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Making word clouds and polling fully accessible to all meeting attendees

If you want to be perceived as inclusive, you have to BE inclusive. Otherwise, your words and actions are merely performative.

Wordcloud with “Teamwork” in the center other words include successful, mission, partner, cooperation, communication, effort, vision, brainstorming, and unity

Let’s face it; Zoom meetings can be tedious. An entire business sector has popped up, focusing on making presentations more interactive by getting real-time feedback from the participants. Mentimeter is one such tool. That is the tool I am most familiar with, so I will use it as an example throughout this article because I have used these steps with Mentimeter, and I know they work. You could likely substitute a different polling or word cloud tool and use the same steps to make it more accessible.

There are three parts to any polling tool where accessibility matters:

  • The authoring interface, where the individual sets up the poll.
  • The voting interface, where participants cast their vote.
  • The results interface, where voting results are displayed.

Look at the Mentimeter ACR/VPAT

Mentimeter has published an ACR/VPAT. While they’ve improved the authoring interface accessibility, there are still several locations where Mentimeter highlights that authors can make inaccessible choices that impact the voters, mainly in color and image choices.

TL;DR: It’s up to the meeting host to use Mentimeter in a way that doesn’t exclude audience members.

So how do you do that?

Don’t make inaccessible color choices.

Lack of color contrast is the most critical concern for color accessibility.

Don’t use:

  • Pastels
  • Grey at less than 60 % saturation
  • Red and green together
  • Color on color (such as tan on brown)

If you follow those four basic color rules, your resulting word cloud should be accessible from the color perspective.

Don’t include informative images.

All images should be decorative and should not contain any text. That way, they don’t need to be described to screen reader users, and it doesn’t matter what happens when the images are magnified because they don’t contain any important information.

Make sure all members of your audience get to participate

This doesn’t just apply to people with disabilities. There may be participants connecting to the meeting from a mobile device and finding it difficult to switch back and forth between the call and the browser. This is a classic accessibility “curb cut”: making something more accessible improves the experience for everyone.

Step 1: Make sure the Mentimeter is set up so that multiple responses can be accepted from a single individual. That allows you to declare a proxy who can enter votes on other’s behalf.

Step 2: Designate someone on the call to handle entering responses for people who find the polling UI inaccessible.

Step 3: Make sure the polling URL is in both the meeting invite and the public chat for the zoom session. Because zoom doesn’t make old chat available to people who arrive to the meeting late, you should wait and put the URL in the chat immediately before it needs to be used.

Step 4: Tell people that if they cannot use the polling tool, they can directly message their answer to the person designated in Step 3. For bonus points, before the meeting set up an accessible form where people can submit their data anonymously.

Step 5: Visually describe the word chart or voting results at the end of the voting session before moving on to the next presentation segment.

Build a ramp

The Americans with Disabilities Act did not make stairs illegal. It required that a ramp and an elevator connect people who can’t use stairs to everywhere the stairs go.

If you choose a tool with stairs, it is YOUR job to provide the ramp to avoid excluding people from using it. The need to build a ramp can be avoided by choosing a fully accessible tool, but that isn’t always possible.

Your job in building that ramp cannot *ever* put the burden on the people with disabilities to solve the problem.

Shifting the problem-solving burden to an underrepresented group is not fair, is not equitable, and frankly, we are tired and burnt out over this approach.

Don’t tell me to ask for an accommodation or find someone to help me. That’s not a solution.

Show that your inclusion is more than performative by thinking through the issues before the meeting and providing options that make my participation as equal as possible.

Finally, make sure the vendor of the tool with stairs knows that you care about accessibility.

What can Tools companies do to reduce experience barriers?

It is possible to make your experience not just accessible, but delightful for someone with a disability to participate in. Here are some thoughts:

  1. Many of you don’t have VPATs. Please author and publish them.
  2. Publish an accessibility statement reachable from the footer of every website page. Include the contact information for the person assigned to answer accessibility questions.
  3. Provide the ability to export polling and word cloud results into a format that can be consumed by screenreader users.
Published inAccessibilityDesignDisabilitiesInclusionSoftware