As the world was forced onto the Internet due to COVID-19, we saw many issues that previously flew under the radar take center stage. Accessibility was arguably chief among them, particularly as hearing-impaired individuals all over the world found themselves struggling to stay connected. Event management professionals are uniquely positioned to help address this problem—to set an example by making events more inclusive for both deaf and hearing-impaired audiences. 

Here's a bit of advice in that regard.

Leverage Accessible Technology

Inclusivity goes beyond simply having the best video and audio quality possible. It's also about finding a platform with accessibility-focused features. For online events, these include, but are not limited to: 
  • Automatic captioning via artificial intelligence
  • Split-screen mode
  • The capacity to mute anyone who isn't the active speaker
  • Tools to enable non-verbal communication, such as live chat
  • Recordings and transcripts
For in-person events, meanwhile, you'll want to do the following: 
  • Ensure proper lighting
  • Find a venue in which there is an induction loop system
  • Provide visual aids such as diagrams and visual guides
  • Hire a sign language interpreter if necessary
  • Provide a pen and paper to participants
  • Consider a speech-to-text service like Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) C-Print, or TypeWell. 

Make Arrangements in Advance

Accessibility isn't something that can be done in half-measures or at the last minute. You need to plan ahead of time to ensure everyone who will attend is able to participate. As part of this planning, it's crucial to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to inclusivity. 

Your best bet is to test everything ahead of time—bring in a third party to assess whether or not your accessibility efforts are sufficient. Additionally, if you're booking any specialized services such as interpretation, remember that they often need to be booked well ahead of time. Typically, this means contracting them weeks or even months in advance. 

Promote Inclusive Protocols

We have already touched on this somewhat, but it bears mentioning again. It's not just technology that makes for an accessible event. It's also how the event is run—strategies and processes that ensure all participants have an equal level of participation.

These include: 
  • Polling
  • Virtual hand-raising
  • Live Q&A
  • Chatbox messaging
  • Reaction emojis
Finally, at the onset of every event, it's worthwhile to perform an accessibility check with your audience. Ask if anyone needs special consideration and have the requisite technology on hand to meet those needs. And if you're ever in doubt or struggling to figure out accessibility, know that there are many resources you can seek out for assistance—why not ask your audiologist for advice the next time you schedule a hearing test?