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Making Communications Accessible for Remote Audiences: Accessible Presentations Q&A

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Written by: Jonathan Avila

In Webinar #1 of the Making Communications Accessible for Remote Audiences Series we got a lot of great questions about closed captions, meeting/webinar platforms, and other best practices on how to create and host accessible presentations. I’ve provided responses to all of them below, and for more information, you can access the on-demand webinar resources.

Closed Captions

How are closed captions being produced in this webinar? Is it through a third-party and if so, which one? Does Zoom have an auto-captioning option?

At the beginning of each webinar, Level Access assigns the CC feature to a live (human) captioner, which is a member of ACS team (ACSTeam@acscaptions.com). Level Access also collaborates with 3Play Media, which provides live/automated captioning for videos. Zoom has an auto caption option for recordings. Level Access does not use it for webinars because the captions generated are not completely accurate. Zoom does not have a built-in automatic generated live caption option although some other platforms like Microsoft Teams and Google Meet do.

If recorded captioning needs to be at least 99% accurate what is the accuracy needed for live captioning?

According to AARP, a good CART captionist generally achieves 98% accuracy. Automatic captions on YouTube and other services are about 85% to 90% accurate if the audio quality is good and the speaker speaks clearly.

Do closed captions show up real-time or is there a lag?

There is generally a very short delay of 2 to 3 seconds as the captionist types the words after hearing them. There is also no time to make corrections if there was a mistake.

Do you have suggestions for digital whiteboards or screen-casting programs that provide closed captioning?

If the platform doesn’t have built in captioning support either directly or via third-party API then you might need to look at options such as using OBS Studio combined with a captioning API such as a web source. There are several free services available for live automatic captions which you can connect to your video stream, however, while they may be useful for some, automatic captions do not provide the accuracy needed for all participants. A web source for captions such as webcaptioner.com can allow people to type the captions used and merge with a OBS video stream – however, without proper equipment or training even fast typists will have difficulty keeping up with the conversation and may not know the most accurate conventions in captioning.

Platforms

Is there a resource that ranks all accessible presentation/webinar platforms? How would you evaluate their accessibility level?

We are not aware of a resource that ranks all of them, but many have a significant level of accessibility. Level Access have not done a formal audit of the apps to determine the extent of accessibility for different groups of users. There are some that are clearly more accessible than others. Level Access uses Zoom because it has a significant degree of accessibility on different platforms – however, other platforms also have substantial accessibility.

Do Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams meet accessibility requirements?

Both have a significant level of accessibility. However, Level Access did not conduct a formal audit of the apps to determine the extent of accessibility for different groups of users. Google Meet and Chat replaces Google Hangouts which is being phased out.

What are some scheduling tools that are more accessible?

Level Access doesn’t have a formal list of all accessible scheduling tools. We recommend reaching out to vendors and asking for accessibility documentation, conformance reports, ask for a demo using assistive technology, or have people with disabilities give feedback.

I find it quite difficult to choose an accessible collaboration platform. Many agencies do not have the information on how accessible the platform/the software is on hand. Do you have any advice?

Level Access doesn’t have a formal list of all accessible collaboration platforms. However, we recommend reaching out to vendors and asking for accessibility documentation, conformance reports, ask for a demo using assistive technology, or have people with disabilities including those who use assistive technology give feedback. Because you may not find one platform that meets all your needs and is accessible, consider what ways it will be used and what features you need.

What is the best recommendation for a Screen Reader tool?

Screen readers are assistive forms of technology used by people who are blind or visually impaired. On Windows the JAWS and NVDA screen readers are most common. On iOS and MacOS the built-in screen reader is VoiceOver and on Android the built-in screen reader is TalkBack.

Do you have any accessibility advice for school districts that are rolling out remote learning? Especially with limited funds and teachers that may be unfamiliar with access needs.

This is a large topic and unfortunately can’t be answered in a few sentences. At the very high level, make sure that content is provided in multiple ways, provide flexibility in delivery, provide multiple means of response, etc. Documents and linked content need to be accessible or alternatives provided. Keep in mind that each student’s needs are different. Make sure to join the third webinar in our series to learn more about document accessibility.

