How to Improve Accessibility for Virtual Events

Accessibility: Resources to Help Ensure Accessibility of Your Virtual Events for People with Disabilities

How to Improve Accessibility for Virtual Events

Since the start of the current COVID-19 crisis, artists and arts and culture organizations have been proactive in reaching out to their audiences and communities through webinars, livestreamed performances, virtual classes, and virtual visual art collections and museum tours. Cultural organizations should remember to ensure that these invaluable resources are fully accessible to people with disabilities, including those with vision, hearing, and learning disabilities.

Below are some ways to create an inclusive experience for your virtual and digital events. Please note that this is a high-level overview and not a detailed how-to guide. Let us know of other recommendations or needs from the field to better serve people with disabilities by emailing

Communication tip: Be sure to include contact information on your website or event registration for requesting an access accommodation.

 Accommodations provided for the event without request, such as captioning, can be promoted by using the appropriate downloadable disability access symbol, which allows people with disabilities to know which accommodations will be provided without having to ask.

Streamed and livestreamed performances and events

  • Will the performance have live captioning (preferred) for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, or can the captions be created and synced up for later streaming? Sample resources and cost-effective solutions are provided below.
  • Will you provide sign language interpretation in American Sign Language (ASL)? Many platforms allow sign language interpretation alongside the performance or discussion.
  • Will the performance include visual or audio description for people with vision disabilities? Audio or visual description is a narration of the visual images in film, television, theater, and other performances.

Virtual exhibitions and collections

  • Will all images include alternative text for people who are blind or have low vision that use screen-reading software? Alternative text (also called “alt text” or “alt-tags”) is a visual description of an image that can be added using image formatting tools to describe the image for screen-reading software users. Social media platforms also allow users to add alt text to their images before they are posted.
  • Ensure videos are captioned and consider adding audio/visual description.

Videoconferencing & webinars

  • Will the webinar be live captioned?
    • Note: Since webinars provide a platform for people to ask questions and interact with the speakers in real time, live captions allow people who are deaf or hard of hearing to participate in real time, so it’s best to include captioning to the live webinar rather than adding captions in post-production. Captioning also provides a transcript of the event that can be useful for everyone, including those who join the live event late.
  • Are presenters making their visual material accessible? Be sure to:
    • Use text that is high-contrast and in a large, legible font, such as Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman. Avoid italics and specialty or decorative fonts. Use an online color contrast checker.
    • Describe all images used in the slide presentation and read the relevant text from the screen for people who have difficulty reading or seeing text and visual images. Avoid adding too much text and unnecessary images to slides.
    • Balance the need to verbalize visual information with the need to keep the text concise.
    • Leave blank space at the lower part of the slides should the captioning technology platform used cover any text.
  • Can people access the content if they cannot use a computer?
    • Be sure to offer different ways to access the videoconference, such as by phone line or transcript provided after the event.

Online learning events

  • Do your students need accommodations, such as real-time captioning or sign language interpreting?
  • Is there a convenient way for students to request accommodations via phone or email?
  • Are videos captioned?
  • Is the platform accessible for a person who uses screen-reading software, such as a person who is blind or has low vision? Are videos audio-described?
  • Have you communicated with the vendors of the online platforms to understand what their capabilities are for accessibility?

Sample Resources

Please note: The following websites link to a sampling of useful resources that are external to the National Endowment for the Arts’ website. This is a non-exhaustive list; other resources are available via internet search or from state or local disability agencies and organizations.

The Arts Endowment is not responsible for the accuracy of content posted on the following websites nor does the Arts Endowment represent whether that content is up to date. Inclusion on this list of Accessibility Resources is not an endorsement or sponsorship of any organization or product. 

Sign language interpretation

  • A list of sign language interpreters is available at the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. Note: Other resources are available via internet search. 
  • Search for sign language interpreting companies that offer video relay or video remote interpreting services. 

Virtual platform accessibility features

Examples of platforms with accessibility features (please note that automated captions do not replace captioning by a live captioner and must be reviewed for accuracy):

Online learning


Improving virtual events accessibility

How to Improve Accessibility for Virtual Events

August 25, 2021 | 6 min read

The growing popularity of working from home together with the surge in the globalization of businesses have boosted the popularity of virtual events.

Most significantly, it has seen a massive spike during the pandemic. This is because businesses across the globe had to start using digital channels to communicate. These include meetings, sponsorships, events, product reveals, and trade shows.

