Meetings at a Distance: Considerations for Accessibility

Maine CITEThe following resources may be used to assist meeting planners meet the needs of participants with disabilities who need accommodations.

Many organizations are turning to technology to provide an inexpensive way for people to meet. The ubiquitous availability of various electronic communications systems naturally makes these methods the first choice to meet the need and new and exciting technologies are being developed every day.

Whether you are considering hosting of a web seminar (aka, “webinar”), offering an on-line course, setting up a two-way (or multipoint) video conference, or simply arranging for a telephone conference call, the issue of accessibility must be carefully addressed. Although you may often know about the accommodation needs of your employees and regular constituents, this is not always the case for every meeting, and your job as coordinator can become very stressful if you are not prepared to accommodate all participants.

Many people with disabilities who may be participating in your meeting or training session will be using assistive technology equipment or services that must be taken into consideration when planning for your meeting. People with blindness or visual impairments, people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and people with physical and or mobility impairments will make up the groups most likely needing meeting accommodations. However, there are individuals with other needs and with combinations of needs who may attend your meetings who will require other accommodations. Therefore it is best to plan your accommodations for all.

In the downloadable Accommodations Chart – PDF - plugin required, we have provided details regarding participants’ needs and specific accommodations they may need. Please use the chart as a planning guide as you prepare for your meeting and make sure you discuss the needs with each participant.

Additional considerations

The physical space used for meetings must be accessible to people with disabilities. Access to and from the meeting room must be unencumbered and appropriate accessible rest room facilities must be nearby. Meeting space planners must make accommodations for the use of assistance or service animals. Meeting attendees may also have a personal assistant accompany them to the meeting.

All written documents to be used in meetings should be prepared in advance and distributed before the meeting with sufficient time for all participants to have an opportunity to review them completely. All written documents should be rendered accessible to all assistive technology devices. Maine CITE has publishes a series of articles on how to ensure written documents meet accessibility guidelines.

Planning for meetings should include sufficient planning time and resources to cover costs associated with the provision of certain services. For example, the services of certified ASL interpreters, CART transcriptionists or other specialized personnel should scheduled well in advance to ensure availability during the scheduled meeting time.

The following are some additional considerations:

Clear Accessibility Policy:

If you do not already have one, develop and adopt a clear set of web accessibility policies that state the requirements and provide specific guidelines. You need to check your local laws for specific accommodation requirements. Some organizations use Section 508 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act when considering assistive technologies and information technology. All organizations holding public meetings in the United States must adhere to the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Test and Remediate:

Meeting planners should check out the meeting space and test all technology for compliance with the accessibility guidelines well in advance. Remediation of those things that do not meet the guidelines should be made before the actual meeting time.


See also a resource recently developed by the Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Rights Center called “Planning Accessible Meetings and Conferences: A Suggested Checklist and Guide.”

ASL Interpreting

The following is a link to finding ASL Interpreting services in Maine. For meetings in other areas, we suggest you search Google for ASL Interpreters for you state or region, or contact your state government agency that has oversight in this area.

Web Captioning General Information

General information about how to caption video for use on websites and through web-based distribution systems:

Captioners/Captionists – CART – Communication Access Real-time Translation

Video Captioning Services

Organizations and businesses that provide post-production video captioning services

Captioning Software

Other Resources for Accessible Meetings

revised: 09/08/2015