In the last couple of months we’ve seen a huge number of artists, arts organisations and commercial entities rush to digital platforms to continue to engage their audiences, explore new ways of making theatre, and to connect with each other from isolation. What has become apparent is that many artists, particularly in the independent sector, have less resources and knowledge to ensure their work is accessible to all. Now, perhaps more than ever, accessibility has never been more important.
Yes, some of the reasons relating to a lack of accessibility will be financial. We can’t all afford an Auslan interpreter or live captioning. But, for those of us choosing major platforms like YouTube and Facebook Live there are in-built services that are freely available and make the start of things like captioning easier, if you’re willing to put in a little time for editing. But captions and signing aren’t the only ways you can bring your digital theatre and cabaret into the homes and devices of accessible audiences.
Accessible Arts NSW have created something that can help. Their top ten tips for running online events is packed with ways you can do more to ensure that your work can be seen by even more people. There’s even potential for you to be engaging with all-new audiences for your work, and that’s a great thing right now!
The full list is below but we highly encourage you to click on their links and visit www.aarts.net.au for the full suite of resources.
- Access needs to be included.
If you are running an event, you are responsible for access. This is a legal responsibility, so no excuses.
- Consider what access to provide.
Whether you’re hosting a webinar, live performance, exhibition, or tutoring, you’ll want to consider including Auslan interpreting, captioning, and audio description. Check your online platform’s provisions for including access services in real time and after the event. You can find a list of service providers here.
- Auto-captioning can be hit and miss.
Some online platforms generate automatic captions when uploading videos. While convenient, these captions will often contain errors so be sure to take the time to edit for a perfect result.
- Think about format.
Best practice is to always consider a variety of communication and information sharing styles. Be sure to have a variety of ways people can engage with your event. It’s easy for online events to turn into talk fests, which are not everyone’s preferred method of communicating and engaging. Consider how you can engage in a variety of ways (e.g. live chats, activities, etc).
- Think about length and time.
How long is your online event? Online events can be tiring for everyone. Have you considered having shorter sessions and/or included regular breaks? What time is your event?
- Ensure all materials used within the session are accessible.
If you’re using a PowerPoint, ensure it’s accessible by removing unnecessary text and borders, and making headings 44pt and body text 32pt. Always use sans serif fonts. Be aware, PDFs are generally not accessible to a screen reader. Always provide Word document versions alongside any PDFs provided.
- Provide detailed access information to both audience and presenters prior to your event.
Alert your audience to any specific login requirements for easy access within the online platform you are using. Remind presenters to be inclusive in their approach and to speak simply, directly and clearly, and at a good pace for Auslan interpreters and captioning.
- Let people know about the access you’re providing.
Communicating what access is available is key to delivering inclusive events. Let audiences know what you can and cannot provide for them. Be open and straightforward about what you do and any limitations this may have. Actively market your event to people with disability and this will grow and diversify your audiences. Include an email and phone contact and then they can ask if they need more info or a further adjustment too.
- Consider post-event access.
Are you recording the event? Will transcriptions be made available? Some platforms such as Zoom Pro include automatic recording and transcription delivered straight to your email address.
- Representation matters.
Access is also about what you program, who you invite to speak, and what your content is. Does it involve people with disability? Is it relevant to people with disability? And have people with disability been involved in designing and shaping the program in any way?
The most important thing is to keep learning. Access is an ever-evolving area, and especially within the online space.
Accessible Arts provides a range of learning and development services that can help you make some very easy and practical changes which will make a world of difference to how you and your team connect with and support people with disability. They also provide consulting services across a range of areas, including making your digital content and online events accessible.Download a PDF of the Accessible Arts Top Ten Tips