5 Ways to Make Your Online Meetings More Accessible

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced industries all over the world to shift their businesses online. The gaming industry is no different. And studies show that work-from-home employees are more productive, have more energy and no longer have to suffer through that pesky commute.

But the massive cultural shift has had another side effect: People with disabilities have been requesting work-from-home (WFH) for many years, with very limited success: advocates are often told it “just can’t be done.”. Now, many more people with disabilities can find and stay in work. They are able to work comfortably and safely, which means they can perform at their best. 

If it’s here to stay, how can we make sure that WFH practices are accessible?

One quick, permanent fix is to ensure that our online meetings–which now take the place of everything from water-cooler chat to more intensive one-on-ones–are fully accessible.

Here are 5 ways to do just that.

Let attendees know what to expect

Make sure to let people know the agenda in advance and what’s expected of them, with clear instructions for joining. This is helpful for everyone in order to prepare for the meeting but especially for neurodiverse employees who really benefit from having as much information as possible in advance to help plan and to manage their anxiety. This is also a good time to ask attendees if they have any access requirements, like closed captions (although it’s a good idea to ensure closed captioning at every meeting—more on that later).

Provide any slides before the meeting

It’s good practice to send over any presentation slides in advance, so people are able to follow along and go back to a previous slide if they need more time to process the information. Make sure that the slides themselves are accessible too: Check that the font is readable, the contrast is high enough to distinguish text from the background, and add alt text to any images (for starters!). Microsoft Powerpoint has an in built Accessibility Checker that you can use to find areas for improvement; read more about that here: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/office/make-your-powerpoint-presentations-accessible-to-people-with-disabilities-6f7772b2-2f33-4bd2-8ca7-dae3b2b3ef25 

Turn on auto-captioning and let attendees know that it’s available

Captioning is useful not just for your d/Deaf and hard of hearing colleagues, but also for anyone with processing difficulties or cognitive impairments. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet have auto-captioning built in, so make sure to have this feature turned on and available for everyone to use in your meeting. Teams does this by default, but for Zoom the meeting organiser needs to go in to their settings to turn this feature on. Be sure to let your attendees know that this is available and how they can enable it at the start of your meeting.

Reduce background noise

Try to reduce any distracting background noise on your call by muting yourself when you are not speaking, and by using a good quality headset and/or microphone. Background noise, echoing, and the sound of your PC fan can be very distracting for anyone listening, and can make it very difficult for d/Deaf and hard of hearing colleagues to make out what you are saying. And if it’s hampered by background noise, auto-captioning will probably be garbage too. (Both Zoom and Microsoft Teams have built in noise suppression that you can enable also. 

Recordings/transcripts

If you are able to record the meeting, providing that recording after the meeting can be super beneficial for people to go back and listen to anything they might have missed or forgotten in the days or weeks after your meeting. But make sure to get everyone’s permission in the meeting before hitting record. If you enabled captions during your meeting, you should also be able to download a transcript of this with your recording, which you can then send round together after the meeting.

If you want to create a more accessible, inclusive work environment, you need to build these things in as standard. Don’t wait for people to ask for these accommodations – just make them happen (Use a checklist to help you remember). Making these adjustments as a normal part of your daily operations demonstrates that you are dedicated to accessibility and enables you to support new and existing employees. 

It can be incredibly difficult speaking up to ask for these things as a disabled employee, and many of your staff may not feel confident enough to, or don’t want to single themselves out by asking for something during a meeting.

Making your meetings as accessible as possible from the start goes a long way towards helping people with disabilities on your team feel welcome and supported at your studio. If you’re interested in learning how to foster diversity and inclusion even further, check out our workshop offerings!

Stacey
JenkinsWorkshop Developer and FacilitatorShe/They

Stacey works with Can I Play That? to develop valuable training for game developers to ensure that all content is inclusive and accessible for the whole community. With fibromyalgia and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), Stacey has ‘pain brain’ which affects her cognitive function when it comes to gaming. She has used her own personal experience to consult on cognitive accessibility and to educate others on topics such as diversity and inclusion, life as a disabled streamer, and accessibility in gaming. Stacey has spoken at multiple TwitchCons, the wonderful GAconf, and has spoken at GDC 2021 with Courtney, delivering a special version of their a11y workshop. An aspiring assassin and lover of all things spooky, Stacey loves stealth, horror, and the occasional cozy game. Okay, a lot of cozy games.

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