Is there any feature on Zoom for real-time polls?

Yes, you need to set the poll up in advance in the Zoom platform. Administrators may need to turn on this feature for those hosting meetings.

How can you learn whether certain features in these systems are accessible?

It may be helpful to search for or request any accessibility documentation such as conformance reports, help documentation, etc. Talk to vendors but verify what they say is accessible by performing testing and take input from users with disabilities.

Do you know of a video platform that can carry a captioned, audio described, and a Picture in Picture simultaneous option for users to select preference?

Prior to today, most live audio descriptions were for live events like theater. Our recommendation is for presenters to describe the visuals and provide access to materials prior to the event for people who are blind or visually impaired. If audio description is needed for a live performance that is remote, then you would need a secondary audio channel. Level Access has not evaluated what platforms might support a secondary audio channel – but we assume that is a second conference line or event could be set up for this. As for captions and multiple video streams such as one for ASL– a number of platforms do have options – but testing would need to be done to determine which works best for users. For streams, it not uncommon for those who stream to have multiple cameras or devices feed multiple video sources into one stream through software like OBS.

ASL

How can we utilize an ASL interpreter during a live presentation?

You can contact services like ACS that offer Video Remote Interpreting.

When having an ASL interpreter, is there a way to share a screen as well as have a frame open with the interpreter?

Some apps can support this by going out of full screen mode. Another popular option is to use two monitors, two windows, or two computers and log into the meeting twice. Settings may need to be adjusted to make sure people can pin the ASL interpreter in a larger window without the platform reducing the size of the video because they are not considered “speaking” by the platform which generally minimize the video of people not broadcasting audio. Some discussion can be found in this post Accessibility Tips for a Better Zoom/Virtual Meeting Experience.

Laws and Standards

I work for a large insurance company and we are moving towards offering more live meetings, mostly to a relatively small number of attendees. We strive to be accessible but need clarity on what the law requires. Can you please comment on what the law requires regarding captioning in our scenario?

It depends on the audience and any known or requested accommodations by people with disabilities. Follow the Department of Justice’s guidance on providing effective communication in auxiliary aids and services. Under the ADA effective communication is required when needed by people with disabilities, thus if there are no users with disabilities who need captions in a meeting not providing captions is not in violation of the ADA. Level Access does not provide legal guidance and therefore we recommend speaking to your internal and/or external counsel. Keep in mind that you may not always know if people need accommodations. While you can’t ask if they have a disability you may be able to ask if they need accommodations.

Aren’t a majority of things required for anyone that receives Federal funding in order to conform to Section 508 of the ADA?

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act requires those that receive federal money provide accommodations and do not discriminate. The ADA applies to state and local governments, employers, and those that provide public accommodations. Section 508 applies to the US Federal government. Many states have Section 508-like laws that require accessibility of websites and procured information and communications technology.

Do you know if the Federal Relay service can be used at no cost by Federal grantees?

It cannot be used by grantees, see this link: www.sprintrelay.com/federal

Accommodations for Various Disabilities or Languages

What are the biggest challenges for disabled people in accessing online content?

Accessibility of the user interface and content are common challenges. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 provide a good overview on making content accessible to people with disabilities.

What accommodations should we offer for individuals who are deafblind and rely on a lot of tactile communication?

For people who are deafblind, braille is the best remote way of communicating. Generally, in-person communications such as hand signing are used – but in situations where this is not possible, digital means such as braille are important. Generally, if content is made accessible following the WCAG requirements, then assistive technology such as screen readers that support connection with refreshable braille displays should provide that accessible information to the user.

What accommodations should we have for dyslexia or colorblind individuals?

For those who are colorblind, do not rely on color to communicate information visually. Use patterns, bolding, numbers, text, and other visual means. Keep in mind that most people who are colorblind do see colors – the colors they see may not be the same hues as seen by others. For dyslexia, allow people to change settings such as text, spacing, color, etc. and ensure content work with assistive technology such as text to speech tools. Provide multiple modes of use such as audio along with text.

