chance to speak, and check for questions in both the chat and audio channels.
  • Consider having a second person (for example a student volunteer) whose job is logistics: making sure people can access the room, managing the chat, and so on.
  • In general, when possible, have someone manage the chat and another person lead the session. Depending on the size of the session, it can be challenging to do both.

Turn-Taking & Questions

Establish a procedure for turn-taking and questions at the beginning of the session, and clearly inform all participants of the procedure. Make sure this includes options that are accessible to those using captioning or translation services, and those using screen readers. Other suggestions:

  • You may also consider using platforms such as GroupMe or Google Docs for discussions.

A checklist for the moderator’s backstage

1) Try not to have too many documents that people need to manage at once. For example, make sure that the online agenda has everything in one place (link to video conferencing, link to presentation materials, link to the paper in the ACM DL, etc). Slides available early is also a good backup plan

2) Try to have a well defined process for asking for help or questions (relating to access, etc), including well before the start of the conference. 

3) Possibly connected to 2, have a well known back channel for anyone hashing out problems with access in the audience. In zoom in particular all of the private chats are released with transcripts, so this should be separate . Have a well known back channel for organizers (maybe slack)

4) Make sure that there is knowledge well in advance about where last minute changes will be posted, ideally something that can push notifications (such as a slack) because there can be changes due to security, etc that can be very hard to find out about.

4) Check that the speaker support includes conclusions of how to support questions and answers by audience for speakers with disabilities

5) Consider piloting things ahead of the conference

6) Consider pre-recording talks to make things smoother and allow for captioning

7) Consider making a demo to show off how the accessible presentations are “done right”

8) Pre-define a strategy for how communication of time prompts work

9) Consider critically what to keep and what to drop as a part of the whole experience. Shorter talks, zoom fatigue, and so on are things to consider.

10) Adding events that are wholly inaccessible would be better replaced by other kinds of communication and support for socializing. How can we make conferences rich and exciting rather than a pale comparison of face to face. Don’t throw away all the social time for example! Multiple modalities, maybe not simultaneous, be critically creative !

11) Try having open discussions and panels more to complement pre-recorded talks.  Think about an AMA for presenters instead of talking. 

Best Practices for Poster Sessions

Combine asynchronous and synchronous by having slide decks of related posters that include pre-recorded videos and people can comment on them and a link to an in-person discussion/link. See ASSETS 2019 posters instructions (every poster author was asked to make a 2 minute audio version for blind and vision impaired people): https://assets19.sigaccess.org/posters_and_demos.html#postera11y (but need to add captions to).

Alternative Idea: A twitter version of poster sessions (https://twitter.com/PhotonicsMeetup/status/1257695345154437121https://www.nature.com/articles/s41578-020-0194-0.pdf)

Make sure that moderation list above is fulfilled, especially for things like: there is knowledge well in advance about where last minute changes will be posted.

Best Practices for Presentations

Automatic Captioning

Automatic captioning should only be used as a last resort if other live-captioning options are not available. Unlike humans, automatic captions cannot detect and compensate for environmental errors (background noise, overlapping speakers, etc).

To make sure your live captions are as accurate as possible, try to follow these best practices:

  • Speak clearly, slowly, and directly into the mic. As your distance from the mic increases, captions may become less accurate.
  • Avoid locations with background noise.
  • Avoid having multiple people speaking at the same time.

As of March 2020, how to enable captions in:

Apps such as Otter.ai or Thisten can help generate transcripts from audio. They can also be integrated with Zoom conferencing (currently in beta).

Video Remote Interpreting vs Video Relay Service

[coming soon]

Making Videos Accessible

When presenting videos to attendees, whether in a presentation or showcase, it is critical to make visual and auditory information accessible to all attendees.

This section primarily covers the visual information in your videos, but it is just as important to caption the auditory information in your videos. Refer to Rev.com’s ADA rules about captioning videos and the CVAA rules should be considered for this. To add captions, refer to 3PlayMedia’s Ultimate Guide to Closed Captioning about how to develop and embed captions. For presentations where speech and video are included together, see our section on captioning above.

Deriving from the ACM SIGACCESS Accessible Presentation Guide, there are guidelines that presenters can use while designing and playing videos:

  • Choose a good color scheme
    • Use high contrast – Should work in dim and bright rooms
    • Make sure visuals are discernable for color blind users
  • Use more than color to communicate information
    • Color coding cannot be understood by people who are blind or colorblind
    • In addition to verbal emphasis, one could use bold, italic, underline, *astrices*, etc. to convey emphasis
  • Avoid using animations
    • Unless with a detailed audio description
  • Inclusion of text
    • Text should be at least 24pt.
    • Use Sans Serif fonts

While presenting a video:

  • Read the text
    • Speak every word in the video, including long excerpts
  • Verbally present graphics
    • Provide a text equivalent for graphics, but not for graphics that are only meant for decoration
  • Speak clearly
    • Speak at a proper cadence; Do not speak too fast, useful for interpreters
    • Face the audience: People can hear you and be engaged; People who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing may be able to lip read
    • Use understandable terms: Avoid slang, colloquialisms. Understand your audience.

If the video is part of a showcase, or is not presented live, then the video should contain an audio description. Refer to Digital.gov’s page on How to Make Audio Descriptions for how to implement audio description, and the American Council of the Blind’s Page on Guidelines for Audio Description.