Virtual events like group meetings, webinars and online conferences have been around for a long time. But now that they are becoming even more popular (thanks to the pandemic), it made me realise how frustrating it is that they are not deaf accessible.
If you are an event organiser or you know someone who is one, and you’ve been thinking or running online events, you might not be aware how you are excluding attendees who are deaf from taking part but would like to take part.
This is a common feeling that I have, which made me realise that I should not bother attending any virtual events due to lack of accessibility, as I explain in this post.
You can watch the video below to hear my frustration…
…listen to the podcast…
…or read the transcript below.
You know how virtual events is the thing now, more than before, but you know how we’ve always had video calls and then people do one-on-one video call. Then you have a group video meeting, and then more often nowadays you’re going to have virtual conferences and webinars.
I mean, they’ve existed for a long time, but obviously because of the pandemic, it kind of forced people to get creative with, their events. If they normally have it planned, in-person, it’s not going to happen. So then what’s the next best option, which is online.
And I think that’s fair enough, let’s get creative, but it’s a bit frustrating because, online events, more often than not, are not accessible. I have yet to go to one that is going to be a comfortable experience.
And I definitely have not paid for one, if I know that it’s not going to be accessible and, it’s just not fair, I think. It’s not right, that you cater you do all your thing, you put all the effort, you charge people and then you don’t make it easy to access. You don’t even make attempt to do that.
Little things. Little things like, making sure the audio quality is good and getting people all equipped and all these things, not even that. And…it’s getting a bit frustrating because then people talk about: “yeah! It’s an online event, we have moved online!”.
And then you’re going to have people speaking and it’s not a well-lit room, you can’t see them or lip-read them very well. It’s going to be really bad audio. So they use like, the internal microphones instead of external ones, or maybe they, have their headphones on so the sounds come out and the sound goes everywhere and distorts the audio.
I’m not saying you have to have this setup where I have like a big microphone and big headphones. Even having those hands-free kit that you get with your mobile phone, even they work. The thing is, that’s something that I just don’t see a lot, but, it’s a bit frustrating.
That’s why I have put together a detailed guide on how you can make your virtual events more deaf accessible, more deaf aware, and you will allow deaf to attendees to, attend and to consume the information.
And isn’t that a good thing, don’t you want more people? Don’t you want people have a comfortable experience? And get this, this guide is also beneficial for, most people, maybe everyone will benefit from it.
So for example, who wouldn’t benefit from a good quality audio from a speaker? Who wouldn’t benefit from that?
Who wouldn’t benefit from having information available upfront about who are the speakers, and the format, and where do you go and how do you attend and, how do you go to different talks? Who wouldn’t benefit from that as well?
I can go on.
But basically in the description you will find it there. I have put in step by step guide that covers four stages.
The first one is, the process where you are thinking about organising the event. That process of, what you should think about. For example, make sure you factor the cost of professional live captioning or maybe even professional sign language interpreter, maybe that’s required. But you have to think about that in advance, not the last minute where you’re thinking: “oh, the money is empty, the pot is empty.”
No, that’s not a good time.
The second stage is the actual planning and preparation of the event. Step-by-step guide, what you should do.
The third part is the actual event itself, during the event, there are things that you could do.
And then the fourth step, is the process after the event and what you can do and what you can do to continue the positive experience, again, for everyone but I’m mainly speaking about deaf attendees.
It took me a long time to put it together, the post is here, the link is in the description, and you can also download a checklist in PDF format so you can have your own copy.
The reason I did it is because it got me frustrated, after… Seeing so many virtual events online, and I have deliberately, at the time of recording, anyway, deliberately avoided going to any, because I know from experience, it’s going to be a waste of time and if I have to pay for it.
I know it’s going to be a waste of money. So I don’t pay for that. Because what is the point of paying for something that other people will have, but you will get the lesser experience? It can apply to anything in life that you pay for.
What’s the point of paying for the same price of a meal, like one person, but you’re going to get a smaller portion? You want it to be equal, don’t you? You want to have the same amount of food that you pay for like other person. But instead, you’re going to get a smaller portion? (Now I’m hungry).
But, what I’m saying is, there is no point in paying for that, and that’s why right now, I’ve just stopped attending full stop. The free ones, I might just hmmm… get information, maybe I can attend and take apart, and maybe I can join in. I know that, being not profoundly deaf, I can pick up things, but… So exhausting. It’s so exhausting to just intensely listen and focus and using up so much cognitive energy to, really listen hard.
And if you have captions, it’s not as hard at all, even for me, I’m not fluent in sign language, but even having a sign language interpreter and combine it together, even that is easier, than just listening really, really hard. But, I have yet to see that really done well at all.
So maybe this is an opportunity for you. If you are an event organiser, or you know someone who’s a organising event, especially if it’s going to be virtual, maybe you can send this piece of content, this post that you can share with them and things that they can consider to make the virtual events more deaf accessible. Because I’m going to say it again:
it’s not just deaf attendees that are going to benefit from it. Many people would benefit from it.
So, it would benefit for more people, which means that it will have more of a comfortable experience, a positive experience and all organisers want, is for their attendees to enjoy their time and then come back next year, maybe for a better experience.
But you can’t do that if you can’t make everyone or as many people as possible, as comfortable as possible, that effort…that effort is there. But, I have yet to see people making that effort, Who’s going to stand out? I don’t know, maybe that’s you, if it is you, I commend you because then you are making an effort to do something about it.
And of course, if you have the right people around you to help you with that, people you can reach out to, to talk about these things. People who can help you with, you know, a bit of a consultancy or, training. Well, then you can get that information as well from a person who has that experience. And, it’s a good idea to do that.
Just like it’s a good idea to have a diverse team or getting people involved in the planning of something, whether it’s about gender or ethnicity or disability, all these things. It’s a good idea to have that representing in your organising team as well. And if that’s not possible, reach out to someone.
The moral of the story is that, virtual events are just a nightmare to deal with for someone like myself, and I hope maybe this will encourage people to think about how can they make it more accessible, more engaging, more comfortable experience for everyone, again, not just for me, for everyone.
This is an opportunity so download that guide at the bottom, if you want to have more information, send me an email, contact me. My details are there on the website.
Hopefully this will give you an opportunity to do something about it and stand out from a crowd. Do something that will make you realise that “you know what?, I am making an effort. Which means that I am going to get more attendees. This means that I am making a good experience for everyone.”
That’s what everyone wants, isn’t it?
Let me know what you think, I’m interested to hear from two sides of this story. If you are an event organiser, what is it, that you’re finding difficult when trying to make it accessible? I’d love to hear from what you think.
If you are an attendee and you’re having difficulties to access information, how does that make you feel? And what do you do about it? And have you had a positive virtual event where your accessibility needs have been met? I’d love to hear from you as well.
Don’t forget though this is where I try to make things easier for you to understand in terms of deaf awareness, being more deaf aware, talking about this topic and you know, talking about making virtual events, more accessible. This is what I do.
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Thank you for tuning in. I really appreciate it. Let me know what you think in the comments down below. In the meantime, I will speak to you again soon.
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