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New Toolkit Helps Organizations Ensure Their Zoom and Other Virtual Events Are Accessible to All

Washington, D.C., May 21 – The COVID-19 pandemic is causing organizations to transition many events and conferences that originally were in-person to virtual ones. The good news is that it is easy to make online events accessible to everyone if you know how. A new toolkit published on Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) by the disability nonprofit RespectAbility aims to help organizations do so.

A recent national inclusion study conducted by RespectAbility, in partnership with The Chronicle of Philanthropy and The Nonprofit Times, found that even before the pandemic, only 14 percent of people say their organizations use video captions to ensure people who are deaf or hard of hearing can use the content. Captioning services are easy to use and often are free and yet 86 percent were not even attempting to take advantage of such tools.

“We know the majority of people want to be inclusive, but they do not know what they do not know,” said RespectAbility President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi.

Ensuring accessibility during the planning process of an event is important; if you are planning to post a video of the event after the fact, you may need to ensure accessibility during the actual event, even if no live participants request one. This is important for several reasons:

  • Twenty percent of people in the U.S. are Deaf/Hard of Hearing; that is 48 million Americans.
  • More than 1 million people in the U.S. are blind and more than 12 million have low vision.
  • More than 5 million people in the U.S. are English language learners.
  • While not everyone knows they have one, it is likely that more than 40 million Americans have a learning disability.

“It is vitally important to think through every step and every use of the event before implementing anything,” said RespectAbility’s Vice President of Communications Lauren Appelbaum who authored the toolkit. “After all, it always is easier to make changes during the planning stages than after the fact.”

RespectAbility recently produced a series of eight accessibility and equity webinars for the nonprofit sector. While more than a thousand individuals participated in these webinars live, they are archived online for anyone to view for free: https://www.respectability.org/accessibility-webinars.

This new toolkit includes steps to take before, during and after an event to ensure it is as accessible as possible for all people. Many of the tips do not cost any money to implement.

Have more questions about how to ensure accessibility of your virtual meetings? Contact us! If we don’t know the answer, we’ll find someone who does and put you in touch.

Meet the Author

Lauren Appelbaum
Lauren Appelbaum

Lauren Appelbaum is the Vice President, Communications, of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities, and managing editor of The RespectAbility Report, a publication at the intersection of disability and politics. Previously she was a digital researcher with the NBC News political unit. As an individual with an acquired invisible disability - Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy - she writes about the intersection of disability, employment, Hollywood and politics. From entertainment professionals to presidential campaigns, journalists to philanthropists, she conducts trainings on the why and how to be more inclusive and accessible. Behind the scenes in the entertainment industry, Appelbaum engages decision makers and creatives to improve the quality and number of authentic, diverse and inclusive presentations of people with disabilities on TV and film so audiences can see people with disabilities as vital contributors in America and around the world. She and her team have consulted on projects with Amazon, Disney/ABC Television, NBCUniversal, Netflix, and The Walt Disney Studios, among others. Appelbaum also enriches the pool of disabled talent in Hollywood by nurturing and connecting them to those who can assist with their careers, both on the creative and business sides of the industry. She is the author of The Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit, which was created to help entertainment professionals to be as inclusive of people with disabilities as possible, and the creator of an innovative Lab Program for entertainment professionals with disabilities working behind the camera. To reach her, email LaurenA@RespectAbility.org.

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