How to Make Your Virtual Event Content Accessible
Event organizers and speakers spend countless hours and energy developing their event content in order to provide the best experience for attendees. However, if you don’t make your virtual event content accessible, not everyone will be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Virtual events are widely considered the more accessible option for event attendance. Accessibility is even one of the major draws for virtual event attendees. In a recent poll conducted by Social27, almost half of respondents (49%) selected accessibility as their top reason for attending a virtual or hybrid event in the future. This is a large chunk of your event audience – and you don’t want to leave them out by making your event inaccessible.
Here’s how to make your virtual event content accessible for everyone:
Provide Downloadable Copies of Event Content Before Session
If the speaker is planning to screen share event content from a PowerPoint presentation, PDF file, webpage, or other resources during the session, provide a link or download of the content prior to or during the session. Screen sharing is not accessible as content that is being screen shared generally does not work with screen readers or other assistive technology. However, the file itself can be navigated with assistive technology, so making it available for download will help attendees to better follow along and avoid missing out on key event content.
Make Presentations and Content Readable (by Eyes and Technology!)
While crafting your event content, including presentations, consider how you are presenting information and whether it will be readable to all attendees. Many visually impaired people utilize assistive technology such as screen readers, so you will need to create content that is readable to the eye and to assistive technology.
Here are some key readability action points:
- Include alt-text for all images displayed on event pages or in event content. Alt-text is meant to provide a written description of the image that can be read by screen readers or other technology. Put some effort into writing alt-text that is thorough, accurate, and descriptive. Event organizers or speakers promoting the event or their event content on social media should also consider adding image descriptions in Instagram captions or across other social platforms.
- Describe all visual representations in your sessions. If the speaker is referencing a photo, graph, or chart during their session, they should provide a verbal description of it so that those who cannot see it can still follow along with the session. Graphs and charts should also have alt text in the downloadable copy of the presentation.
- Limit flashing effects or animations and provide warnings. WCAG standards recommend that animations, including animated gifs that appear on webpages, should not flash more than three times per second. You should apply the three flashes rule to all of your content or avoid flashing all together. If there is an event session where flashing is an integral part of the content, provide an advanced warning to participants so that they may assess whether it is safe for them to attend and view these effects.
- Use easy-to-read fonts. The Bureau of Internet Accessibility recommends Times New Roman, Verdana, Arial, Tahoma, Helvetica, and Calibri.
- Use an appropriate contrast ratio for text. WCAG guidelines state that text and images of text should have a color contrast ratio of 4:5:1 at the minimum. Large text should have a 3:1 ratio.
- Avoid using just text formatting (bold, italics, color) to convey meaning. The majority of screen readers don’t inform users about text formatting. Proper headings and descriptive page titles are however very important.
Make On Demand Videos Accessible with Captions
Making on demand content available before, during, and after a virtual event has many benefits. Pre-event on demand content can present introductory information on topics so that speakers can dive deeper into concepts or topics during the scheduled session. Making sessions available on demand after their live broadcast also allows people to catch up on sessions they missed or revisit the session to clarify concepts or refresh their knowledge. Some events leave their event site open for weeks or months after the event to allow people to get the most out of these on demand videos. However, making them accessible isn’t as simple as most people assume.
41% of videos are incomprehensible without sound or captions. Before uploading on demand content, ensure that accurate captions are available. Captions should not only detail what the speaker is saying but should also include written descriptions of other sounds. Sound effects in the presentation, music, and other noises should be included in captions. Captions should also match the speaker’s speech, including any stutters or fumbling of words. Videos can have closed captions (which need to be turned on in settings) or open captions (captions that are shown to everyone as part of the video). Having an ASL interpreter is also a way to make live sessions more accessible, and their interpretation can be recorded for on demand videos as well.
Pick an Accessible Virtual Event Platform
Look into the accessibility features offered before committing to a virtual event platform for your event. Creating accessible virtual event content will be near impossible if the platform you are hosting it on is not accessible.
Some things to look for include:
- WCAG Guidelines: Your platform should meet the WCAG guidelines to ensure proper web accessibility.
- Screen Reader Compatibility: The platform should be navigable by screen readers. In order to do this, it’s important that the platform uses a consistent page structure with proper page titles, headings, and more. Alt-text is also important for those using screen readers.
- Keyboard Navigability: Those with disabilities that impact their motor function may rely on keyboards to navigate your event site and platform, and not use their mouse. It’s important that links, form fields, checkboxes, menus, and other elements can be used with only a keyboard.
- Session Captioning: Having sessions captioned in real-time is important for many users including those who are deaf, hard of hearing, have ADHD or other focus difficulties, or whose first language is not English. You can learn about Social27’s captioning capabilities here.
Host an Accessible Event on Social27 Virtual Event Platform
Social27 Virtual Event Platform strives to help event owners create events that are accessible for all attendees. Feel free to explore our accessibility policy to learn more about this commitment and the platform’s accessibility features.
Set up a demo to learn more about how we prioritize virtual event accessibility.