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AbilityNet answer 11 questions on digital accessibility - on captions, websites, video sessions, finding users to learn their needs.

Last month, we kicked off a series of new Catalyst panel events with a discussion on digital accessibility, featuring Robin Christopherson from AbilityNet, Rizwana Khan from ProjectFunction, Graham Longly from Aspire Consultancy and Andrew Coleman from Galloway’s. You can watch the full event recording here. The panel answered a number of attendees’ questions during the event, but we received many more, and the team at AbilityNet have kindly provided answers as below.

We hope these are useful; for more tools, perspectives and case studies, please take a look at the Digital Accessibility section of our site. 

1. Do you have any advice on developing digital products for people with limited or no literacy? 

Content within digital products should be written clearly and simply where possible.  

The Stroke Association has developed a set of Accessible Information Guidelines (PDF), which is aimed at aiding people to produce written materials for people with aphasia. Aphasia can affect understanding and reading, and, therefore, these guidelines can be utilised to help develop products for people with limited or no literacy. 

2. We use loads of different platforms - Slido, EasyRetro, Zoom, Miro, etc - has anybody rated all the different platforms in terms of their accessibility? 

According to Smashing Magazine, Zoom is a favourite amongst people with disabilities for its accessibility. Zoom has an assortment of accessibility features including accessibility settings, captions, keyboard accessibility, screen reader support, and automatic transcripts.  

Slido is a platform that is utilised by AbilityNet for its flagship accessible technology conference, TechShare Pro. In fact, members of the AbilityNet team worked alongside the Slido team to improve its accessibility before the TechShare Pro conference in 2019.  

The AbilityNet blog post on “How the TechShare Pro audience responded to Slido” provides a useful insight into how the audience reacted to the use of Slido. 

AbilityNet has not had any previous experience with Miro. However, a quick glance at their community forums will show that the platform is far from perfect. A few users have commented on issues with screen readers and keyboard support. Whilst a member of the Miro team has confirmed that an accessibility statement would be released in February 2021, this is yet to be made available on their website.  

3. When hosting accessible video meetings, what are some things that we should  be mindful of? 

Presentations and content shared during Zoom/video meetings should always have good colour contrast. The use of colour should also be avoided to ensure that all information is available to users with visual impairments. 

It is important to provide captions and transcripts for your employees or users with hearing loss. Zoom provides a variety of settings that can assist with automated captions and automated generation of transcripts.  

AbilityNet has a webinar available to watch for free on how to host an accessible meeting online. This webinar contains information on ensuring people with disabilities can access and participate in online meetings, and tips for various platforms including Microsoft Teams and Zoom.  

4. Can you recommend a good accessibility plugin for orgs using WordPress for their website? 

Whilst automated tools can help identify accessibility issues on websites, they are not able to catch all accessibility failures. This can, therefore, result in some issues being overlooked and becoming a problem for your users.  

There are a group of accessibility plugins for WordPress that are defined as “accessibility overlays”. These plugins tend to “fix” issues dynamically at the browser level without modifying the website’s code.  

We would advise against using any accessibility plugins for WordPress that act as an accessibility overlay as it will not resolve all accessibility issues that are found on a WordPress site. In some situations, it can introduce new problems that affect accessibility.  

Instead, specific WordPress plugins that help identify potential issues to authors whilst they create pages and posts can be used. 

For example, the WP Accessibility WordPress plugin by Joe Dolson will enforce the use of ALT tags for images when creating posts.  

It is always better for the person or organisation managing the WordPress site to make the necessary changes to fix any accessibility issues than relying on an accessibility plugin to fix all the issues. 

For more information, see the Civil Service’s results when they tested automated tools on the world’s  least-accessible webpage

5. What experience do you have of using captions? What's the best way to use captions  for video content? 

AbilityNet ensures that closed captions are always available on our YouTube videos, webinars, and internal live meetings.  

Both pre-recorded and live videos should have captions available to viewers. The only exception to this is if the video does not present more information than is already available to the user via text on the same page. Additionally, the audio from the video needs to communicate something meaningful to the user. If this is not the case, captions may not be required for that video. 

Live videos may involve automated generation of captions or someone manually transcribing the speech live. Whilst it is acceptable for there to be some minor errors between the captions and what is being said on the video, it should still be intelligible and synchronised. 

