Events Team Portal/Accessibility
THIS IS A DRAFT. The content and structure is not final.
Intention: create a handbook and organizer checklists addressing participation accessibility at events (remote and in person). How can we make movement events more accessible for participants, reducing linguistic, technological, cultural, economic, social, and other event barriers? This first page is a collection of information and considerations for organizers and is not meant to be a checklist, over time we intend to create or highlight additional smaller and more actionable stand-alone resources.
Acknowledgment: This is meant to be a living document and resource. As an accessibility resource we should aim to be as accessible and inclusive as possible. If you do read through this resource and find that your own experiences and perspectives are not included you are welcome to edit directly or comment on the talk page with ideas how others might improve this resource.
Accessibility can be viewed as the "ability to access" and benefit from some system or entity. The concept focuses on enabling access for people with disabilities, or special needs, or enabling access through the use of assistive technology.
Why Accessibility is important to consider at Wikimedia events
In 2020 the Wikimedia Foundation community events team held a series of interviews with Wikimedia movement organizers from across our community which started the project we are calling "Events Refresh." In these interviews a common theme that was identified over and over again was that accessibility in all of its forms and definitions should be a considerably higher priority in event across our movement than it is.
Our Wikimedia 2030 movement strategy says that by 2030, Wikimedia will become the essential infrastructure of the ecosystem of free knowledge, and anyone who shares our vision will be able to join us. In order to do that we will need to ensure that all of our online and offline events are accessible to absolutely everyone who may want to participate. Thinking about accessibility needs to be one of the initial primary considerations when we plan our events and this page will be an attempt to begin fostering discussions around this topic and start establishing some community-wide best practices for everyone to learn from and add to.
Universal design in the event organizers context means that you are designing your event so that everyone can go and take part regardless of age, language, education or familiarity with technology, economic background, disabilities, personality traits or characteristics. This is what we are striving for.
Accessibility at events
When organizing your event you can consider all of the areas in this section released to accessibility. This is meant to be a resource for organizers to read to help them begin thinking about accessibility in a new way. If you want some specific actionable checklists for Wikimedia community events organizers and those organizing similar events take a look at the Checklists for organizers section below. This page will always be a work in progress, and as we learn more about these topics we will try to keep it updated. Anyone reading this should feel comfortable adding to this section if they have new considerations to add. We are always happy to discuss your ideas on the talk page.
Physical accessibility in this context is about physically accessing your venue and all of the spaces within your venue. At your physical events you should try as hard as you can to ensure that participants with any mobility limitations are considered in your venue location, layout and setup. Any time someone is not able to be in the same space as other participants they will be excluded.
- Think about and look for elevators, ramps, wide doorways and isles, pushbuttons on doors that may be closed, close bathrooms, accessible bathroom stalls, accessible seating, access to the stage, podium or speaker platform, microphones with adjustable heights.
- Keep your walkways, hallways and isles clear and do not allow attendees to pull tables and chairs into passages and block them. Having someone assigned to regularly patrol your event space with this in mind will help.
- If you have a space on a different level to the main conference without easy elevator access or in a far away building you should limit its use or ensure that no required sessions are scheduled there without help or transportation for those needing it.
- People with mobility, circulatory, respiratory, or neurological disabilities use many kinds of devices for mobility. Some use walkers, canes, crutches, or braces. Some use manual or power wheelchairs or electric scooters.
- Many countries have laws about about disability discrimination so make sure you are aware of the laws in the country that you are operating in. https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/disability-laws-and-acts-by-country-area.html
Sensory accessibility in this context is about support for anyone with limitations related to their senses. Most commonly you will need to think about participants who are blind or who have low vision and those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Blind or partially sighted people
- In some parts of the world you may see "blind" written as "(B/LV)" this refers to a broader group of people including those that are blind or that that have low vision.
- Can you make signs and text in presentations larger?
- Can you ask speakers to verbally describe their visual aids?
- For major transitions, speakers or attendees instructions consider having both visual and verbal cues
- In the case of emergencies ensure that there are both visual and auditory warnings and cues
- If blind participants have guide or assistance dogs, make sure that venues and accommodation are aware that the dog is working and must not be refused access to e.g. food service areas
- Provide large print, high-contrast, braille, electronic or audio formats of materials when possible
- Keep your wiki pages spell-checked and make sure the formatting is clean and headings are accurate so that screen reading software will not confuse attendees.
Deafness / hard of hearing
- In some parts of the world within the deaf community you will sometimes see "deaf" written as "D/deaf". This is meant to be inclusive language for people who use sign language as their primary language and feel part of the Deaf community (capital D Deaf) and also people who may mainly communicate using spoken language, (lower case d deaf). The terms 'hard of hearing' or 'hearing impaired' might also be used to refer to people who have support needs related to their hearing. Also, be aware that while many deaf people use hearing aids or cochlear implants to increase their hearing, normally this does not fully restore their hearing.
