Last month (September, 2021), we in VVI were approached by a statutory body regarding a particular aspect of online meeting protocol apparently intended, in particular, for the benefit of visually impaired attendees.
This protocol involves each speaker, in their introduction, describing what they look like and what they are wearing. They even describe themselves as being “middle aged” etc.
We agreed to survey our members to see what they think of the practice, and not surprisingly to us, the unanimous verdict is strongly against the practice.
So if your organisation has already embraced such a practice, or if it is thinking of doing so, the following selection from our responses might cause you to reconsider:
“For me it is a waste of time.”(Martin)
“Unless a description of something adds value, I see no point in it. In this case, I believe it would add no value.”(Brian)
“I don’t see any great advantage to being told that the speaker is “grey haired, rotund and in his fifties” Concentration on descriptions should be more to do with the details contained within the speakers oration, documentation refs and description of other information details like images or illustrations or such material.”(Gerry)
“Personally I don’t really care, but I certainly wouldn’t be bothered if it didn’t happen, I don’t really care what people look like and I’m not sure how relevant it is to a meeting.”(Tim)
“I am blind. Thereby my perception of what people are is generally based on non-visual criteria. The effectiveness of what people have to say incorporating their ability to be descriptive, credible and convincing is what matters to me not a visual description of the individual.”(David)
“I largely agree with what David has said. Personally, I wouldn’t find a description of the physical features or dress of the speaker of interest or value… I would find it of no interest and perhaps a little uncomfortable if I was in the minority as a visually impaired person. I think they would be much better being asked to make sure they described their slides and read out information that they are talking about and pointing to.”(Áine)
“not everyone would feel equally comfortable describing themselves, and indeed, a blind person would find it difficult to describe their own appearance, so in terms of equality, it mightn’t be as inclusive as it first seems.”(Robbie)