Work meetings can be challenging if you have an access need – and even more so as online meetings become more common. Here’s how to make business meetings better for everyone.
Everyone has their own needs in order to fully participate in work meetings, even if they wouldn’t necessarily see them as access issues. Meeting these needs is partly about practicalities, but also about good practise.
We know that a welcoming culture is a key enabler to accessibility. Make it clear that you want everyone to be fully welcomed and engaged in the meeting, and ask what they will need in order to make this happen. The following tips are a starting point to help ensure everyone is included.
First, make sure your building – and the route to the meeting room – is accessible.
Then, provide accessibility information ahead of the meeting. This could include:
It’s also useful (for everyone!) if you provide details about who to contact on the day if you’re having any difficulty finding the location.
And it’s a great help to explain what to expect from the actual meeting – the agenda, who will be there and how long the meeting will be.
The key to accessible business meetings is to actually ask what people need. Don’t make assumptions, but be curious. The best question isn’t about someone’s (visible or invisible) disability; it’s simply “What do you need in order to participate?”
Some common considerations are:
Make sure people have the information they need to get the best out of the meeting, to contribute and to take part in decision making. Ask at the beginning of the meeting whether there is anything people need to participate. Even if you’ve already asked before, it’s helpful to check in to make sure everyone is comfortable and has what they need.
How you talk in meetings is important to accessibility, but these three simple tips can make a big difference to everyone.
Most of the above tips are also relevant to online meetings, but meetings via video bring their own challenges and solutions.
1. Prepare in advance.
Check that participants can access the technology platform you are using, and find out if there is anything you need to be aware of. For example, is the platform compatible with the assistive technology someone is using?
Accessibility is also about access to technology itself, and people’s digital skills levels, so check whether there are any issues and provide alternatives if necessary. For example, someone might find it easier to join a Zoom meeting by phone rather than video. You might also want to offer a tech check-in before the meeting – this is an opportunity to practise in advance, and to build confidence.
Remember that online meetings are not just about tech. Ask whether an attendee needs NZSL interpreters and provide one if necessary.
2. Be aware that “Zoom fatigue” is real.
This applies regardless of which platform you are using (not just Zoom!), and it applies to everyone – even if they would not normally consider themselves as having an access need. To avoid cognitive overload:
3. Consider everyone.
People attending your online meeting will have a range of diverse needs, so here are some more ideas to help you make sure that everyone is included.
If you need help ensuring that your workplace culture is welcoming and accessible to all staff and customers, we can help. Contact our One-Stop Shop and ask about our Be. Confident sessions.