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Unraveling accessibility issues in remote and on-site meetings

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8 min

Accessibility describes the quality of a system, product, or environment usable by as many people as possible. It focuses on including people with disabilities or enabling access through the use of modern technology. In the event industry, we assess accessibility in various aspects, from on-site or hybrid meetings to fully remote events. 

Legal measures leading to increased accessibility

Currently, many countries are trying to unify the understanding of accessibility among different cultures. Did you know that the first international legal instrument that outlines minimum standards for the rights of people with disabilities is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)? Signed almost 15 years ago, this document serves as a backbone for setting the foundation for accessibility across the globe.

But, as you might have guessed, one UN convention is not enough. To follow up the UNCPRD, the member states of the European Union and EU institutions collaborate with non-governmental organizations. Together, they construct specific roadmaps to develop more conventions and regulations to address the matter. 

For example, in March 2021, European Commission introduced the Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2021-2030. Commissioner Dali claimed that this strategy tackles the problems of over 87 million Europeans. Eighty-seven million Europeans - sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? 

Well, you might feel better about this number if we say that there are 4 components in the strategy that the event industry can contribute to already, making the lives of millions of people with special needs easier. 

Here is what companies like Interactio can do today: 

  • Foster participation in the democratic process
  • Improve access to justice, legal protection, freedom, and security
  • Empower inclusive and accessible education
  • Boost access to art and culture

Addressing the scope of disabilities

The need for inclusivity is continuously increasing as the number of people who have mobility challenges, hearing difficulties, and vision impairments grows. In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has set the main accessibility requirements. 

Here are some highlights from the ADA you need to know:

  1. ADA outlines requirements to prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities, including modifications to policies, practices, and procedures. It acknowledges the need for effective communication with people with hearing, vision, and speech disabilities.
  2. It requires telephone and Internet companies to provide telecommunication systems and relay services that allow individuals with hearing and speech disabilities to communicate over the telephone.
  3. It provides additional resources, such as a planning guide to make one-time events accessible for people with disabilities.

Each event type has its challenges when it comes to ensuring accessibility, and there is no perfect setup that fits all. 

During an on-site meeting, the venue matters a lot. Specialists often have to establish ramps for people with mobility disabilities to participate. However, not everyone needs technical assistance. Extra time might be enough for some of the people who have less severe mobility issues. Supplementary seating options, additional space, and a helping hand from qualified personnel are a must at every high-quality in-person meeting.

People with special needs might experience difficulties both on-site and while participating remotely. To provide a more inclusive experience for people with hearing impairments, you can provide live captioning, subtitles, or use services of professional sign language interpreters. 

When it comes to people with visual impairments, meetings should be organized according to the available guidelines by professional organizations. For example, American Foundation for the Blind suggests using text-to-speech technologies. It digitizes the text with software that can turn scanned images or printables into speakable text. 

If you decide to print out the material, make sure it has a minimum 16pt font size in Sans Serif fonts. Some other fonts are applicable (based on their simplicity) and can be found here. The opportunities for better accessibility are endless: Braille, audio recordings, screen reading software. You just have to decide which techniques are suitable for your audience!

How do remote simultaneous interpretation platforms help us solve inclusivity issues?

Remote simultaneous interpretation (RSI) platforms break the barrier of borders and the knowledge of different languages. This immediately touches on some of the topics mentioned in the Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2021-2030

  • RSI solutions contribute to the development of democracy by breaking language and distance barriers in large organizations like the United Nations and European institutions, where multilingual communication is the key. Remote simultaneous interpreting solutions give access to legal protection, justice, security, and freedom while traveling or residing in foreign-speaking countries.
  • Remote simultaneous interpretation platforms foster different cultures and art by providing participants the ability to speak in the rarest languages - who knows what kind of hidden gems those cultures have been hiding in their stories?
  • Remote simultaneous interpretation solutions can open the doors for limitless knowledge and education by making multilingual events happen with a mobile device, laptop, or PC and Internet connection.  

Remote interpreting platforms also enable people with mobility issues to participate in meetings from home if a remote setup is more comfortable for them than in-person events. Notably, some of the disabilities disconnect people from the political systems and participation in the democratic processes. RSI providers have been working with developers to ensure a secure and private operation of voting with extensive functionalities

Is Interactio platform fully accessible?

No. Truth be told: no remote simultaneous platform in the world is fully accessible yet. However, together with fellow industry experts, we work hard to understand the needs of people with disabilities and develop our product to destroy language barriers for all. 

That’s why we are both proud and humbled to announce that Interactio already kicked off initial discussions with the World Blind Union to better serve users with vision impairments who join our multilingual meetings. With this first of many steps, we commit to expanding Interactio accessibility features. 

We can only build the bridges to limitless knowledge together if we make information easily accessible to each of us. 

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Published on

September 9, 2021

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