Accessibility Practices for Virtual Meetings


Whether your meeting is for executives, or a small lecture for students, it is always good to plan ahead to make a successful presentation. Please use the following tips to make your virtual meetings more accessible and easier to manage.

Section 1: Before the Meeting/Lecture

Provide Accessible Slides and Outlines

  • Use a large accessible font for your slide text, around 18pt. Slide titles should be bigger.

  • Use your software’s accessibility checker to be sure that your slides pass accessibility standards. Another thing you can do is download a screen reader like NVDA or JAWS. Once downloaded you can use them to test your presentation. Accessibility Checkers are very helpful but should always be considered a first step when checking your content for accessibility issues. This is because accessibility checkers make mistakes. Screen readers are a good way of checking content because if something is read out of order or incorrectly, you will know and it could be an issue the accessibility checker did not catch.

  • Share your slides in advanced. Commonly, the information is shared the day before the presentation. This will give readers the opportunity to look over your information themselves and come into your presentation more prepared.

Testing the Presentation Environment

  • Prepare Your Physical Workspace for Optimal Performance

    • Illuminate from the Front: Ensure light sources face you, not behind. Natural light complements web cameras, aiding the visibility of facial expressions and nonverbal cues.

    • Audio Quality Check: Test your microphone setup by recording a sample. Listen for echoes, muffled sound, crackling, and pops/breathing sounds.

    • Video Framing: Crop out distractions and keep the focus on yourself. Frame the video to include your head and shoulders within the frame. This will enhance engagement and maintain professionalism.

  • Prepare Your Virtual Workspace for Seamless Interaction

    • Familiarize with Meeting Tools: Practice using meeting tools, such as screen sharing and polls, with a colleague to ensure proficiency and smooth operation during the presentation.

    • Live Captioning: Consider providing live captioning services upon request for presenters or attendees. Although advance notice is preferred, strive to accommodate requests promptly.

    • Customizable Settings: Enable attendees to adjust various settings to tailor their experience.

    • Recording Settings Experimentation: If you want to record the meeting, experiment with recording settings to ensure that the resulting recording accurately captures slides and speakers as intended. Explore different options to achieve the desired outcome effectively.

Striking a Balance Between Participation and Privacy

  • Initiate Meetings with Audio and Video Disabled: Start meetings with audio and video turned off by default, allowing participants to choose their level of visibility. Encourage participants to enable video and utilize virtual backgrounds as desired.

  • Profile Update Invitation: Encourage participants to update their profiles to enhance interaction while respecting privacy. Suggestions include:

    • Adding their name for identification purposes.

    • Sharing their pronouns, which can be included in the last name field.

    • Uploading a photo to represent themselves or their identity.

  • Respect Privacy Preferences: Offer alternatives for participants with privacy concerns, such as using initials or generic avatars instead of photos. Ensure that all participants feel comfortable and respected in the virtual environment.

  • Organize Participation Strategies for the Meeting

    For Chat Engagement:

    • Designate a Chat Monitor: Assign a person to oversee and vocalize the chat discussions.

    • Enable Auto-Saving for Chat: Ensure that chat messages are automatically saved for reference.

    For Audio Participation:

    • Utilize Auto-Mute: Set the meeting to automatically mute participants to minimize disruptions.

    • Provide Non-Audio Options: Offer alternative methods for participation without relying on audio.

    For Interaction Controls:

    • Consider Accessibility: Provide alternative participation methods for individuals without access to features like raise hand controls or reactions.

    For Breakout Room Usage:

    • Preplan Instructions: Develop a shared document containing directions or prompts for breakout groups before the session, as shared slides from the main meeting room do not transfer to breakout rooms.

    For Remote Group Participation:

    • Appoint a Room Facilitator: If a group joins remotely with a single audio/video feed, designate a facilitator in the room to manage audio controls and voice questions or answers.

Section 2: During the Meeting/Lecture

  • Provide Audio Descriptions

    • Request speakers to introduce themselves before speaking.

    • Describe visuals on screen, excluding purely decorative images, to convey information to all participants.

  • Chat Monitoring:

    • Assign someone to monitor the chat.

    • Verbally summarize chat discussions and address questions raised.

  • Acknowledge Audio and Video Delays:

    • Adjust your pace by slowing down and pausing regularly to allow participants time to respond and ask questions.

    • Acknowledge additional delays if using live captioning.

  • Pace and Connection Check-ins:

    • Periodically check in with participants regarding pace and connection.

    • Incorporate short breaks to accommodate cognitive and bio needs and allow sign language interpreters to switch.

  • Camera Positioning:

    • Look directly at the camera when speaking.

    • Adjust laptop position or video conferencing window to ensure your face and shoulders are within the frame.

  • Effective Participant Management:

    • Familiarize yourself with meeting controls to:

      • Mute all participants.

      • Hide participant videos.

      • Move participants to the waiting room.

      • Remove participants from the meeting, considering potential restrictions for recurring meetings.

Section 3: After the Meeting/Lecture

  • Sharing Resources:

    • Share any updated slide decks.

    • Provide links to resources discussed during the meeting.

    • Share chat transcripts with participants, ensuring privacy by deleting any private messages sent directly to you as the host before sharing the version downloaded to your computer.

    • Share a recording of the session along with captions and transcripts, be sure to check them for accuracy before you send them to people.