Webinars continue to grow in popularity, but are they really all that they are cracked up to be for the one in five people with a disability? Dr Scott Hollier, Media Access Australia’s Digital Accessibility Director, launched an investigation into their accessibility and found all of them quite challenging. He shares his findings in an informative podcast and article.
Listen to the complete interview as Dr Scott Hollier talks with Media Access Australia’s Philip Jenkinson, about the state of accessibility of many popular webinar software options.
The idea of a webinar is appealing to many, as it allows businesses to engage with prospects at low cost… and participants to catch-up with the latest developments if they can’t travel to a conference. However, it seems that many people with a disability or impairment are locked out of the room.
“The accessibility of webinar software has been something I’ve been looking at broadly, and has also resulted in some personal challenges,” said Dr Hollier in his WC3 column of July 2016. “As a legally blind assistive technology user, I’ve often ended up in situations where I’ve been asked to present or conduct training which requires webinar software, and it’s a request that always makes me a little nervous.”
“What does it say about my capability if I suddenly can’t do my job because enabling the screen magnifier results in being unable to click on a button? Or I can’t unmute my audio because the setting doesn’t display in my colour scheme?” he added.
So what about screen reader capabilities, or the lack thereof in webinar software?
“A quick search reveals that I’m not alone in my webinar anxiety,” Hollier lamented. “And I have a real concern that this type of software has the ability to impact on the perceived competency of a person with a disability.”
So when Dr Hollier and Media Access Australia Digital Accessibility Analyst, Matthew Putland, put today’s most popular webinar software choices under the spotlight, was he surprised at the level of accessibility that he encountered?
“We weren’t too surprised that a lot of webinars were very challenging in how to use them,” said Hollier. “Be it presenter or attendee, we’re seeing a lot of accessibility challenges. Some products were certainly better than others, even though broadly speaking they were all quite challenging.”
“The flash-based options were as inaccessible as we thought. Yet my colleague Matt and I were pleasantly surprised that in the case of Hangouts, there was really good control access for screen readers and WebEx was probably the best compromise candidate across the board,” said Hollier. “GoTo probably won out in terms of ease of set-up, and it was also nice to see that Adobe Connect’s chat window at least had some accessibility functionality.”
“But what we found is that across the board, no webinar software was accessible in terms of someone running a presentation and someone else being able to access the contents of that presentation.”
You can contact the Digital Accessibility Services team at Media Access Australia to assist you with a wide variety of web and digital accessibility consulting services.