Resources to Help Ensure Accessibility of Your Virtual Events for People with Disabilities

Since the start of the current COVID-19 crisis, artists and arts and culture organizations have been proactive in reaching out to their audiences and communities through webinars, livestreamed performances, virtual classes, and virtual visual art collections and museum tours. Cultural organizations should remember to ensure that these invaluable resources are fully accessible to people with disabilities, including those with vision, hearing, and learning disabilities.

Below are some ways to create an inclusive experience for your virtual and digital events. Please note that this is a high-level overview and not a detailed how-to guide. Let us know of other recommendations or needs from the field to better serve people with disabilities by emailing Accessibility@arts.gov.

Communication tip: Be sure to include contact information on your website or event registration for requesting an access accommodation. Accommodations provided for the event without request, such as captioning, can be promoted by using the appropriate downloadable disability access symbol, which allows people with disabilities to know which accommodations will be provided without having to ask.

Streamed and livestreamed performances and events

  • Will the performance have live captioning (preferred) for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, or can the captions be created and synced up for later streaming? Sample resources and cost-effective solutions are provided below.
  • Will you provide sign language interpretation in American Sign Language (ASL)? Many platforms allow sign language interpretation alongside the performance or discussion.
  • Will the performance include visual or audio description for people with vision disabilities? Audio or visual description is a narration of the visual images in film, television, theater, and other performances.

Virtual exhibitions and collections

  • Will all images include alternative text for people who are blind or have low vision that use screen-reading software? Alternative text (also called “alt text” or “alt-tags”) is a visual description of an image that can be added using image formatting tools to describe the image for screen-reading software users. Social media platforms also allow users to add alt text to their images before they are posted.
  • Ensure videos are captioned and consider adding audio/visual description.

Videoconferencing & webinars

  • Will the webinar be live captioned?
    • Note: Since webinars provide a platform for people to ask questions and interact with the speakers in real time, live captions allow people who are deaf or hard of hearing to participate in real time, so it’s best to include captioning to the live webinar rather than adding captions in post-production. Captioning also provides a transcript of the event that can be useful for everyone, including those who join the live event late.
  • Are presenters making their visual material accessible? Be sure to:
    • Use text that is high-contrast and in a large, legible font, such as Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman. Avoid italics and specialty or decorative fonts. Use an online color contrast checker.
    • Describe all images used in the slide presentation and read the relevant text from the screen for people who have difficulty reading or seeing text and visual images. Avoid adding too much text and unnecessary images to slides.
    • Balance the need to verbalize visual information with the need to keep the text concise.
    • Leave blank space at the lower part of the slides should the captioning technology platform used cover any text.
  • Can people access the content if they cannot use a computer?
    • Be sure to offer different ways to access the videoconference, such as by phone line or transcript provided after the event.

Online learning events

  • Do your students need accommodations, such as real-time captioning or sign language interpreting?
  • Is there a convenient way for students to request accommodations via phone or email?
  • Are videos captioned?
  • Is the platform accessible for a person who uses screen-reading software, such as a person who is blind or has low vision? Are videos audio-described?
  • Have you communicated with the vendors of the online platforms to understand what their capabilities are for accessibility?

Sample Resources

Please note: The following websites link to a sampling of useful resources that are external to the National Endowment for the Arts’ website. This is a non-exhaustive list; other resources are available via internet search or from state or local disability agencies and organizations.

The Arts Endowment is not responsible for the accuracy of content posted on the following websites nor does the Arts Endowment represent whether that content is up to date. Inclusion on this list of Accessibility Resources is not an endorsement or sponsorship of any organization or product. 

Captioning

Sign language interpretation

  • A list of sign language interpreters is available at the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. Note: Other resources are available via internet search. 
  • Search for sign language interpreting companies that offer video relay or video remote interpreting services. 

Audio/Visual description

Virtual platform accessibility features

Examples of platforms with accessibility features (please note that automated captions do not replace captioning by a live captioner and must be reviewed for accuracy):

Online learning