6 tips for promoting inclusivity during your online events, and ensuring everyone hears you, loud and clear. These days, there’s an online event for just about anything. From work-from-home company meetings to innovative conferences and even romantic date night activities, online events have become a regular part of the Covid-19 new normal. Guess what? They’re likely here to stay.
But for people with hearing loss, online events connecting online can be a source of frustration and a barrier to participation in daily social and professional life. To help foster a sense of inclusion and allow EVERYONE to participate in your online event, here are some accessibility tips to adopt before you go live.
#1 - Plan ahead
It goes without saying that any event, online or face-to-face, requires its fair share of advance preparation. When seeking to make an online event accessible for people with hearing loss, pre-event planning must include a few extra steps. You’ll need to assign an accessibility point person to ensure that the needs of participants with hearing loss are met throughout your online event. They will budget for the time and money associated with the various accommodations that need to be implemented, such as sign-language interpreting, and speech captioning (remote speech-to-text services). It will also be their responsibility to reduce all potentially disruptive background noise during the event itself, by identifying potential offenders ahead of time (chairs shifting, bystanders talking, traffic outside, etc.) and sending a detailed list to all participants so they can comply. In addition, plan for breaks to help prevent screen and cognitive fatigue.
#2 - Record live events
One of the beauties of hosting online events is that they’re relatively easy to record. While recording live events won’t help people with hearing loss follow along easier during the events themselves, doing so will allow them to go back to parts of the event they feel they missed out on, slow the reel, and consume the content at a pace that meets their needs. This way, employees won’t miss out on critical information, and loved ones won’t feel lost when their favorite aunt references the event on the family WhatsApp group.
#3 - Announce topics ahead of time and allow for advance communications
Give your participants a chance to get ahead of the game. Let them know what your online event will be covering before it begins so that they can learn the lingo and be able to identify buzzwords spoken during the event, to foster better understanding and reduce frustration. It’s also recommended that you create a space for advance communications so that any questions that arise can be answered, and participants with hearing loss remain in the loop.
#4 - Create an accessible knowledge base
Prior to your online event, invite participants to visit an informational landing page, peruse a relevant glossary of terms, or download agendas, materials, or other documents in accessible formats. Doing so will enable them to better follow and understand what goes on during the event. It will also provide them with a positive feeling; the knowledge that you took the time to ensure they are as included as can be.
#5 Create an optimal listening environment
Contrary to popular belief, great listening environments are not the result of sound-related accommodations alone. To truly augment and amplify the listening experience, the entire event environment must be optimized, from the room’s lighting and participants’ positioning within their respective rooms to ensure their faces are well-lit and readable, to the installation or hanging of soft, sound-catching materials, such as rugs.
#6 Ask participants to follow an accessibility protocol
All participants can and should be asked to adhere to certain behavioral practices. They should speak slowly and clearly, and always start any line of speech by repeating their names, for captioning purposes. Any brainstorming can be done in chat boxes, and hands should be raised to signal a willingness to speak up. Participants should also be encouraged to use headphones and a microphone to optimize their hearing and sound, and to never speak over one another, to limit confusion. Your protocol can also include asking participants to download and use a personalized sound app, like Tunefork to safely hear all communications, regardless of their hearing capabilities, and to avoid creating barriers to accessibility during your online event.
As the New Year approaches and we continue to adjust to the new Covid-19 normal, let’s double down on our efforts to create more inclusive, accessible environments for people of all abilities, including those with hearing loss. Invite your friends, family, and colleagues to download the Tunefork app today!