There are some useful posters from the UK government with design reminders.

If we’re unable to provide accommodations (have to schedule a meeting or event on the fly, or a platform isn’t accessible for a certain disability, but we didn’t realize there was an issue) what’s the best way forward? How do we best communicate that to the person in need of accommodation? And how can we still support the person(s) in need of materials?

If you run into a situation where something is scheduled and isn’t accessible and you don’t realize until that time you will want to consider providing alternative services, rescheduling the meeting, etc. The goal is to try to not run into this situation. The TRS and VRS are available for communications and initiated by people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired, and it may be possible to use one of these methods for that person to participate. Provide alternative access to materials that are not accessible or provide updated accessible materials in a timely manner that allows for equal participation.

How can we accommodate different language needs in a webinar? Should an interpreter be incorporated into the video presentation or available separately only by phone, or a different method?

Most platforms like YouTube and Facebook can support captions for recorded content in multiple languages. For live video, there are multiple ways of performing this. For different spoken languages, Zoom allows for multiple spoken language interpreters at once. If the platform doesn’t support this feature, you would likely need a separate window or use a Q&A or caption feature for translations in that language.

Should meeting hosts give extra time for attendee interactions (mute/unmute, video on/off, poll response, etc.) in case there are attendees with disabilities who may need extra time for such things?

This is a good idea. You might also be able to track who has responded and ask people in general to either respond or indicate “no response”, so you are not waiting too long. Also, you could make the information available afterwards or offer options to respond before the meeting can benefit some participants.

Do you know if there is an option to give participants the transcript in real-time but in different languages?

We have not researched this topic or used this option. For different spoken languages Zoom allows for multiple spoken language interpreters at once.

Presentation Content and Other Best Practices

What program did Level Access use to generate the slides for this webinar? When the slides are made available, do they follow semantics that allow a screen reader to read them? We are not familiar with how to make a document accessible in programs like Keynote or PowerPoint.

Level Access used PowerPoint to generate these slides and ensure that all slides are structured for accessibility. Join webinar #3 of this series to learn more about document accessibility.

Is there a recommend balance between how much text you have on the slide vs. how much is described via audio during a presentation?

The spoken content/audio description should cover the important points and purpose of what is being communicated by the slide. For example, consider if the video connection dropped – what would be the important details you would need to consider if communicating purely through the phone.

Is it generally recommended that the presenter is on screen (for lip reading) or is the lag/size preclude the usefulness of that?

Many people find the speaker’s video helpful in terms of expression and other visual communication even if lag and video quality is not sufficient for lip reading. It really depends on the individuals participating and their communication preferences. Some people including those with disabilities may also not feel comfortable to be on video.

I have heard at times “able-bodied” attendees make comments to the effect of “I don’t enjoy presentations where the presenter simply reads the slide to me”, yet many aspects of presenting accessibly for blind/VI attendees ask of presenters to be more heavily descriptive. Are these at odds?

Potentially, yes. Some participants may want to read the slide themselves in silence while people who are blind may want the information spoken. It is a balance between communicating the important details of why the slide was included and also providing the materials to people ahead of time so people who are blind or visually impaired might read the materials in refreshable digital braille while listening to the speaker. Not all blind people read braille and listening to a screen reader and live speaker at the same time can be challenging. Thus, it is important to have details spoken by the presenter for this group.

Should transcripts always be available or are closed captions sufficient?

It is best practice to provide transcripts for recorded video as well. While technically not required by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines when captions are present – not all captions are text in the video recording and text transcripts can benefit users who are deaf-blind and users who need to search through text from a recording.

Building a Business Case

When writing a business case to approve spend for live captioning and other types of content, is there a good place to get the updates/stats of those with accessibility issues to back up the case?

Our Business Case for Accessibility page has a lot of useful info, including an eBook that will give you a framework for building internal support for accessibility initiatives. Our friends at 3PlayMedia also have business case documents specifically related to captioning, for example 3 Reasons Why Captioning is More Important Than Ever Before.