8. Meetings

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All material relating to a meeting, presentation, or webinar, should be available well in advance of that meeting in accessible formats. This includes the need for all slides to be available in accessible formats (e.g., Word format), with relevant and useful description of images where images were used in the original slide).

8.2. Types of Meeting

Instead of a meeting being purely “real world”, due regard should always be given to the holding of hybrid meetings rather than purely real world meetings. For several reasons, a visually impaired person may prefer a remote attendance at a meeting, and such preferences should always be respected.

8.3. Reasonable Accommodation at Face-to-Face Meetings

On arrival, a visually impaired person should be offered the availability of human guidance, and where such assistance might be useful or required, such guidance should be maintained until the safe departure of the visually impaired person (including assistance in finding a taxi, if necessary).

Before a meeting begins, each person should introduce themselves. In this way, a visually impaired person will know who is there. If anyone leaves or joins the meeting while the meeting is taking place, this should be announced. This can be done discretely, as a matter of courtesy to all.

If there are refreshments before, during, or after the meeting, assistance should be offered to a visually impaired person in acquiring refreshments.

In the lead-up to a meeting, or during breaks, or during afters, a visually impaired person may want to socialise generally or even just to meet one particular person. Guidance to facilitate such interaction should be offered.

A visually impaired person may be shy and not know anyone, or may just want to keep themselves to themselves. However, to be sure that the visually impaired person is not isolated against their will, organisers of a meeting should ask if the visually impaired person would like company, or visually check from time to time that they are not being left by themselves.

8.4. Reasonable Accommodations at Virtual Meetings

The following reasonable accommodations should be available. We recommend that these provisions be considered as general practice at all virtual meetings so that a visually impaired person does not have to make specific requests. They should be able to focus wholly on the issues at hand, and not draw unnecessary attention to themselves by having to ask for reasonable accommodations at meetings they attend.

  • For screen-reader users, the chat function can be quite a nuisance.

On a very basic level, if there are many chat messages coming in, the latest message interrupts the previous message on the screen-reader, making everything unintelligible to the screen-reader user.

Otherwise, the chat message either speaks over a live speaker or presentation, or else, if the screen-reader is deactivated, the visually impaired person is denied access to such chat messages.

If a screen-reader user is speaking, a chat message (read aloud by the screen-reader), can be a serious distraction.

One might imagine that, at a face-to-face meeting, if some people started swapping notes under the table while someone was speaking, it would be considered rude, and possibly suggest that they are not paying much attention to the current speaker.

Given all of the above, it is reasonable accommodation for the chat function not to be used at virtual meetings, and for all attendants to be made aware off this at the beginning of every meeting, particularly if the organiser where aware that a screen-reader user is in attendance.

Such introductory information should, of course, not mention the visually impaired person directly or indirectly.

  • A screen-reader user may not be able to use the raised hand function without undue hassle, and as such, as reasonable accommodation, they should be able to unmute themselves and verbally raise their hand, so to speak, for instance, by saying their name etc.

Where such a reasonable accommodation has been arrived at, the hosts should be aware that it takes more bravery to be the odd-one-out and try to pick a time when the verbal hand-raiser is not interrupting another speaker, and so, from time to time, the screen-reader user should be asked if they wish to say anything.

8.5. Introductions in both online and real world meetings

Describing how you look at meetings is a waste of time. Also, it tends not to be helpful, and can be cringe-worthy for the introducer as well as the audience.


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