University of Wisconsin–Madison

Plan and host an accessible virtual event

7 minutes to read | Last updated January 7. 2021

Learn how to create an accessible and inclusive virtual event.

UW-Madison is committed to ensuring that its services, facilities, workspace, and programs are accessible to and usable by people with disabilities. In light of the transition to more remote and/or virtual learning and working, including classes, seminars, workshops, meetings, and events for students, staff, faculty and members of the broader UW-Madison community, it is important to make these activities as accessible and inclusive as possible.

Consider these first

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Lead time

Start planning for accessibility as early as possible. We recommend at least 4-6 weeks lead time to consider different approaches to formatting, engagement, and technology, and to secure accommodations for your virtual event.

Budget

Factor the costs of captioning, sign language interpretation, and other potential accommodations into your budget. Note that the cost of making an event accessible at the last minute can be considerably greater.

Accommodations

Students requiring academic accommodations for courses should contact the McBurney Disability Resource Center. The Employee Disability Resources Office provides support to faculty and staff via Divisional Disability Representatives (DDRs) who coordinate disability-related accommodations for units within the university. The ADA Coordinator can assist with requests for accommodations from the public

Privacy

When a person with a disability requests an accommodation and/or discloses having a disability, these discussions should occur in private. Information about a disability or an accommodation should only be shared with those who have a need to know in order to support the person.

Planning an event

To ensure an inclusive event, plan for and incorporate accessibility regardless of whether or not an accommodation request is made.

What type of event are you planning?

Your event could include any or all of the following:

  • Prerecorded content
  • Live presentation
  • Audience participation
  • Recorded content (made available after the event)

Accessibility considerations by event component:

Line art image of a person on a web meetingPrerecorded content

May include: Virtual venue (often a website and/or web conferencing platform), video or audio content, presenters, and presentation content (presentations, documents, etc.)

Accessibility considerations

  • Chose an accessible web conferencing platform(s)
  • Arrange for captioning, closed captioning, and audio descriptions
  • Arrange for sign language interpreting
  • Ensure that the presenter knows how to present accessibly (see ‘During the event’ below)
  • Accessible presentation content

Technology

  • Web conferencing platform (WebEx, Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate, Microsoft Teams)
  • Media player (YouTube, Vimeo, Kaltura)
  • Interactive and searchable transcript (Kaltura)

Line art image of a microphone stand on a stage

Live presentation

May include: virtual venue (often a website and/or web conferencing platform), video or audio content, presentation content

Accessibility considerations

  • Real-time captioning
  • Sign language interpreting
  • Presenter style (see ‘During the event’ below)
  • Accessible presentation content

Technology

  • Web conferencing platform (YouTube Live, WebEx, Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate, Microsoft Teams)
  • Media player (YouTube, Kaltura, Vimeo)

Line art image of three hands pointing upAudience participation

Accessibility Considerations

  • Real-time captioning
  • Sign language interpreting
  • Accessible presentation content
  • Accessible Q&A and chat

Technology

  • Web conferencing platform (WebEx, Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate, Microsoft Teams)
  • Interactive tools (Q&A, chat, polls)
  • Collaborative documents (Google docs, Box)

Dig deeper into technology consideration

For guidance on how to choose the best web conferencing platform: Web conferencing tools simplified

More about known accessibility barriers in common web conferencing tools: 

 

 

Promoting an event

Be sure to announce the event as early as possible to give participants time to request an accommodation.

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Email

Ensure that any notifications and their attachments regarding your course, event, and/or meeting:

Includes a statement on how to request disability-related accommodations such as:

 “(INSERT UW-Madison/College/School/Department/Program) is committed to creating an inclusive and accessible event. To request an accommodation for this event, please contact (INSERT name, event host/coordinator) at (INSERT phone number/email) as soon as possible.”

Are in an accessible format

Ensure all pertinent information (date, time, location, etc.) is included in the body of the email and not only in the attachments. 

If there are images included, provide description of the images.

Social Media

Not all social media platforms are accessible.

Some, but not all will provide the option to add alternative text to your images.

Provide a link to your event webpage, where you have control over the accessibility of the page and content.

Hosting an event

Prior to the event

  • Share technologies that will be used so that attendees can review for accessibility
  • Email and post program materials/documents in advance:
  • Electronically – Post to Box or Google drive and generate a go.wisc.edu shortened URL to provide to attendees
  • Have original source files available (Word, Powerpoint, Excel, etc) if sending documents in PDF
  • Include the following statement on printed event materials:

“These materials are available in alternative formats upon request by contacting (name, host department) at (phone number/email).“

  • Plan for discussion and interaction to ensure accessibility and full participation:
  • Assign a moderator to call on speakers and manage meeting participation
  • Assign a different person (not the moderator) to monitor chat:
    • Triage and read aloud chat messages
    • Type URLs or resources mentioned into chat (or follow-up after the event to find those resources).
  • For essential activities, such as polls or quizzes, offer alternatives for those who encounter technical challenges or accessibility barriers.

Writing resources

Check out these resources to support writing for and about people with disabilities.

 

During the event

  • Ask participants to identify who they are by name before speaking (critical particularly for individuals who are blind, have low vision, or join by phone without video)
  • Ask participants to speak clearly and slowly
  • Participants should mute their microphones when not speaking
  • Participants joining by phone should avoid using speakerphone to minimize background noise
  • Consider recording event and chat messages for playback
  • If using screen sharing to show documents or presentations, ensure participants have the materials available offline as well 
  • Avoid using virtual backgrounds as the effects are visually less accessible and can increased CPU workload for the user running the background, which can cause disruptions.

After the event

  • Follow-up with an email or webpage with recordings
  • Share transcript of chat messages
  • Email all materials used in the presentation, even if you sent them in advance

How to arrange:

Note: Please do not rely on a technology platform’s auto-caption feature–it will not be fully accurate and is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Note: Please do not rely on a technology platform’s auto-caption feature–it will not be fully accurate and is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Use one of the University’s approved vendors for audio descriptions 

Find a local interpreter via the Wisconsin Department of Health Services ASL provider listing.  

Interpreters may also be requested through the McBurney Disability Resource Center via Departmental Services and Accommodations.

For virtual events, the video of the interpreter may require video editing to embed into the pre-recorded event video.

Get help

Schedule a meeting with the Center for User Experience to further discuss technology considerations and options to host an accessible event.

ADA Coordinator – ada_coordinator@wisc.edu or (608) 265-6018

Campus resources: