Sunday, November 24, 2019

Accessibility Tip: Provide Materials Before, Not After

Woman speaking at podium to an audience in an auditorium. There is a screen behind her featuring a slide that provides the session title as well as how to access content.
The arrows point to the URL & QR code provided to participants
before, during, and after the Website Accessibility Summit.

Easy peasy accessibility tip:

Provide participants with handouts before, not after, workshops, learning opportunities, or any type of event.

What do you mean?

Have you ever been to an event where they tell you that you'll get slides and handouts after the event or in a follow-up email? This is an example of getting materials after an event. This reduces accessibility. This is because for some people, having a digital copy of the materials makes learning about and understanding the topic easier. This can apply to a variety of learning styles, disabilities, or for those not fluent in the language. 

Why not just provide the material afterward?

Some people may want to follow along during, not after, an event. They may want to access the material live. 

How does providing digital content before an event help?

Providing access to materials in advance can be helpful in obvious ways as well as ways that may never have occurred to us. Here are some of the more obvious ways having materials in advance can help.

Blind/Low vision

Those needing visual accommodations can access the materials by adjusting size, color contrast, or using a braille or screen reader.

Deaf/Hard of Hearing

Providing materials in advance of an event helps those needing hearing accommodations in a variety of ways. For example, if you have a slide show, ensure the transcript is in the presenter notes, so those who do not hear well can read what you are saying. During the presentation, turn closed captioning on your slides, to provide additional support.

Cognitive Preferences

When participants have the materials, they don’t have to worry as much about missing something. They can go back and reference it. Additionally, for some people, it is helpful to have the material that is being presented, in advance so they can interact with it in a variety of ways and focus on the learning. They may want to highlight pieces, take notes on what they are learning, file or store the information in ways that make sense to them, for later access, etc. 

Practical Considerations

An easy way to provide access to all materials is to provide a hyperdoc agenda. This means an agenda with links to all relevant materials, handouts, and presentations. Place a link to this agenda in promotional materials, emails, calendar invites, flyers, etc.

Why isn’t everybody doing this?

Some people may feel that if someone wants an accommodation such as receiving materials in advance, they should just ask for it. While this does provide access, it is not inclusive and it singles people out. 

Presenters may be hesitant to provide materials in advance because people may decide:
  • Not to attend if they have the materials in advance
  • Not to pay attention to the presenter  
  • To steal their proprietary content 

Each of these hesitations can be addressed in the following ways.
  • Attendance
    • Ensure you make clear the benefits of attending i.e. interactive activities, networking opportunities
  • Paying attention to the presenter
    • Direct participants on where their attention should be focused
  • Stealing content
    • On slides and handouts indicate the author and sharing permissions

Your turn

Now that you know providing materials in advance, doesn’t take any more effort and it provides a better experience for your participants, how might you change your practice? Do you still hold some fears about sharing content with participants or are you ready to give it a shot?

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