- Can your speaker presentations be available in written format? Preferably, have the written material supplied to a deaf participant (and if necessary their interpreter) before the event.
- Can someone take live transcribed notes? Does your event software have real time closed captioning? These steps will markedly increase accessibility for many deaf people, as well as being of use to people participating in second languages.
- Many deaf people do not use sign language. There are also as many different sign languages as there are spoken languages, which are not mutually intelligible. Areas with the same spoken language may have different sign languages (e.g. Germany and Austria have different sign languages). "International Sign" may be of some use in settings where there are Deaf participants with different native sign languages, but may also not be understood widely. In short: Before providing sign language interpretation, make sure that it addresses the needs of the deaf people who may be attending your event.
- If a participant has a sign language interpreter, ensure the interpreter and participant are able to see each other as well as the speaker. This may require flexibility with seating arrangements (in-person events) or extra preparation in the use of online meeting tools.
- Ensure that any breakout sessions, meetings, workshops or small group work are accessible to deaf participants. This means providing breakout space without noise or distractions, ensuring that all members of the group sit in a circle or horseshoe to be visible to each other, and individuals taking in turns to speak. If you have for instance one quiet breakout room and several corridor spaces, make sure the group with the deaf participants can use the quiet space. Event staff/facilitators may also need to brief other participants in the group about how to support the deaf participant. Further tips here
- For major transitions, speakers or attendees instructions consider having both visual and verbal cues
- In the case of emergencies ensure that there are both visual and auditory warnings and cues
Sensory processing difficulties
Sensory accessibility is also about support for those with sensory processing difficulties. Many autistic individuals, and those with Down Syndrome, Epilepsy, Anxiety and other Sensory Processing Difficulties may process sensory information differently. In some cases, sounds lights, textures or experiences can elicit extreme discomfort, anxiety, and even pain. If you can take this into consideration when thinking about your event setup, lighting, sound, spaces and social events your efforts may allow everyone to enjoy the event.
- This video "Sensory Overload (Interacting with Autism Project)" is one example made attempting to share what sensory overload for some may feel like: https://vimeo.com/52193530
- Your event may have some spaces or social events that are loud. Choose to do that mindfully, and ensure that there is always a quiet space or area where people can quickly get away from the noise. Considering highlighting sessions and activities that will be more calm and include less noise and stimulation.
- Consider that some people really do not like physical touch. Try to remind your attendees and set good examples by asking before hugging or hand-shaking. You can even consider some indicator like a badge, sticker, or pin for participants who want to indicate that they need more personal space.
- More ideas can be found here at paautium.org
Cognitive accessibility in this context is about accessibility considerations for people with cognition and learning disabilities. According to Mozilla, in this category we consider a broad range of disabilities, from people with intellectual disabilities who may have the most limited capabilities, to age-related issues with thinking and remembering. The range includes people with mental illnesses, such as depression and schizophrenia. It also includes people with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- It may seem like an overwhelming challenge to address the wide range of cognitive differences, especially when solutions for two different people may be conflicting. One way to handle this is to focus on cognitive skills, such as attention, memory, processing speed, time management, letters and language, numbers symbols and math, understanding and making choices
- Suggestions for accessible solutions also coming from Mozilla
- delivering content in more than one way, such as by text-to-speech or by video;
- providing easily-understood content, such as text written using plain-language standards;
- focusing attention on important content;
- minimizing distractions, such as unnecessary content or advertisements;
- providing consistent web page layout and navigation;
- dividing processes into logical, essential steps with progress indicators;
- making forms easy to complete, such as with clear error messages and simple error recovery.
Language or linguistic accessibility is a big one for our community, and in this context it is about making our events and their content accessible in as many languages as possible. If the intended audience of your event speaks multiple languages than your event will need to support participation in all of those languages.
- This is about options around live translation and transcription. Making sure your registrations, websites, and content are all translated.
- Do you have event staff who speak different languages? Identify this on your event page and find a way to clearly identify them at the event. Make sure your help desk or registration area is staffed with this in mind.
- Individual tracks, sessions or meetups should highlight the language support that will be accommodated, and this information must be available a long time in advance when your potential participants are registering.
- Think about sign language options and if you are able to support this use international sign language when you can unless your audience has different needs.
- If your event will not have language support you need to be very clear and upfront about this. Don't invite a truly international crowd if you can not support them.
