In an era of social distancing and teleconferencing, a few key considerations will ensure you continue to have successful, accessible meetings.
In general, the guidelines for a remote meeting are the same as they are for an in-person meeting:
- Start your meeting with introductions
- Make materials, such as the agenda, available before the meeting
- Use descriptive language
Now, let us quickly go over why these steps are more important than ever when using teleconferencing.
Starting your meeting with introductions still matters when using teleconferencing apps because even though the information may be available in your screen, it is not always readily available to assistive technology, and it would be distracting to coworkers that are relying on screen readers and braille displays to review that information independently and potentially miss part of the meeting. Plus, it is a good habit to maintain, as we will eventually return to the office. To avoid people talking over each other while introducing themselves, assign a person to read the list of participants before the meeting begins.
Same thing goes for making materials available before the meeting. You might think, well my materials are available electronically to everyone, and I know my document is accessible, so I should be good to just share it during the meeting. No, please do not. If you wait to share your documents, you are expecting some of your participants to somehow review the document with a screen reader, listen to other people speak, and give their own contributions all at the same time. That is a lot of things competing for their attention! Please share materials at least 24 hours in advance of any planned meeting and with as much time as possible before a last-minute meeting.
Use descriptive language. Screen sharing is a common part of telecommuting and that means communicating what you are sharing on your screen. Avoid saying things like “click here” and “this button”. Say what you are doing clearly, like “And then I’m going to activate the Emboss button in the Tools tab”.
As a final note, it is best practice to identify yourself-say your name- before you speak, and to keep your microphone muted while other people speak. Muting your microphone helps minimize background noise and helps everyone better understand the content.
These key points are extremely important now that telecommuting is necessary. Screen sharing is new to everyone and many of us will be nervous having our computer skills so broadly on display. So take your time, remain calm, and be descriptive.
Everyone stay safe!