Accessible Online Communication in Meetings and Conferences
All of your communication partners benefit from accessible online communication and cooperation: Online communication means, above all, real-time communication via video, audio or text chat. Communication in the broader sense also includes websites or social media, which are not meant here. The latter should of course also be accessible.
Preparation and Support
Let the participants know as early as possible in advance which tool will be used. This gives the blind or visually impaired the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the tool.
Ideally, you should be ready half an hour before the appointment to test the technology and clarify any problems the first time you use it. A second channel that works in any case, such as telephone, WhatsApp and similar tools can also be used for this.
With a solution like TeamViewer, it is also possible to control a third computer if the person cannot solve the problem herself. This should be prepared accordingly. Ideally, you have at least one other person at the start who takes care of it in the background..
Fast Internet access is recommended for every participant. The software used often lowers the audio and video quality if, in their opinion, the transmission speed is not good enough. You should also inform the participants of this in advance, otherwise they may be using their smartphone and mobile Internet access.
In general, a headset with an integrated microphone should be used for online communication. We recommend USB headsets or wireless headsets with optimized audio transmission. With Bluetooth, there are often dropouts. Headsets improve speech and thus hearing quality. Disturbing background noise can occur both in the home office and in the office.
Beforehand, try to turn off all conceivable sources of background noise, including popping noises, such as those caused by sharply shutting down glasses and the like.
If deaf persons are involved, sign language interpreters can be provided via an additional window. It is important that the software used supports the use of multiple windows and that the windows can be enlarged.
Some services also allows sign language interpreters to be added dynamically.
If you use a webcam, we recommend the best possible webcam. The webcams integrated in cheap notebooks, smartphones and tablets are rather mediocre. A good webcam ensures that sound and lip movements or body language are in sync and thus facilitates communication, especially for the hearing-impaired. Make sure that you are well lit and that your head and upper body are clearly visible.
If you use presentations, make them available in advance to the participants with disabilities by email or download. It's difficult to properly track split screens or changing content in many programs. Also, the ability to enlarge the windows is often limited.
Telephone and audio conferencing
Pure audio conferences are generally unproblematic if no deaf or hard of hearing persons are involved. Here, too, I strongly advise against speaker-microphone combinations that are not powerful or optimized for such purposes. The big round, which only uses a loudspeaker and a microphone, is unfortunately very unfriendly for everyone involved. If you are connected via mobile phone, you should definitely ensure good internet reception or use a W-LAN.