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Before planning any online programming, it is important to get familiar with the accessibility functions of the platform or tool you use, such as Microsoft PowerPoint, YouTube, Zoom, Slack, and Facebook. This information can often be found on the company’s website or searching for the name of the company and “accessibility.” 

Some, such as Microsoft and Zoom, provide free virtual training, demonstrations, or both on how to use their product’s accessibility and tools. Accessibility features are frequently updated, so it is worth checking these pages regularly or signing up to receive updates. 

Icon representing all users. Guidelines to support all users

Follow these guidelines to ensure online programming is accessible for all users, regardless of disability status or type of disability:

  • Minimize the amount of content on presentation slides. Avoid putting links on slides when presenting. They make it harder to read and attendees can’t click the links.
  • Write content in plain language (use a readability checker) and define technical/scientific jargon. 
  • Simplify charts and tables. Remove any extraneous information. Make sure all labels are legible.
  • Use an accessibility checker tool on all presentations and resources being shared.
  • Include multi-sensory elements in programming to give people different ways to engage. Encourage them to grab objects to manipulate.
  • Provide multiple contact options for reaching your organization: email, phone number, chat box, and video call with captions or a sign language interpreter.
  • Use left-align in all text (presentations, invitations, web content) including headings because center and full-justification is hard to read.
  • Use sentence case or title case instead of all uppercase.
  • Limit the use of bold, underline, and italics to a few words or phrases. These types of formatting shouldn’t be used for sentences or entire paragraphs. 
  • Use underline on links to help people find them.
  • Link a few phrases, not an entire sentence; otherwise it becomes unwieldy.

Icon representing users with auditory disabilities. Auditory disabilities guidelines

Ask yourself: Is there any information I would miss if I turn off the sound? Follow these guidelines to ensure online programming is accessible to those with auditory disabilities:

  • Provide accurate, synchronized captions for all videos.
  • Provide a sign language interpreter for videos.
  • Provide well-formatted transcripts for all video and audio. Well-formatted means short paragraphs (3 to 5 sentences) and with the speaker identified. (See Accessible Communications and Events for more information about finding sign language interpreters and creating captions and transcripts.)

Icon representing users with visual disabilities. Visual disabilities guidelines

Ask yourself: Is there any information I would miss if I only listen to this programming? Follow these guidelines to ensure online programming is accessible to those with visual disabilities:

  • Describe text on the screen and images in context verbally. It doesn’t have to be word for word or a detailed description of the image.  
  • Avoid saying “See this picture” or “You can read this for yourself.”
  • Describe any visual elements in a demonstration or other activity. If an activity results in a change, explain what happened. (For example, when combining two substances that results in a color change.).
  • Create an audio description version of videos. Refer to Frozen Trailer audio description for an effective example.

Icon representing users with cognitive disabilities or neurodivergency. Cognitive disabilities guidelines

Ask yourself: Does any part of this program require focus to understand what is happening? Do any elements of the programming distract from the program? (Such as using animated GIFs or loud background music.) Follow these guidelines to ensure online programming is accessible to those who identify as neurodivergent or have a cognitive disability:

  • Provide a warning if a demonstration involves flashing lights or loud sounds before showing. Let them know when it has passed.
  • Provide trigger warnings for graphic descriptions or explicit discussions of violence, abuse, self-harm, or eating disorders before showing. Inform participants when the material has passed. 
  • Provide trigger warnings for insects and other imagery that may be disturbing to children and people with phobias before showing. Let them know when it has passed.

Icon representing users with mobility-related disabilities. Mobility disabilities guidelines

Ask yourself: Could I easily access all aspects of this program using different inputs (such as a keyboard, mouse, or cell phone touch screen) than what I use every day? Follow these guidelines to ensure online programming is accessible to those with mobility disabilities.

  • Ensure the programming is accessible without a mouse.
  • Ensure the programming is accessible using only a keyboard.
  • Ensure the programming is accessible using alternative inputs such as joysticks, switch devices, head wands, mouth sticks, and speech interfaces. To learn more about alternative inputs, refer to Computer / Electronic Accommodation Program.

Learn more about accessible online programming

Read icon. Read: This article, Tips for Delivering an Accessible Presentation, provides advice for in-person and online presentations and discusses how to avoid using ableist language.

Watch video icon. Watch: The learning module, Live/Streamed Program Accessibility, focuses on the ways that small museums can ensure that live-streamed and video programming are accessible to and inclusive of individuals of all abilities. Instructors address the pros and cons of different video platforms and how to incorporate live captioning, American Sign Language (ASL), image descriptions, and other services. 

Watch video icon. Watch: The DO-IT Center at the University of Washington’s YouTube Channel shares videos of their students discussing the types of assistive technology they use. This includes technology for learning disabilities and sensory impairments.

Find additional resources on accessible online programming here.

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