Yet, along with this trend is the growing need for virtual events to be accessible to people with language difficulties and disabilities.

Why it’s important to make virtual events more accessible

According to World Bank data, 15% of the world’s population experiences some form of disability.

According to W3 about 20% of the population in the USA are have hearing problems.

Globally, at least 2.2 billion people have vision problems, according to the World Health Organization. Color blindness affects approximately 8% of men.

The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts the number of people living with disabilities will grow considerably over the coming decades due to the aging world population and health conditions.

Awareness, legislation for disability inclusion is increasing. Many countries now see disability as a human rights issue. As a result, more and more digital products, websites, education programs are accessible and user-friendly for everyone.

6 ways to improve virtual events accessibility

Considering how many people in the United States alone have some form of disability, it is clear that virtual events should be more accessible no matter the region.

So, here are six tips for making your virtual events more accessible.

1. Ask your attendees about any special arrangements they may need

Accommodations for those with special needs are often neglected at the planning stage. To remedy this, make sure that you ask about any arrangements or things they require on the registration form. Or, ask them to email you should they need anything.

Special accommodations could include things sign language interpretation or the ability to ask voice questions rather than typing them out.

Accounting for these in the planning stage will help you to plan your virtual event in a way that accommodates everyone and covers all your attendees’ specific requirements.

As far as etiquette goes, attendees should not have to disclose the nature of their disability.

2. Make sure virtual event functions are accessible by keyboard only

All content and functions must be accessible by keyboard only.

3. Avoid flashing content and lights

Flashing lights or content can cause seizures in people with photosensitive epilepsy. This includes things such as videos, GIFs, or effects with strobing, high-intensity lights. Not to mention, flashing content can also be annoying or distracting for viewers in general.

If using flashing content is unavoidable, take a look at the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. Here you’ll find the technical requirements for determining whether content flickers or flashes at an unsafe level.

Generally, you want to ensure that your content doesn’t flash more than three times per second.

4. Make sure text is readable and clear

You also want to make sure that your text is easy to see and read. If you’re giving a presentation or holding a conference, this will make it easier for people to follow.

The World Wide Web Consortium recommends that visual presentations use clean, readable fonts with consistent thickness. Your text should be high-contrast and in a large, easy-to-read font. Consider using Calibri, Times New Roman, or Arial.

Avoid images containing text, except in cases such as logos – text in pictures is not readable by screen readers.

Also, use a color contrast checker to ensure the contrast ratio between text and background is at least 4.5:1 for standard text and 3:1 for large text so people with moderately low vision can read it. For example, use dark text with a light background, or vice versa.

5. Provide closed captions

Recent studies found that only 14% of people say their organizations use closed captioning to ensure deaf or hard of hearing people can access the content.

There are many free captioning services online that are quick and easy to use. Yet, despite this, up to 86% of virtual event planners do not use them.

Not only do closed captions help people with hearing disabilities. They’re also helpful for international attendees whose first language isn’t English (or whichever language you’re using for your virtual event).

Some closed captioning services enable you to simultaneously translate your presentation content into other languages during the live event.

Closed captions also help up to 80% of those without impairment to better understand and remember content. This is because they can read along with what’s happening on screen.

When names of people, companies, or brands are mentioned in a presentation or a lot of technical jargon is used, a live transcription will help minimize confusion about what’s being discussed.

After the event, you can use the live captioning output to create a text transcript of the event for people to go back and read.

6. Make presentations accessible

To ensure all attendees have a similar experience, pay attention to your presentation. Let your speakers know if there are people with disabilities in the audience, and share best practices with them.

Many virtual event platforms allow sign language interpretation alongside the presentations. So, make sure that you use an effective virtual event platform to accommodate better those who are hard of hearing.

Your speakers should make sure that they describe the content of each of their slides. Whether it’s a chart, graph, image, or text, they need to explain each slide in detail. If there are visually impaired attendees, make sure the content is clear and easy to read.

It’s also essential to limit background noise by muting those who are not speaking.

If you use interactive content such as chats, polls, and questions, read the questions and responses aloud.

Finally, it is a good idea to share your slides with foreign-language or disabled attendees ahead of time. This will give them a chance to get familiar with the content beforehand and follow along more easily.

4. Be clear about how to join a virtual event

The platform you host your virtual event on will determine how attendees will join. Provide clear, step-by-step instructions, including images where necessary.

