Accessibility Considerations for Remote Meetings and Events

Remote meetings or events can be a wonderful way to participate in social movements. The pandemic has shown that many people find the possibility of remote attendance vastly increases the accessibility of movement work for them. These include parents who can attend meetings when their kids are down for the night, people who would have to use difficult to schedule services like Paratranspo, people with chemical injuries who prefer not being exposed to scents, and more.

On the other hand, remote meetings can also close down access if they assume that everyone who might want to attend has very strong internet and a fast computer, a private space to beam in from, and the kind of audio and visual cognitive experience that makes processing spaces like Zoom possible. Once we return to in-person events, continuing to have remote options could be an important way to build on some of the access wins we’ve opened around remote participation.

This is not an exhaustive list – as with so many other instances, remote access needs can conflict with one another. But, even as we cannot do remote access negotiation perfectly, we can probably make the specific space we’re organizing in more available to more people, or at least be able to talk openly and non-defensively about what access can look like. Many of us are in organizations without a lot of money to do “perfect access” for remote meetings or events, but we can do our best.

We include links to sites with much more granular and comprehensive advice.

Please note: In addition to listing accessibility considerations when promoting events, we strongly suggest including a note encouraging participants to contact the organizers about accessibility needs not already addressed.

Who are you prioritizing?

  • Since you will be making imperfect decisions about access, which will invite some people in and leave some out, consider who you are prioritizing in your access decisions.

Which platform?

  • Which remote platform are you using? What access needs does it open, which does it close down? (See this list for an assessment of the most popular options)
  • Is the platform open access (like Jitsi) or for profit? Are there any security risks involved with your use of the platform you’ve chosen?
  • Is there a phone-in option that does not charge long distance fees for people who do not have computers?

Communicating with attendees about their access needs

  • Is there a contact person with whom people can communicate their access needs – and with enough time for you to respond/set up what they need? Does that person regularly check email or texts and respond?
  • Do you have an access point person (or more) for the day of the event who people can contact while it’s happening?

Captioning, screen readers, & sign interpretation

  • If there are participants using screen readers, encourage people not to use the chat box during the event
  • What is the best version of captions you can provide?

Further Resources

Rooted in Rights has a thorough write-up about making meetings more accessible.

Inclusive Design Principles

A general primer on why Access is Love

List of Closed Captioning services

Web captioner

A useful example: Access rider from writer Alice Wong

CUPE accessibility checklist for virtual meetings

Tips for Zoom for Deaf, low-hearing, and ASL interpretation

Accessibility tips from Gallaudet University.

A collection of helpful suggestions.

Examples of university/academic conference online accessibility suggestions

From the Society for the Social Studies of Science

From the American Anthropological Association

From the University of California