How to Handle Captioning & ASL Requests for Virtual Meetings

AAPI man using ASL in front of screenBefore hosting an accessible virtual meeting, remember to ask for and respond to accommodation requests proactively. This guide will help you respond to captioning and American Sign Language (ASL) accommodation requests from your meeting participants.

Special thanks to Meryl Evans for contributing to this article.

Creating Your Invitation

The first step is to invite participants to make accommodation requests before they attend the meeting. Follow the guidelines below to make sure your meeting invitation inspires attendees to share their accommodation requests with you.

Ask: How Can We Include You?

Ask your participants to share any accommodations they require to engage in your meeting. This is probably the single best step you can take to make your meeting accessible because it invites people to tell you what they need.

Include the invitation for participants to make an accommodation request in the RSVP instructions or on the registration form. Set a deadline for responses. That way, if an accommodation is a bit more complex, you will have time to make the proper arrangements.

Say: Here’s What We are Planning

Add a description of the accessibility features you already plan to include in the meeting. That way, your participants will know if they need to make additional requests or if you are already addressing their accessibility needs. This will limit the time you spend responding to individual requests.

Adding this information will also communicate your commitment to hosting an accessible meeting. If you are not sure which features to include, remember that it’s a recommended best practice to provide captioning in all meetings by default and distribute accessible materials ahead of time.

You should also include a 10-digit dial-in number in the meeting invitation. All meetings need a 10-digit call-in number for access to relay service. Relay service enables text-telephone (TTY) users to communicate with standard voice telephone users through specially trained Relay Operators or captioners. Including a dial-in number also provides a reliable way for users with low bandwidth to join.

SAMPLE MESSAGE:
“We strive to host an inclusive and accessible presentation. Accessible materials will be distributed to participants in advance, and live captioning will be provided during the meeting. The meeting dial-in number is [add number]. If you have questions about the accessibility of our presentation or want to request accommodations, please reach out to [add name] at [add email].”

Sharing Materials in Advance

Send materials you will cover in an accessible format well in advance of the meeting. A few examples of accessible materials are slide decks, the meeting agenda and the participant list. Sharing accessible materials ahead of time is important for many reasons, including:

  • Meeting participants who use screen readers may need to review materials ahead of time. They may want to review the slide deck’s organization, read image alt text and get ready to follow and participate effectively in the meeting in real-time.
  • Meeting participants who have a language-processing disability may need to review materials ahead of time to follow and participate effectively in the meeting in real-time.
  • Meeting participants who have chronic conditions may need to review the meeting agenda ahead of time to know when breaks will occur so that they can plan accordingly.
  • Meeting participants that use assistive technology may encounter technology failures when joining and navigating a meeting platform. Even if a platform was accessible in the past, this might change at any time due to a software update. Giving these participants the materials ahead of time will allow them to review the information and learn what will be discussed in the event of a technical interruption.
  • Meeting participants who do not have reliable broadband access may also experience difficulties accessing the meeting. These participants often overlap with users from underrepresented groups, including people with disabilities. Providing materials ahead of time, along with a 10-digit dial-in number in the meeting invitation, is an effective backup to ensure they can join by phone if needed.

Navigating Vendors and Logistics

Your accessible meeting will require planning and setup ahead of time. Likely, this stage will also involve working with vendors. It is important to create vendor accounts as soon as possible to ensure they are readily available when you need them. In the following sections, you will find information about identifying providers and setting your meeting up for success.

Closed captioning logo in a speech bubble
Including Live Captioning

It’s a best practice to offer captioning in all meetings you host.

two hands doing sign language

Working with Sign Language Interpreters

Attendees who are deaf or hard of hearing may require sign language interpreters to provide ASL or other sign language interpretation in real-time

human figure with text bubble and question mark

Handling Other Accommodation Requests

Meeting participants may require a range of accommodations to take part in virtual meetings.

Continue to Including Live Captioning