Attendees should know precisely where to go, what to interact with and when, and what software or other documentation they need to download.

You should also offer alternative ways to access the virtual event. For example, provide a link to a recording of it after or a transcript with corresponding images and content that they can read.

In addition, make your content accessible after the event with clear directions on how to access it. This way, your attendees can go through everything again if they missed something during the live event

Key takeaways

The adoption of virtual events as a communication platform has been nothing short of phenomenal. It has opened up myriad opportunities to interact, engage, and communicate with people.

By following the tips above, you can ensure your events are inclusive and accessible to those with cognitive, hearing, or visual disabilities.


Tips for Making Virtual Events Accessible in 2021

How to Improve Accessibility for Virtual Events

According to the HLAA, 62% of employees with a disability have an invisible disability. In a virtual environment, it’s even more challenging to know if we are providing all the necessary accommodations for our audience. 

As we continue to rely on digital communications to connect with our audiences, it’s important to ensure our events are accessible for all. In this blog, we will dive into simple changes we can make to improve the accessibility of our events.

What is Accessibility?

Did you know, 71% of people with disabilities leave a website immediately if it’s not accessible? 

In order for something to be accessible, it must offer an equivalent experience to everyone including those with a disability. 

This can refer to physical locations, but in the context of online accessibility, it refers to a disabled user’s access to electronic information. 

When it comes to virtual events, we need to make sure the content and the design provides the most convenient and all-encompassing experience possible to prevent any level of exclusion.

Ask Attendees if They Need Accommodations

While we should always strive to make our events accessible, it’s also important to provide a space for attendees to make accommodation requests. 

A simple way to do this is to provide a question in the registration form. A simple short-answer question , “Do you need any accommodations?” will help you stay on top of requests. 

If you are unable to customize your registration form, you can provide an email address. The key is to ensure it’s easy for attendees to know how to make accommodation requests.

Lastly, if you have an FAQ section or a conference policy statement, be sure to include an outline of all accommodations you will be providing. 

Provide Captioning for Live and Recorded Events

There are 360 million people around the world who have disabling hearing loss. Captions make content accessible for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. 

Adding captions to your live and pre-recorded videos can create a truly accessible and engaging experience for your attendees.

Many studies have proven the value of captions for online learning, including:

  • A study by the Journal of the Academy of Marketing found that captions help improve brand recall, verbal memory, and behavioral intent.
  • A study by the University of Iowa found that people recall information better after seeing it and hearing it.
  • A study by Oregon State University found that 65% of students report captions help them focus and 63% said captions help them retain information better.

For live events, you’ll want to seek out a live automatic captioning solution or a CART solution that relies on human stenographers. Accuracy can range between 80% — 95% for live captions, depending on the solution you use.

After your event has concluded, you’ll want to caption your recorded content. You can either do this yourself or use a captioning vendor. It’s important to ensure your captions are 99% accurate, otherwise, grammar and punctuation errors will affect the comprehension of your content.  

Follow Best Practices for Presenting

When presenting online, it’s important to follow best practices to ensure all your attendees have an equal experience.

Make sure to review the following guidelines with your speakers. You should also let your speakers know ahead of time if there are individuals with disabilities in your audience. 

  • Describe your slides: Take a moment to describe your slides. Make sure you summarize key graphs, videos, images, and bullet points. 
  • Caption your videos: If you are showing any videos, make sure they are captioned and the captions are turned on.
  • Check the color contrast of your slides: Ensure your slides have enough color contrast between text and background, as well as images. You can use a color contrast checker.
  • Read polls, chats, and questions aloud: If you incorporate polls or use the chat, make sure to read questions and replies for other attendees. In addition, make sure to give attendees plenty of time to answer. 
  • Provide your slides ahead of time: Provide a link for attendees to access your slides before the presentation. Additionally, provide a resource document with any links mentioned during your presentation.

Accessible Events are Better Events!

When we take the time to prioritize accessibility, we create a better experience for everyone.  It also helps us provide a space that is inclusive and welcoming. 

Additional Resources

3Play Media is committed to making web video widely accessible, using technology and human expertise to deliver high-quality video accessibility services at a fair cost and unlimited scale.


5 Ways to Make Your Virtual Event More Accessible

How to Improve Accessibility for Virtual Events

COVID-19 made it possible for many of us to attend virtual events around the world. As many of us found our calendars filled with online events, we also discovered that not everyone had the same opportunity to participate.

