The impact of COVID-19 has seen a substantial increase in usage of remote meeting platforms. Before 2020, software-based remote meeting applications were available, but not necessarily viewed as critical. The shift to remote meetings from a complementary tool to a replacement for face-to-face contact, has driven significant innovation in this space, including improvements in the provision of accessibility for people with disabilities.
Yet despite the rapid growth of remote meeting platforms and innovation, there has been little formalized guidance to date on how to ensure remote meetings are accessible. Part of the issue lies with determining who is ultimately responsible for ensuring accessibility. To take the provision of captions as an example, it is necessary for a remote meeting platform to support captions, a process put in place to create captions, and the meeting host and users need to know how to ensure they are included. This demonstrates, the shared responsibility across different audiences, for remote meetings to be accessible. It is with this in mind, that this guidance has been created to gather important accessibility considerations in the one publication.
This draft is sectioned into different audience groups and includes, guidance on vendor procurement planning. It is critical for organizations to make informed decisions about the accessibility of remote meeting platforms they choose to use. The document covers the need for remote meeting platforms to adhere to accessibility standards in their development, and the need to ensure content used in a remote meeting is accessible to all participants. There is also guidance for hosts and users to ensure all accessibility features are made available for an online, or hybrid meeting.
The Research Questions Task Force (RQTF) of the Accessible Platform Architectures (APA) Working Group is actively looking at how best to support these different audiences, while also ensuring that guidance is linked back to relevant W3C standards where applicable. The First Public Working Draft of Accessibility of Remote Meetings is published to provide guidance on the question ‘What needs to done, and who needs to do it, for an accessible remote meeting to occur?’ This has led to the research and development of both technical and non-technical guidance for different audiences to support the addressing of this question. Thus, by encompassing the entire process of delivering accessible meetings (not just the technical aspects of Web standards and software implementation), this work builds on and complements the recently published RTC Accessibility User Requirements.
We welcome your feedback!
Review and comments on the draft are encouraged. The Task Force welcomes additional research-based evidence, comments on the document, and responses to the editor’s notes included in the draft.