The age of digital presentation is upon us. The surge of digital conferences allows flexibility for businesses and schools. And while some video conference platforms are generally accessible for blind and low vision participants, it’s important to create a presentation that is inclusive. Employing inclusive design into presentations needs to become standard practice.
Video conferencing is a staple for most employers in 2020. A variety of events have transitioned to conference platforms as well. In order to facilitate an inclusive presentation and provide the least frustrating experience for blind and low vision participants, you should practice general accessibility testing. Here are a few tips.
Most accessible video conference platforms
Most of us have been inundated with video conferences. Several exist but not all are ideal for blind and low vision participants. The top two platforms for blind and low vision participants are Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Both platforms work the best with screen readers and are relatively simpler to navigate nonvisually. If your company does not already use one of these platforms, switching to Zoom or Microsoft Teams is a good way to expand your inclusive practices.
Use the chat feature sparingly
Meeting hosts often ask participants to type questions into the chat window to avoid interrupting the speaker. However, it can sometimes be overwhelming for screen reader users to simultaneously listen to the speaker and their screen reader speaking comments. Consider if chat is necessary to the presentation and allow room for comments and questions to happen verbally. However, chat can be beneficial for deaf and deaf-blind participants. In this case, create specific times for use of the chat function.
Describe visual content
You will notice when doing accessibility testing that screen reader users cannot access screen-shared content. And it still might be challenging for low vision participants. Presenters can describe shared images and read content out loud to meeting attendees. Send documents before the presentation so blind and low vision participants can access visual information shared on the screen.
High contrast backgrounds
Bright lighting or backgrounds with little contrast may be difficult for low vision participants. This will be unique to individuals, but in general, providing some type of high contrast background can be beneficial for low vision participants. For example, opting for a darker background behind the speaker, and creating a high contrast for visual content shared on the screen.
Visual participants expect video to be turned on for all people in a meeting. If a participant joins just with audio, it often throws off the visual participants. For some blind and low vision people, light from the screen or lighting in the background of other participants may be distracting or even cause headaches.
For some blind and low vision participants, turning video on can be uncomfortable when you cannot see others in the presentation. And some might be concerned about being in the frame and staying in the frame.
Video is not always needed during a presentation. If a participant finds joining without video more comfortable, it can enhance their experience.
Mitigating stress will allow certain participants to better focus and participate more freely.
With accessibility testing, video conference platforms have opened up possibilities for blind and low vision people, especially in the realm of employment. A few simple steps can enhance the user experience and provide an inclusive atmosphere that will be appreciated. Blind and low vision users can find it exhausting to frequently have to make these requests. When consideration is given to these needs in advance, it’s not only appreciated but affords blind and low vision participants the opportunity to participate just like their sighted peers.