Technical accessibility in this context is about ensuring that technology requirements do not prevent people from participating in your event. Participants may not have laptops or cellphones. Participants may not feel comfortable giving their personal data through specific kinds of software. Participants may have trouble using, downloading, learning or finding different kinds of software or information online. You need to take the time to think through the impact that any decisions you make about required devices, participation requiring devices, and software will have.
- Some questions to ask yourself and consider their implications:
- Can participants without laptops participate?
- Can participants without smart phones participate? Do you have updated online and physical program schedules?
- Do you have laptops or devices you can lend to participants?
- Do you need to have access to a laptop or smart phone to register? Can people register by email?
- Do participants need social media to get regular event updates?
- Is there a phone number for people to call or text when they need help? How can people get help without phone service?
Cultural accessibility in this context is about ensuring that your event takes into consideration the mix of cultures of the participants attending and ensure that your event design will not exclude anybody or make their experience uncomfortable. Part of going to an international event within our community is about learning about that culture, but it is important to keep in mind that many cultural norms from around the world can severely clash with each other. What is expected or common in one place can be insulting in another. This is one of the reasons that it is very important to be explicit about how to co-create a friendly space through the use of a friendly space policy.
- Do you know where all of your participants are coming from? and have all event organizers read about the cultural norms (social, professional, otherwise) of the home countries of the majority of your participants?
- Can you provide ideas for your attendees about norms at your conference so they don't need to guess? What kind of clothing do people generally wear? How do people greet each other? How formal should they expect to be?
- Can you be explicit as possible in what is expected of participants generally? Will they need to participate in sessions and what will that look like? How do they express interest in talking? Can they interrupt or will it be better to wait until the end of sessions?
- Provide prayer spaces if there are any attendees who need this and they are not close to their hotel rooms
- Consider the dates of international holidays and festivals when planning your event, particularly days of religious obligation for major religions.
- Consider providing a local guide with some details about the area, some common words and greetings to use, and any tips you can think of for someone who has never visited before.
- Generally acknowledge the differences at the opening of your event or in some other way and celebrate them. Tell people where they can go to get help if they become uncomfortable or would like to ask a question.
Economic accessibility in this context is a measure of people's ability to participate without financial hardship or consequences. In order for our events to be accessible to everyone in the world we need to do everything we can to reduce the economic burden on individuals and their families as they participate.
- In this community, scholarship programs should always be at the center of your event design.
- If you need to charge a registration fee, provide options for reduced or free registration for those who need it
- Some questions to ask yourself when planning:
- Can you organize your event in such a way where someone who can not take time off of work can participate?
- Can you start your event at a time when those coming from work can still participate?
- Can you accommodate those who need to come late?
- Can your event somehow include those who can not afford to travel?
- Certificates of completion for those who need to provide written excuse for being absent to their school or work
- Consider speakers fees when you are asking someone to come into your community or event and speak. Don't make them ask for it.
- Consider e-scholarships for speakers and event organizers
- Do you have child care options? Do parents know this when they are registering to attend?
Social accessibility in this context is about making it easy for people to interact with each other and doing your best to ensure that newcomers, those that identify as introverts, and those who may identify as shy do not struggle to interact or feel uncomfortable.
- Don't put people on the spot by requiring them to do unexpected public speaking
- Find ways to encourage and structure interaction between attendees. It may be hard for some folks to introduce themselves or make small talk with strangers.
- Always have an optional activity that people can be doing, some way that they can be involved
- Remind yourself and senior community members about what it was like to be new
- Have a newcomer space or program or buddy system
- Make sure someone greets every individual and orients them to the event
- Social events should be built for all types of people. Some people like to dance, some people like to talk, some people like games, some people like to watch a film, Some people will want to drink and some people do not drink at all. Social events with only one activity can be very uncomfortable and exclusive for others. It is important to be very explicit about what to expect at social events so people can choose to attend or not. If there will only be one social event do your best to think about all the different needs.
Content accessibility in this context is about ensuring that your participants can be involved and understand what is going on. The intended content of your event and any attendees knowledge or technical requirements needs to be clear during the registration phase. You need to spend a lot of time thinking about all of the categories of participants that you will have and then make sure they have something interesting to do throughout your event.
- When you are in the initial planning phases of your event it is likely that you will identify a target audience for your event. Make sure to build your event for the people that will be there and make sure that they have something to do at all times.
- If you will have any newcomers you should plan orientations, beginner tracks and content for those not heavily involved in the movement. You should make sure that during every high-level session for long-time community members you have something else going on as well.
- Your program should be labeled with what sessions are good for newcomers and what sessions have participation pre-requisites.
- Make sure that you provide pre-event information for your attendees that will help orient them to the topics of the event so they can be prepared to participate.
- If you expect many long-term Wikimedia community members at your event, do not only hold newcomer sessions. Make sure there is high-level and engaging content and session options for them as well.