Even if people with disabilities could access online meetings and events, they couldn’t all take part in the same way they would in person. After a year of video conferencing, it’s clear that ensuring accessibility is a crucial part of online event planning. Still, many hosts might not know where to start. 

Here’s everything you need to know to make your virtual event more inclusive and accessible.

What is Accessibility and Why Does It Matter?

Accessibility means that you ensure that everyone can reasonably engage and participate with your event. By making events accessible, we aim to fully include all people, including people with disabilities, and reduce discrimination.

Many people without disabilities don’t think about accessibility simply because it doesn’t occur to them. Meanwhile, some of their friends or co-workers may feel left out in the same virtual meeting. 

For example, people who are deaf or hard of hearing may not be able to lip-read during a virtual event they would in person. If sign language interpretation isn’t available, these people could miss out on the entire event.

Someone with a learning disability may have a hard time focusing on a lecture. Written captions help this person keep up with the conversation. 

Most hosts want their event to be available to anyone. Yet, they might not think about ensuring accessibility during the planning process. Accessibility looks different for everyone, which can seem daunting for an event planner. Thankfully, making virtual events accessible to people doesn’t have to be hard.

How Captions Improve Accessibility

Adding captions is an easy way to make your virtual meeting more accessible for everybody. Live captions can help people with disabilities engage in your content in a way that works for them.

In the past year, more and more organizations have begun to caption live events. Automatically generated captions can be read aloud by a screen reader or seen on the computer screen in real time. This helps people with visual impairments, people who are deaf or hard of hearing, people with learning disabilities, and non-native speakers to engage with your material.

Captions can even make the event more enjoyable for everyone in the audience. Event-goers can track and remember a conversation, keynote, or presentation more easily. In fact, the University of Iowa discovered that captions help people retain more information.

Five Best Practices to Make Your Live Events Accessible

Whenever you plan an event, accessibility should be a key part of the planning process. Online events are no exception. 

Making your content more accessible step by step can even open up a new audience for your events. If people with disabilities feel included in your events, they’re much more ly to attend a future event!

Here are five best practices to help you make your events accessible.

1. Ask Attendees if They Need Accommodations During the Planning Process

One of the best ways to learn what assistance people need is to ask.

Include a section in your registration form for attendees to ask for accommodations. This gives you enough time to fulfill their needs before the event. Once you’ve found the help they need, sign language interpretation, you can share that as part of your marketing materials to encourage people with disabilities to join your event.

Video conferencing can be hard to navigate for people with disabilities. Depending on the software, they may not have experience with the platform you’re using to host your event.

 Help people participate fully by emailing a list of accessibility shortcuts for your platform before the event. You can also remind people of these shortcuts throughout the event.

For example, with Google Hangouts/Meet, clicking “Shift + ?” shows a full list of keyboard shortcuts.

3. Establish a Post-Event Portal with Recordings

Building an online portal for captioned recordings of the sessions from your event helps you get the most value your content.

Attendees can’t always make it to every session they want to sit in on, so recording them and housing them in one central location allows your audience to return to content they missed.

Links to these recordings can also be shared out with participants, as well as those who were unable to attend (more on that in a second!).

Speech-to-text providers Rev can add captions of all of this recorded content to ensure that it’s accessible and digestible for your audience. Our network of more than 50,000 transcription and caption professionals will add 99 percent accurate captions to all of your video content, saving you time and effort.

4. Send Transcripts with Your Recordings

Many hosts to send event replays to everyone who signed up after the event is over. Making these replays accessible is just as important as during the event itself!

Even if your videos already have captions, get them transcribed, too. A transcription makes it even easier to follow along with your video. Plus, it gives attendees the option to engage with the plain text format, too. 

5. Ask for Feedback

There’s always a way we can make our events more inclusive. Attendees may have some ideas for what you can do differently next time. 

Send an email or survey after the event to collect feedback. You may be surprised what you discover!

Include Everyone in Your Next Virtual Event

Even as we discover our “new normal” after COVID-19, it’s not ly that virtual events will disappear anytime soon. Virtual meetings and events have become another way we can engage with our work, our friends, and our wider community. Ensuring accessibility means we can extend that community a bit bigger and welcome in people with disabilities. 

At Rev, we’re committed to making virtual events fully accessible for all. Our speech-to-text services, from machine- and human-generated captions to accurate transcripts, can help take your virtual event to the next level. Try Rev today!


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