How to Make a Virtual Summit Accessible with Erin Perkins

Is your online summit accessible to the deaf community? Probably not, but it's not difficult to change that. Here’s how to make your virtual summit accessible.

Is your online summit accessible to the deaf community? Probably not, but it's not difficult to change that.

We're chatting with Erin Perkins to talk about what her experience with summits has been like as a deaf business owner, what you can do to make your summit accessible, and what to do if you don't think you have anyone deaf in your audience.

We'll let Erin take it from here!

Your Community + Accessibility

The most important thing to remember when you're considering whether you need to take accessibility into account with your specific community is that there is a large group of people out there who don't identify as being deaf, but still need the same resources.

If you run a podcast or post videos online (including for a summit), know that you will always have someone who wants to listen, but can't.

Even if it's one person, they should have the same access to your content as everyone else.

Erin's experience with summits

I've participated in two online seminars and I do have limited hearing. So even though there weren't captions or transcripts, I could put headphones on. However, since my hearing is limited, I really have to focus. It's even harder when not everyone has a clear speaking voice. 

Needing to focus that hard to understand what's being said is exhausting. After a couple of videos, I didn't even bother and I'm not the only one with that experience. I want to be part of it, but I'm deterred from it because I don't feel like I'm getting the full benefit from it. It's a bummer.

How to make your summit more accessible

There are all kinds of things you can do to make your summit accessible, but captions are number one because someone who isn't hearing can read it in real-time and have a similar experience as everyone else.

Transcripts are okay, but you miss out on the nuances. Say someone's joking, someone's serious, or someone's asking a question, you might not catch that in a transcript.

Personally, I pick things up better when I watch and read at the same time. If I'm just reading, I just skim. Some people learn better just by reading. It really varies.

Because of that, it's important to provide options.

At the very least, when you're promoting a summit you can say, "If you have any specific needs that you need in order to participate in the summit fully, please reach out to us."

It's better if you can already have those things available so no one has to feel uncomfortable and ask, but it's better than nothing.

When you're trying to decide whether your summit needs to be accessible, go in assuming that you'll have at least one or two people with some kind of hearing disability and planning into the process having captions and or transcripts.

There are many tools out there to help. A few that I recommend are:

Human-generated captions and transcripts will be significantly more accurate, but more expensive to have created. Machine-generated will take quite a bit of time spent editing from you but are significantly more affordable. 

Erin’s Biggest Takeaway

I want to flip the script a little bit. I would love if, instead of people saying "disabilities", that they'd use the word differently-abled.

To me, I'm just differently-abled than you. We just have different abilities. A lot of us actually prefer to be called that, and not hearing impaired, because hearing impaired has a negative tone.

Realize that there is going to be one person out there in your audience who needs you to make what you do accessible.

With all of this being said, take baby steps. Do what you can do right now and don't feel like you have to do everything at once.

Action Steps

Start taking small steps towards making your events more accessible.

I hope this helped you realize the importance of making your summits accessible and how easy it can be. Any amount of effort you can put in is worth it to allow even one person to experience your summit when they wouldn't have been able to otherwise, and who have felt left out.

About Erin

Erin Perkins is the owner and designer behind Mabely Q and she’s a deaf business owner. Even though design is her focus, she felt called to provide information and resources to make it easier to create content accessible. 

When she started her online business, she was unsure about the obstacles she’d face in the online business world as a deaf person. When she started searching for coaches or online courses she quickly realized that a lot of the content she was considering investing in wasn’t accessible to her. That led her to try to find a way to see the value in making their content accessible and she’s been doing incredible work.

Erin's resourcesWebsite | Instagram 


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