This category is to collect things that do not fit into the other categories but may be just as important. If we notice a theme and a lot of focus in one area we may create a new accessibility category.
- These days, at a minimum all events across our movement that are planning on serving food should have vegetarian options. This is not really optional. Add in vegan, halal, and other various categories if you can. You need to be VERY clear in advance of the event what you will be offering and how substantial it will be so that people who can not eat it can plan ahead and bring something for themselves.
- Consider all kinds of allergies (food, scent, plant, etc.) and see how you might be able to support or warn participants who will be effected.
- Consider the age of your participants and how some people will require more rest than others
- Private mothers rooms for nursing mothers
- Consider the jet lag issues for those traveling from a different timezone to be at your event.
- Consider the accessibility of transport to and from your venue and accommodation. If the public transportation options are not accessible to all people you may need to consider renting busses, vans or taxis for everyone or on a case-by-case basis.
- A wikimedia worksheet to be used by event organizers to help think through making your event spaces spafe.
Privacy and disabilities
You should include an optional question in your registration form asking participants if they have any disabilities they would like the share with the organizers and details on how you can be of help to them. You should also include information on your events website indicating how participants can contact you to discuss any disabilities and needed accommodations as well as information about your event venue and program that includes details on the space and all the accommodations you are planning to make. You must ensure that this information stays private and that the individual knows what to expect when they arrive and who to approach and talk to. Try to ensure one point of contact so that they do not need to engage with many different people for support and ask for permission before involving more people.
Do not expect all participants to feel comfortable disclosing their disabilities or needs related to accessibility. There are many reasons why someone would choose to keep their own situation private. As much as possible you should design your event so that people will not need to ask for specific help. You should also design your event to accommodate as many disabilities as possible even if you are unaware of attendees with those needs, they may not have felt comfortable disclosing to you but will suffer if you cut corners.
Checklists for organizers
We will have a goal to raise expectations year by year for grantees into the future. Anything on the required checklist should be possible for organizers anywhere in the world working with any budget. The in depth checklist is for organizers with interest in taking their event to the next level and who may have more bandwidth or funds to focus on these efforts.
The checklists will have suggestions for remote and in person events.
Required checklist - This checklist will be required for events going through the Wikimedia Foundation Conference Grants Program
More in depth check lists
If you know any good checklists or have made your own, please add them here.
- https://diversityandaccess.stanford.edu/disability-access/event-planning -This is a checklist created by Stanford University focusing on in person events
- https://www.americanbar.org/groups/diversity/disabilityrights/resources/covid-resources/virtual-meetings-checklist/ - This is a checklist created by the American Bar Association focusing on virtual events
- https://www.stonybrook.edu/commcms/studentaffairs/sac/training_resources/_SBU%20Virtual%20Event%20Accessibility%20Checklist%20-%205.20.20.pdf - this is a two page accessibility checklist created by Stony Brook University focusing on virtual events
Overview of disabilities you may want to read more about as you design your event
This information has been taken from the en.wp page on Disability. You can read more about each area by following the links below.
"Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations. Disability is thus not just a health problem. It is a complex phenomenon, reflecting the interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives." - World Health Organization
This can include diagnosed or undiagnosed psychological disorders or mental health conditions.
Is a limitation on a person's physical functioning, mobility, dexterity or stamina. Other physical disabilities include impairments which limit other facets of daily living, such as respiratory disorders, blindness, epilepsy and sleep disorders.
Is a limitation on a person's functioning related to any of their senses such as vision, hearing, vestibular (balance) touch, taste or smell.
This is a broad concept encompassing various intellectual or cognitive deficits, including intellectual disability, various specific conditions (such as specific learning disability), and problems acquired later in life through acquired brain injuries or neurodegenerative diseases like dementia. Many of these disabilities have an effect on memory, which is the ability to recall what has been learned over time. Typically memory is moved from sensory memory to working memory, and then finally into long-term memory. People with cognitive disabilities typically will have trouble with one of these types of memory.
is a diverse group of chronic conditions that are due to mental or physical impairments that arise before adulthood. Developmental disabilities cause individuals living with them many difficulties in certain areas of life, especially in "language, mobility, learning, self-help, and independent living". Developmental disabilities can be detected early on and persist throughout an individual's lifespan. Developmental disability that affects all areas of a child's development is sometimes referred to as global developmental delay.
Also known as general learning disability, is a generalized neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by significantly impaired intellectual and adaptive functioning. It is defined by an IQ under 70, in addition to deficits in two or more adaptive behaviors that affect everyday, general living.
(please add any more that you know of!)
- WikiBlind User Group
- Community Toolkit for Greater Diversity
- A previously created events accessibility resource on meta