Seven Steps for Setting Up an Accessible Virtual Exchange

A group of women and men on laptops
Photo by BlissDom / CC BY-NC 2.0
Seven steps is all it takes to get your virtual exchange off to a smooth - and accessible - start!
  1. Know your toolbox. Many e-learning platforms and tools that are popular for virtual exchanges come equipped with various accessibility features, such as tools for embedding captions, screenreading compatibility, or keyboard navigation. Research which accessibility features are included in your platform of choice. If it offers little in the way of accessibility, either think through alternative methods for providing access or use a different platform. See Related Links to learn about accessibility options for Adobe Connect, Blackboard Collaborate, and others.
  2. Offer reasonable accommodations. If your virtual event has a sign-up process, be sure to offer reasonable accommodations in the sign up form and encourage people to give you as much advance notice as possible so that you have time to make arrangements if requested. You could ask something like, "Let us know how we can make the event accessible to you! Please request any disability-related accommodations you will need (such as slides emailed in advance, captions, etc.) as soon as possible." Be sure to provide a contact name and email.
  3. Work with participants to identify their individual needs. If a virtual exchange participant requests something you are unfamiliar with, don’t be afraid to communicate with that individual directly to clarify their accessibility needs. Don’t assume that what worked for one type of disability in the past will work for any other individual with that disability.
  4. Think universal! To reduce the need for last-minute accommodations planning, develop all virtual exchange materials with universal access in mind. Know where to book captions if requested (we've included links to some options below) and see our page on Quick Tips for Accessible Online for more ideas. If external presenters or faculty are contributing content, work jointly with them to ensure accessibility is addressed.  
  5. Don't wing it. Several days prior to the virtual exchange, take a test run to ensure that all technologies are working appropriately and address any outstanding issues.
  6. Buddy up. Have technical support or other staff on-hand to support accessibility during a virtual exchange. If you are a presenter and accommodations are not working appropriately, who will be available to help?
  7. Get feedback. Following the virtual exchange, ask your attendees to evaluate the exchange's accessibility and suggest ways to improve for future events.