Accessible Web Conferences
Web conferences provide a convenient option of participating in an event while people are not physically present in the venue. But this technology is more than an option to persons with disabilities. Web conferences present a valuable means for persons with disabilities to join events they might otherwise not be able to attend due to their impairments.
It is therefore a good idea to make sure that the web conferences you would create would be accessible to this group of Internet users. Similarly, if you are acquiring the services of web conference providers, you should also see to it that the service you would get is accessible for persons with disabilities.
Here are some of the major features an accessible web conference should have, and three accessible conferencing solutions to get you started.
Properly Structured Content
The web conference should have an organized structure. Controls should be clearly classified according to their purpose. Groups of controls, as well as the controls themselves, should be labeled appropriately. This enables users of assistive technology to quickly navigate through the controls and find the one they need to activate. Also, persons with cognitive disabilities would find it easier to understand the layout of the web conference.
Make sure that all buttons, check boxes, form fields, and other controls can be accessed via the keyboard. This benefits people with motor disabilities who cannot use the mouse. It also benefits users of screen readers since they too cannot use the mouse.
Options for Video Captioning
This feature greatly benefits persons with hearing impairments. If your video contents have captions, people with hearing impairments will not have to find someone to translate the message to sign language. As a result, more people would understand and respond to the discussion in your web conference.
Controls for Text Size and Color Contrast
Text size controls are an optional feature as most screen magnifiers can take care of resizing the fonts displayed on the screen. Nevertheless, with or without assistive technology, participants should be able to adjust the size of the text in the conference. This feature gives low vision individuals the ability to quickly read the text displayed in the screen.
In addition, there should be an option to adjust the foreground and background colors of the text. Apart from having good color contrast, an accessible web conferencing application allows the operating system to adjust the foreground and background colors of the conference’s interface. This is given emphasis in Guideline 1.4 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
Tested with Assistive Technologies
In order for a web conference to be more accessible, it needs to be tested by users of assistive technologies. Through this, accessibility issues can be determined and further developments can be made to enhance its accessibility.
Examples of Providers of Accessible Web Conferences
Below are links to websites of providers of accessible web conferences.
This link takes you to LetsGoExpo’s demo accessible conferencing room. Unique features of LetsGoExpo’s accessible web conferences include an option to convert PowerPoint, Excel, and Word documents into accessible formats. They also provide accessible Voice-Over IP conferencing services. LetsGoExpo has tested their services with popular screen readers, screen magnifiers, and screen recognition software.
This is the IDEAL Conference homepage. Through this site, you can get web conferencing services that are compliant to both Section 508 and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). Ideal Group, Inc. ensures that its services are accessible to groups with widely differing types of disabilities and that all functions in its web conferencing services are keyboard accessible.
This is Serotek’s Accessible Event page. Visually impaired individuals can join an Accessible Event through their speech or Braille-equipped computer, PDA, or cellphone. This service can also support captioning of video content.