It Begins with Us: Modeling an Accessible Webinar

a Black woman wearing a lilac shirt putting her index and middle finger on one hand over her index and middle finger on her other hand while facing a computer

April 7th, 2023

Lisette E. Torres, Director of Operations & Communication, REVISE Center

Those who attended our REVISE-ing the Conversation webinar wanted to learn more about our development of an accessible and inclusive webinar. REVISE co-principal investigator Lisette E. Torres shares her thoughts about the process.

You can’t have equity without access. This is a truism that I live by as a disabled scholar-activist of color: access is love. So, when we wrote the grant proposal for a new AISL equity resource center, I made it a point to center race and disability justice. I was elated to find out that my colleagues at TERC and within the REVISE Team were willing to listen to and shared my perspective. Our collective vision of equity for informal STEM education (ISE) was born on this foundation.

The REVISE team understands that we must be about the work and “walk the walk.” To do this, our team needs to model equitable practices rather than simply talking about them. Many of us come from marginalized backgrounds and have experienced countless examples of people and institutions who did not live up to their rhetoric and supposed values. We are hypersensitive to and critical of any misalignment between one’s words and actions. We also know that we need to be transparent and accountable to the communities we serve. Consequently, when we created the webinar to introduce the ISE field to the Reimagining Equity and Values in Informal STEM Education (REVISE) Center, we were intentional about prioritizing access. You want to make sure that everyone’s access needs are met as much as possible. 

Developing an accessible PowerPoint

During webinar planning sessions, the REVISE Team discussed content, audience, and logistics. As a disabled Latina, I know firsthand how those with multiple marginalized identities are forgotten during these types of meetings. Co-PI Pati Ruiz and I emphasized the importance of creating an accessible PowerPoint presentation, paying close attention to:

  • Color scheme (high contrast text and background)
  • Font type (sans serif)
  • Font size (24 or higher)
  • Alt-text (image descriptions for when we share the slide deck after the webinar)
  • Movement/animations (little to no fast-moving images or colors). 

For more information on creating an accessible PowerPoint presentation, I highly recommend this video by the Association for Higher Education Access & Disability (AHEAD) – Ireland on creating and delivering accessible PowerPoint presentations as well as this article by WebAIM that outlines how to can make PowerPoint files more accessible on the web.

Providing closed captioning and interpreters

We agreed we should have live closed captioning available via Zoom, even though captioning done by artificial intelligence in automatic speech recognition (ASR) can be inaccurate based on a speaker’s accent and language fluency. I recommended having American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters present at our webinar, even if no one requested one as an accommodation. This could also reduce access fatigue for some interested in coming to our webinar. 

Given my connection to other activists in the disability community, I took responsibility for finding ASL interpreters. Approximately two months before our inaugural “REVISE-ing the Conversation” webinar, I contacted Communities of Color Operating in Allyship (COCOA). A friend of mine signed for them and had suggested them as a resource. 

Dr. Gloshanda Lawyer (she/they) soon reached out to me with follow-up questions about our event. They are the founder, researcher, consultant, and multilingual interpreter for COCOA, and prefer to use rolling pronouns she/they. I told the REVISE team that I understood that her organization occasionally does pro bono work, but that the REVISE Center had set aside funding strictly for ASL interpreters.  They were interested in knowing if there were live captioning options and Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing participants attending. We enabled Zoom host access for the interpreters. I sent our REVISE Team’s finalized PowerPoint presentation at least 24 hours in advance to allow time to review prior to the webinar. During the webinar, the REVISE Team spoke slowly so the interpreters could keep up with what they were saying.

Moving forward

The webinar went off without a hitch, and I was proud to collaborate with such a mindful team dedicated to diversity, equity, inclusion, and access. We will continue to try our best to model equitable practices and to generate accessible content for the ISE community. However, we also want to push ourselves to think about equity and access beyond the social markers of disability to include as many intersectional identities as possible. As my dear friend, co-conspirator, and founder of the Disability Intersectionality Summit (DIS), Sandy Ho (she/her), reminds us

Access should be a collective responsibility, instead of the sole responsibility of it being placed on just one or two individuals. It is all of our responsibility to think about and help create accessible spaces and community. This is not about everything being 100% accessible to everyone, but rather centering access as a core part of the way that we want to live in the world together–as a core part of our liberation.

For places where you can start creating access and for more resources on access, check out the DIS webpage on places to start.