DEAR EDITOR:

We have discovered accessible digital meetings. Great, now what. Jumped on the train for staff meetings. One thing led to another and we have learned how to get CART captioning and find out what our consumers need to survive and thrive. Technology is awesome (and fun).

We have noticed a few things though that would make everyone’s meetings more user friendly and help you reach more people.

Almost every meeting we have individually or collectively attended had some sort of introduction. If it were a small meeting, we would introduce ourselves and say where we are from, get to know each other, so to speak. A larger group would get the standard instructions to mute the speakers, use the chat room to ask questions, do not have the video showing any other distractions. Pretty straightforward and just simple courtesy that we are all raised with.

What about the people who cannot see the video or hear the audio? ADA provides articles pertaining to effective communication and, really, all we need is the respect for others that we expect to receive ourselves.

Here are some tips for being courteous to people who have hearing, visual or cognitive disabilities in the digital age:

1. Check with people who have these types of disabilities for accessible, user-friendly platforms. A lot of them are not, yet.

2. Send out any handouts such as FAQs or worksheets before the meeting. This will give someone with cognitive or vision impairment time to study up on the material that others may see on the shared screen.

3. Power Points do not read very easily at all with screen readers. Please send Word or Excel versions in advance.

4. Screen sharing does not work for people who are blind, as this comes across as a graphic. Please read out loud any screen shares and additions as you go.

5. If you have graphics in your presentations, please label them descriptively.

6. Please do introduce yourself and identify the agency you are with. That way the other participants know who is in the meeting.

7. Say your name each time before you speak, to let the captioner and interpreter know who is talking.

8. Audio descriptions of any shared items on the screen are especially helpful to the blind. Also, if the presentation is on a PowerPoint, let the audience know when a slide is being changed.

9. Let people know if they are not visible on the screen. There may be someone in the audience who reads lips.

10. If you call in to a meeting, people who are deaf and read lips will not be able to see you.

11. During the COVID-19 pandemic, use face shields rather than face masks if others are around you so that people who read lips may see yours.

12. Use earbuds/phones to eliminate background noises and feedback when you speak.

For more information and for platforms that are or are not user-friendly, please contact us at 706.314.0008 or info@nwgacil.org.

NWGA Center for Independent Living

Rome

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