Virtual events are here to stay. Between online-only and hybrid events, it’s more important than ever to adopt accessibility and inclusion considerations for virtual services so people of all abilities can participate.
Make Devices Available
- Ask people to donate their extra working laptops and tablets. Publicize the need. Encourage people to update these devices with the meeting platform you use.
- Make Chromebooks and tablets available for people to check out, with Zoom or the streaming platform you are using easy to find.
Improve Access to Technology
- Call people to find out if they have access to email so you can send links to programming.
- If someone doesn’t have access to the internet, you can pre-pay hot spots for them to use.
- Not everyone is familiar with how to use Zoom. Help them connect.
- Many people have Facebook accounts and are more comfortable using Facebook than a streaming service. Stream live events on Facebook Live.
Include an Accommodation Statement
The same considerations for making services and programs accessible to all participants haven’t changed. Accommodation statements belong in all your written and electronic communications, including all emails, the front page of your website, and invitations to all programs and events.
These statements invite individuals to tell you what they need to participate. Always include contact information and a due date for requests to be made.
- “If you require an accommodation in order to participate in [the meeting/services/event, etc.], please contact [name of individual who is responsible for taking requests, if applicable] at [phone and email] by [date].”
- “We welcome and support children, teens, and adults with disabilities, mental health conditions, and their families and caregivers. We make every effort to ensure our programs, equipment, and facilities are accessible. Please call or email us if you have any questions or would like to request an accommodation.”
- Additional language may be added to state that requests for accommodations made after the advertised date will be honored to the maximum extent feasible.
Captioning is an essential protocol for streaming in general, and is gaining in popularity among many different segments of the community, including some deaf people and those who are hard of hearing.
Zoom offers a free auto-generated live captioning tool that is as easy to turn on as checking a box.
American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters can be on screen when streaming. Be sure to include an accommodation request option for any webinar and meeting registrations so anyone needing an ASL interpreter can specify.
Share Audio Descriptions
Remember to announce page numbers regularly. Double check the page numbers in the version of a book you are using with the e-book and flipbook versions beforehand. As a matter of course, describe what you are doing for blind people and people with low-vision.
Remarks can be conversational:
“Rabbi A and Rabbi B, along with Chazzan C are on the bimah this morning. Rabbi A is standing at the left podium, Chazzan C is standing at the middle podium, and Rabbi B is standing at the left podium. They are spread about 8 feet apart from each other.”
“We are taking the Torah scroll out of the Aron Kodesh. The mantle, or cover, is pale blue velvet with silver threads woven in.”
Technology is constantly changing, and with it the opportunity to bring accessibility tools to more people. Virtual events are not going anywhere, so take the time to implement at least one of these tactics at your next session.
How have you made your digital spaces more inclusive? Have you been using the live captioning feature on Zoom? Tell us what accessibility tools and practices you’ve found useful in the comments!
Updated from CJP’s February 2022 inclusion guide.