Many of us now spend large amounts of time in virtual meetings. The Disability Network at Advanced thought it would be a good idea to share some tips and best practice about how to ensure they are inclusive and accessible for everyone. They are simple steps that ensure everyone can contribute equally.
Before the meeting
- Help attendees to get ready well in advance of the meeting. Issue your agenda at least 24 hours before it is due to start so that participants have time to prepare.
- At the same time send out any materials relating to the meeting in an accessible format so that they can be digested. You can use Office 365’s in-built accessibility checker on your meeting materials such as slides and hand-outs.
- Consider scheduling the meeting duration not for the typical half-hour or one-hour segments, but maybe for 25 or 50 minutes. This will help reduce meeting fatigue and give people time to take a quick break if they have meetings back to back. You can set this as default behaviour in Outlook when creating meeting invites.
- If you have been invited to attend a meeting, it is good practice to reply to the organiser at the earliest opportunity, whether you plan to attend or not.
During the meeting
- It helps to request that participants place themselves on mute when not speaking to reduce any background noise.
- It is also useful at the start of the meeting to ask participants to use the Raise Hands feature, such as this one on Teams, if anyone wishes to speak. This will prevent people talking over each other and enable fair and even participation from everyone.
- The use of the camera may assist those who benefit from being able to read facial expressions or who wish to lip read participants but may not make for a wholly inclusive meeting for all participants. It is each attendee's own preference whether they wish to share their camera or not.
- If your camera is being used it’s best not to have a light source behind you. This will make your face more visible and so easier to read. The Teams blurred backdrop can also improve face visibility.
- Chat messages can be useful to confirm information shared during a meeting, but excessive chat messages can be disruptive.
- Consider recording the meeting or auto-transcribing as this will give participants a chance to revisit the meeting – as well as the opportunity for those that couldn’t make it to catch up on the discussion. Do ask all participants at the start of the meeting whether they object to the meeting being recorded.
- Meeting audio quality can be improved by using a mic close to your mouth when speaking. Also reduce background noise where possible, such as keyboard noises. Microsoft Teams has a live captionsfeature which can be turned on by an attendee if they wish.
After the meeting
- It is helpful to provide written confirmation to all meeting participants of agreed action points. These can be captured, for example, in the Teams Meeting Notestab, where they will be received by all attendees.
- You can also issue supporting materials such as the presentation slides to all meeting participants. These can be deposited in the Teams meeting's Files tab, from where they are accessible to all the attendees.
As a final point, if you recorded the meeting, consider enabling auto-captions for the recording Stream. This provides an additional benefit of an automated transcription of the recording.