The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative website has a great section on figuring out your video needs and how to make video media accessible.

6. Users must be involved in designing/developing services, but it can be difficult to  recruit those with additional needs or low digital confidence. Any tips? 

AbilityNet offers Diverse User Testing which will allow the real-world accessibility and usability of your digital services to be tested by a varied group of user testers. The Digital Accessibility Services team can be contacted (see details at end of article) to discuss your project requirements and to set up user testing sessions for your projects. 

If you are looking to complete user testing internally, it can be worthwhile to hire people with  disabilities and those with low digital confidence on short term contracts or as full-time employees. This allows a continuous process of user testing and can help you recruit more individuals as more people are likely to be interested if compensated for their time. 

When trying to recruit people with additional needs, it is vital that you can showcase that you are able to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled employees are treated fairly and can assist them to overcome any substantial disadvantages they may face in the workplace. 

For more information, see AbilityNet – Disability and Employment.  

7. What can you do to make an online conference accessible to a wide audience? The  platform we are using is Hopin so we are limited by its functionality

In order to make an online conference accessible, there are a variety of things that can be done. This includes making sure captions are available for your audience. This can be achieved easily with the Hopin platform as it supports automated captions. For more information, see Hopin – Accessibility:  Tips on using captions.

If online conferences are made available to be watched after the event, a transcript should be included with the video. A transcript can be manually created and should include any on-screen text, speaker names, important visuals, and sound effects.  

8. More than a million people in the UK have "essential tremor" (ET). Do you have advice for improving accessibility for people who shake? 

People with hand tremors can experience a lot of issues when navigating a website as unintentional clicks can occur a lot. This is because some websites and apps tend to contain interactive elements clustered together which can result in there not being much space between the elements. 

A simple solution to remedy this problem is to add a bit of space between interactive elements. This will ensure that there is some unclickable space, which when accidentally clicked will not result in any actions taking place. 

Sufficient hit targets should also be considered. This can benefit users with hand tremors as larger hit targets can make it easier for users to activate and interact with them.  

The AbilityNet My Computer My Way section contains a substantial amount of useful information on accessibility features that can assist users with essential tremors. 

9. Recommendations for accessibility software for VI to work with large/confidential  documents? e.g. Working in Local Government. 

There is a variety of accessibility software, both free and paid, available for visually impaired employees that can assist them when working with large and/or confidential documents.

A screen reader will allow users that are blind or have limited vision to continue accessing and interacting with digital content. It will read out loud what is on the screen and provide details to the user on how to interact with that content.  

JAWS is a desktop screen reader available for Windows and is commonly used in the workplace due to its popularity and compatibility with different programs. If a free solution is required, NVDA is a free, open-source screen reader that is also available for Windows.  

With JAWS and NVDA, content that is read out is not stored unnecessarily and is not relayed back to the software publisher, which makes them an ideal solution when working with confidential documents. 

10. Zoom fatigue - would you have any guidelines or tips for orgs about this, or tricks for not having back-to-back meetings? 

There are several solutions provided within the tools that organisations use that can help employees avoid Zoom fatigue.  

For example, Microsoft introduced new features recently for Microsoft Teams that include a virtual commuting experience and integration with Headspace. The integration with Headspace will allow users to schedule time throughout their workday for meditation.  

Simply ensuring that there is always a gap between scheduled meetings can also help prevent Zoom fatigue. This will allow employees to enjoy a short break without the need to jump on to another meeting right after one meeting ends. It is important that when you do take a short break, you either move around in the room that you are in or complete a few exercises to make sure that you are not always sitting down in one place.

11. Do you have any recommendations of people or organisations who can help us with website accessibility testing? 

We at AbilityNet can provide you with a range of different services that can assist you with website accessibility testing. Our full accessibility audit will see our experienced team conduct a desktop and mobile audit, with a review completed for each page against the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). If any issues are raised on your website, we will also provide information on whom the issue affects, why it affects them, and a recommended solution that your team can implement. 

The AbilityNet Digital Accessibility Services team can be contacted to discuss your project and the relevant services that would meet your needs, by phone: +44 (0)1926 465 247 or via email: 

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