Inclusive Online Activities
Due to the restrictions that are likely to be in place for a while because of the pandemic, access to social media content and online activities is more important than ever.
These ideas are mostly about the way you plan and prepare your events, the attitude you take towards making people feel welcome and the way you communicate what to expect. There are some tools or resources that do have a cost. Where this would be difficult for your organisation to meet you may be able to apply for grants. www.letsbeclearcampaign.org is an excellent short term grant from Barnwood Trust to enable organisations to make their communication more accessible and inclusive.
Inclusive Online Activities
Send instructions in advance - Whatever platform you are using, think about sending key information out (such as) simple joining instructions and tips on what to expect and how to interact with your event invitations/booking confirmation. You might also want to offer a ‘trial’ run for people who are new to this way of using technology, (either inviting them to join you on the platform directly before the session or at another time ahead of the day). Don’t assume everyone has done online video call sessions before.
Ask participants to let you know their specific requirements – When taking bookings or responding to emails/calls etc to book on your event, ask people if they have any individual/specific requirements to enable them to participate fully. You may want to give examples such as communication support, visual or sound access, prepared notes/prompts to help them follow the activity.
Offer an informal chat in small groups beforehand - Joining a large group can be intimidating online, just the same as it would be in person. You can use break out rooms on zoom and MS Teams to give participants the chance to meet a few new people ahead of beginning your actual meeting/event. If you have confident, returning participants, ask them to help facilitate a break out room, and use your leaders to facilitate others.
Outline the plan or agenda and explain what to expect – At the start of your activity let participants know the plan for the session, when any breaks will be, and what your general expectations are for things like camera use, having mute on/off etc. Demonstrate some key actions/functions for participants if you feel some are new to online platforms.
Build in movement and comfort breaks – Lots of participants will find it hard to sit and look at the screen for a long time. Ensure you take regular breaks to let people move around to get drinks, visit the loo etc.
Creative interaction – Not everyone will be comfortable talking on screen so look for creative ways that participants can take part. There are built in tools to show reactions in many online meeting platforms, but you can also encourage people to make their own emoji drawings to show (make sure you verbally identify these so visually impaired participants know they have been used), or you can invite them to make a noise using a phone buzzer etc to show agreement or make choices during discussions.
Screen size – Be aware that people may be joining using a phone or tablet with a smaller screen. If possible, try out the platform beforehand on a range of devices and note down how to make the different views appear so you can share this with participants. Digital poverty is impacting a lot of people in the UK; if you think you may have participants who are struggling to access online events, you could find out about grants to loan out tablets/laptops or that individuals could apply to directly.
Visual information – If you know (from asking about specific requirements) that you are expecting participants with visual impairments, plan how you will describe any information that is shared visually, as well as describing any visual engagement. You might send notes/an outline beforehand, or just make it part of your introduction to explain what is up on a shared screen before talking it through. This is especially important if you are expecting participants to follow instructions given in written or visual form only.
Keep visual information simple, in contrasting (but not overly bright) colours and at a reasonable size. Lots of small text/detail could be lost on smaller screens. Make sure you have a non-visual way of getting attention/taking turns to speak if possible.
Auditory information and speech – Any online meeting with lots of participants can make it difficult to follow lots of different voices. Consider using auto-captions, or better yet booking a Speech to Text Interpreter. These are highly trained professionals who will provide a much more accurate level of live captioning. Grants might be available to help cover the cost of this as a communication support, or consider what you are saving on room hire and put that budget toward captioning.
If your paid staff are deaf or hard of hearing you may be able to get captioning funded through Access to Work.
If anyone attending is a deaf BSL user you will need to discuss how they can access a BSL interpreter. Interpreters are usually very confident in using online meeting platforms and can explain how you can facilitate their involvement. Make sure you leave time before the meeting begins to find out how they would like you to work with them.
Allowing extra time for speaking and taking in information – participants with any kind of specific requirements around communication may need extra time to engage. This may mean giving participants with a speech impairment more time to speak, or giving information in smaller chunks with time in between for participants who take longer to process information. You may need to manage how other participants engage to allow this extra time, and maybe explain at the beginning of your session if there are things the whole group needs to be aware of. This can be part of your general expectations for the session.
Inclusive Social Media
With the vast number of social media channels now in use, there is so much that is new for us all and it is changing all the time! Where possible, bear in mind these key accessibility actions to make your social media content more inclusive.
Language - Use language that is welcoming and specific ‘everyone is welcome’ isn’t really enough information. A great phrase is ‘we welcome all children/all adults/all families/anyone interested in …. and will be happy to work with you to make participation possible, especially if you have felt excluded before’.
Imagery - Pick photos or illustrations that show a diverse range of people taking part in a way that is equal and inclusive. Try to reflect the inclusive community you have or are trying to build. The best source of images is your own participants so build asking for photo permission into your membership processes.
Images - Visually Impaired social media users often have screen reader technology which allows them to access all written content by having it read it out loud. This technology cannot ‘read’ eg interpret/describe photos or images. Instead, most social media channels and websites have ‘alt text’ facilities which enable you to add a short description of the image for the screen reader to read out.
It is important to note that if you design an eye-catching poster that is full of vital information about your activities and you share this as an image file, it will not be accessible to visually impaired users. We suggest adding the details into the text of your post or note that ‘full details are in the comments’ and then make sure the first comment is the full text version.
Film - If you are sharing a series of images in a short film, consider adding a voice over that describes what is being shown or produce a text version. If you are filming a spoken piece and the background or setting is important then give a short description of where you are and what can be seen around you.
Sound - Deaf or hard of hearing people need captions on videos in order to follow what is being said. Facebook can add captions to a live event AFTER it happens, so consider if there is another way to provide captions during any live streams. Modern Smart Phones often have the facility for the user to have auto captions switched on that catch any sound on any app. People may need signposting to this service on their own phones. Most video streaming sites all have both auto-captioning and the facility to add your own. Auto-captioning is rarely accurate so it is always worth adding your own, or amending the auto version if you can.
Contact info - Include your contact details and an invitation to get in touch. This lets people know they can make contact and that you want to hear from them. Offer two or three ways to communicate (if possible,) ensuring not all of them are visual or auditory only, eg. Telephone, text, email, video call etc.
We have lots more information about being inclusive, as well as local grants available to support accessible communication and inclusive practice on You’re Welcome Glos.