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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 is the VP, Communications and Entertainment & News Media, of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so all people with disabilities can fully participate in every aspect of community. As an individual with an acquired nonvisible disability – Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy – she works at the intersection of disability, employment, Hollywood and politics. She regularly conducts trainings on the why and how to be more inclusive and accessible for entertainment executives throughout the industry. Appelbaum partners with studios, production companies and writers’ rooms to create equitable and accessible opportunities to increase the number of people with lived disability experience throughout the overall story-telling process. These initiatives increase diverse and authentic representation of disabled people on screen, leading to systemic change in how society views and values people with disabilities. She has consulted on more than 100 TV episodes and films with A&E, Bunim-Murray Productions, NBCUniversal, Netflix, ViacomCBS, and The Walt Disney Company, among others. She represents RespectAbility on the CAA Full Story Initiative Advisory Council, Disney+ Content Advisory Council, MTV Entertainment Group Culture Code and Sundance Institute’s Allied Organization Initiative. She is the author of The Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit and the creator of an innovative Lab Program for entertainment professionals with disabilities working in development, production and post-production. She is a recipient of the 2020 Roddenberry Foundation Impact Award for this Lab. To reach her, email [email protected]

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