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Meeting Management: Online By Barbara Palmer


Take Away


Virtually Accessible to All


Making video content accessible to attendees with hearing and vision loss is more than a good thing to do. It’s a smart thing to do.


For experienced planners, thinking about accessibility is second nature when it comes to live meetings. In-person eventsmustmakeit possible for attendees with vision and hearing impairments to access presentations. But those same audiences are often excluded


from accessing online videocontent, because there is no legal requirement to accommodate their needs—unless the content is createdby the feder- al government or government contractors. Legisla- tion in place since 1998 (an amendment to Section 508oftheRehabilitation Act of1973) requires that electronic and information technology developed, procured,maintained, or usedbythefederalgovern- ment be accessible to people with disabilities. SonicFoundry—whichoffersanevent-webcast-


ing platform called Mediasite—is experienced in accommodating hearing- and vision-impaired online participants, for government aswell as uni-


ducers will be required tomake video accessible. Congresspassedthe21stCenturyCommunications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 to ensure that digital content, devices,andemerging technolo- gies are accessible to disabled users. The Federal Communications Commissionis currently holding hearings to determinehowbroadly the law will be applied to organizations that produce digital con- tent.


Therearegoodreasons, inadditiontocompliance


andethics, to thinknowaboutmakingvideo content available to users in text form, St. Angel said. Becausethe Internet is text-based,mostvideo content is invisibleto searchengines,suchasGoogle.Provid- ing transcripts and closed captioning boosts SEO (search engine optimization). Converting video con- tent to text givesyouthe ability to attract viewersyou otherwise wouldn’t reach, St. Angel said, and to repurpose the content fornewaudiences.


“Many consider [web accessibility] a nice-to-have.”


versityandconference clientswhorequirewebcast- content accessibility, said Erica St. Angel, Sonic Foundry’s vice president ofmarketing. For clientswho requirewebcast content acces-


sibility for peoplewhoare hearing-impaired, Medi- asite supports live and/or on-demand closed cap- tioning, as well as a sign-language-interpreter option. Mediasite provides alternate slide text, which can be read by screen readers that provide text-to-speech output orBraille displays. Even many of Sonic Foundry’s clients who


aren’t required to make content accessible consid- er it “a nice-to-have,” St. Angel said.“They recog- nize that it is the right thing to do,andare struggling to figure outhowto do it.” Andwhile itmay not be amandate today, it’s uncertainwhether more categories ofcontent pro-


Ifyou simply post video on theWeb, “you’ve


eliminatedan enormousamount of content”from search engines, said JeremyBarron, president and co-founder of 3Play Media, which provides tran- scriptionand captioning services.Whentranscripts are synchronized and embedded into videos, all users can searchthecontentbykeywords—not just inanindividual video, but throughoutanorganiza- tion’s entire video archive. “A user interested in a particular topic,”Barronsaid, “cansearch through hundreds of hours of video in a very short time.” Headded: “The online video world is evolving


very quickly, and people are still figuring it out. There are clear benefits for closedcaptioningfor the hearing impaired. … You can expand that to a broader audience by using interactive tools that leverage transcripts.”


ON_THE_WEB: To see how Sonic Foundry uses closed captioning with online content, check out the presentation “How to Create Slides That Don’t Suck (and Help Others Do the Same)” at bit.ly/convene-sonicfoundry.


32 pcma convene April 2012 ILLUSTRATION BY GREG MABLY www.pcma.org


Ask Uncle Sam The accessibility of electronic information for federal employees has been mandated for nearly 15 years— meaning federal agencies can offer expertise in making digital presentations available to all users. The U.S. Food and


Drug Administration, for example, offers best practices for accessible online meetings and webinars. A sample tip: Send documents, including PowerPoint slides, in plain text in advance of an online event, so that partici- pants with low vision have the option of preparing their own Braille versions beforehand. It’s a bet- ter alternative than asking users to listen to both the presenter and a text-to-speech reader at the same time. For more, see 1.usa.gov/ convene-fda.


 Barbara Palmer is senior editorof Convene.


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