Accessibility of Remote Meetings Published as W3C Group Note

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W3C WAI announces publication of the Group Note Accessibility of Remote Meetings. It is a companion to the more succinct W3C resource: How to Make Your Presentations and Meetings Accessible to All.

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. More recently, hybrid meetings, combining in-person attendance with remote participation, have become more common.

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 to be put in place to create them, and for the meeting host and participants to know not only that captions are available, but also how to ensure the 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 W3C Group Note 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 participants regarding how to make all accessibility features of the platform available during an online or hybrid meeting.

The Research Questions Task Force (RQTF) of the Accessible Platform Architectures (APA) Working Group considered how best to support these different audiences, while also linking guidance back to relevant W3C standards where applicable. Accessibility of Remote Meetings captures knowledge and experience gained in the last several years on how to support the diverse needs of people with disabilities in the software, organizations and activities through which remote and hybrid meetings take place. 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 earlier RTC Accessibility User Requirements.

Accessibility of Remote Meetings is expected to be of broad interest to a variety of audiences, including meeting platform developers, meeting organizers, and participants with disabilities. In addition, it has the potential to influence subsequent work of W3C Web Accessibility Initiative including future formal accessibility guidance.

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