While any meeting will benefit from good meeting etiquette, virtual meetings require even greater attention to appropriate preparation and conduct to be successful. Making these meetings accessible creates additional challenges.
Good practices for accessible virtual meetings
- Include all pertinent information in the meeting invitation
- Meeting link
- Agenda and expected outcomes
- Ask if any accessibility accommodations are needed
- Provide well-designed, accessible materials: These can make sure everyone is ready to discuss meeting topics, allow people with blindness or low vision get familiar with any visuals that might be used, and introduce ahead of time any terminology or jargon that might be used to American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters or live captioners.
- Provide a list of keyboard shortcuts for the meeting software
- Send invitation early enough to schedule ASL interpreters and/or captioners if needed
- If necessary, do a practice run with the meeting software to get familiar with the technology
- Set up your computer ahead of time: Open any applications and documents you need and close all other tabs and windows
- Assign an "accessibility advocate" for the meeting to
- Remind participants to announce their names before speaking
- Monitor (and read aloud, if needed) the chat, if used
- Monitor the live transcriptions, if used, to correct errors
- Arrive in the meeting room a few minutes early, and welcome participants as they arrive
- Start and end the meeting on time
- Record the meeting to allow transcription, if needed
- Ask everyone to introduce themselves at the beginning of the meeting
- Describe and explain any visuals not provided ahead of time
- Describe and explain any processes that are occurring (simulations, demonstrations) if necessary
- Provide for accessible alternatives for collaboration if needed (e.g., voting, hand-raising)
- If using graphics or slides, be sure that they are designed properly and are accessible
- Facilitate to make sure all are included and heard
- Do any required pre-work before the meeting
- Be sure your computer is set up properly ahead of time for the meeting software being used
- Arrive in the meeting room on time
- Don't multitask
- Be a good listener
- Participate from a quiet location; have your phone and any messaging apps muted. This will reduce distractions.
- Say your name each time you speak so that everyone knows who is speaking; this also helps ASL interpreters and captioners
- Speak clearly and not too fast; this will benefit many, including ASL interpreters and captioners
- Don't speak when someone else is speaking - this makes interpretation or captioning very difficult if not impossible
Web Conferencing Systems
The University of Washington's DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) group has laid out these requirements for accessible Web Conferencing Systems:
- Video quality and performance must be sufficient to support sign language....The ideal product would at least allow two relatively large windows, and ideally users would have flexible control of those windows, and could resize and position them individually as needed.
- The product’s controls must be accessible by keyboard, without requiring a mouse....Keyboard users must be able to easily navigate between [multiple] panes and use all the features.
- The product’s controls must be accessible to screen reader users. The panes and controls must be sufficiently labeled so blind users know where they are within the interface, and can easily navigate to particular features and use those features.
- The product’s interface must be customizable. Individuals using screen magnification software may find it difficult to navigate if their screens are cluttered with information....
- The product must be easy for everyone to install and use....The more steps required of users for getting up and running, the more likely we are to lose potential participants if they encounter technical difficulties.
- [Links to articles on WebEx and Google Hangouts, also U of MN Supported Web Conferencing Tools for Faculty & Staff - Features Matrix]