Planning Considerations for Equitable and Inclusive Virtual Event Spaces
The University of Toronto strives to create an equitable community, one that values diversity and advances intentional inclusion; that is respectful and protects the human rights of its members. This community includes the university’s online platforms. As the University of Toronto Mississauga continues to provide virtual events and activities, this resource provides information to assist community members in planning equitable and inclusive events. University Equity Offices are also available to assist university community members and provide support on equity issues that may arise. We welcome any questions or feedback you might have on this resource. Please contact the UTM Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Office by email: email@example.com or phone: 905-569-4916.
- Platform Choice and Accessibility
- Hosting Virtual Spaces
- Accessibility of Virtual Event Spaces
- Inclusive Design Resources
Platform Choice and Accessibility
- Consider which platform to use that includes accessibility features and is user-friendly for people who may not be familiar with different virtual software.
- For example:
- MS Teams has closed caption features embedded within that participants can activate on their own. Steps can be found in the following article: https://uoft.service-now.com/utm_iits?id=kb_article_view&sysparm_article=KB0012116
- Zoom's live auto transcription feature has been enabled for all accounts under the University of Toronto site license. Hosts have the option to enable auto transcription within each event. To turn on, once in meeting/webinar page, hosts can "Enable Auto-Transcription" under the "Live Transcript" or "CC" button.
- Presenters can enable subtitles from online version of PowerPoint to assist in providing captions for presenter sharing their own screen. Steps can be found in the following article: https://uoft.service-now.com/utm_iits?id=kb_article&sysparm_article=KB0011569
- Use the ‘check accessibility’ feature in PowerPoint to review presentations.
- University community members can also set first display name for virtual platforms and this will change the first name displayed across all U of T apps. Steps can be found in this article: https://www.utm.utoronto.ca/iits/news/new-u-t-zoom-feature-you-can-now-set-your-display-name
- If you are only wanting University of Toronto community members to join, indicate on the registration page that participants will need to sign-up and login using their University of Toronto email address. Admit only recognized email addresses and phone numbers.
- If the meeting/webinar from Zoom is being shared on social media platforms, ensure registration is enabled when creating your meeting and share the “Registration Link”. Approvals can be set to automatic or manual in the meeting.
- Enable waiting room feature in the platform to manage space, secure meetings, and admit people who have registered in advance.
- Include a note on the registration page if participant has accessibility accommodation requests to contact organizer via email in advance (e.g. If you require accessibility related accommodation(s), please email and we will work with you to make appropriate arrangements).
- Indicate the purpose of the event in the description.
- Inform prospective participants in advance if the session is going to be recorded. Zoom has feature in settings that can be activated and creates a form with attendees. A message appears on all attendee’s screens: “This meeting is being recorded. By continuing to be in the meeting, you are consenting to be recorded.” This allows attendees to choose if they want to continue to participate and whether they want to turn their camera off.
- Tips from U of T's Security Matters to assist with securing online spaces can be found in the following article: Guidance to prevent Zoom bombing
- Post a welcome slide at the beginning so attendees know the features that can be accessed while waiting for the event to start (e.g. closed captions; camera on or off).
- Read and post virtual space guidelines at the beginning of a gathering (sample below).
- Determine whether the event space will allow for participants to contribute to discussions through use of microphone, access to chat space, and/or moderated Q & A.
- Include Positive Space Campaign and No Big Deal icon on (welcome) slides or event registration page. Available on the Positive Space Campaign website: https://positivespace.utoronto.ca
- Indicate how participants can contribute to conversation (e.g. use chat function; if there will be a Q & A portion via chat or by unmuting microphone; how to contact host if they have any questions).
- Inform participants if the session is being recorded, where it will be posted or how made available following the session.
- Address disruptive, discriminatory, or harmful comments or posts that contravene the event guidelines and, if necessary, remove participant.
- Provide an internal communication mechanism for co-hosts to discuss how to respond to any matters arising with the event, including technical difficulties or disruptions to space, for example a separate Teams group chat created for the event.
- Virtual event guidelines example:
“In the spirit of community, this space was created [insert purpose]. We are mindful of security concerns while using this platform. If there are any major disruptions that interrupts the hosts’ ability to keep control of the [blank] platform, we will ask everyone to log off immediately and the session will be rescheduled. In addition, please note the intention of this conversation is to be constructive and to educate and raise awareness about the topic [e.g. panel members’ experiences of…; diverse student experiences…]. Inappropriate or discriminatory comments by any participant will result in the individual(s) privately being asked to stop the inappropriate commenting and if they do not the host will have to remove the individual from the event to ensure the integrity and intent of the space. We encourage respectful dialogue in the [Q & A feature; chat function (if open)]. Thank you.”
- Under Zoom Security tab for meetings can “Suspend Participant Activities” which quickly stops all features for attendees. Features can then be re-enabled one by one if desired.
Accessibility of Virtual Event Spaces
- Invite attendees to participate by video in a way that is comfortable for them (e.g. turn on video, if they would like, when they speak or keep off for the duration, display only a virtual background). Steps on enabling virtual backgrounds can be found in this article:
- Provide closed captions for presenters (e.g. arrange for real-time transcription; activate caption feature in platform; use of PowerPoint subtitles).
- Work with I & ITS to set up the online event space that allows for chat or Q & A function to be moderated before questions and answers are posted for all to view.
- Invite participants to use the chat function to pose questions.
- Provide contact information for post-event follow-up questions or further discussion.
The University of Toronto’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Office created the following Quercus page which provides advice, guidance, resources and tips to members of the University community on creating online programming that is accessible and inclusive: https://q.utoronto.ca/courses/186335