Guidelines for Hosting Accessible Virtual Meetings

These guidelines are for University of Waterloo staff and faculty who are organizing a virtual meeting with attendees from within or outside the University of Waterloo.

Before the Meeting

  • Select a University-approved meeting platform (i.e., MS Teams or Webex). University-approved meeting platforms include the following accessibility features:
    • Allows the meeting to be recorded and shared
    • Allows a closed captioning window to be enabled on presentations
    • Provides a downloadable transcript
    • Allows participants to attend via a dial-in phone
    • Enables participants who are experiencing difficulties during the meeting to contact the organizer
  • Allow participants to test virtual space prior to the meeting
  • Send an accessible meeting invitation
    • Invite requests for accommodations and provide a contact name for accommodation requests so those who need to speak with a person about their accommodation needs can do so privately and confidentially
    • State the format of the meeting
    • If audience participation is required, state this in the meeting invitation
    • Avoid using abbreviations that might not be known to all attendees
    • Provide clear instructions for accessing the meeting

Prepare Accessible Presentation Materials (e.g., slides, hand-outs)

  • Label each material with a brief, unique and informative title that accurately describes its content (e.g., “Agenda for July 24, 2020 Student Leader Training Webinar” rather than “Document 1”)
  • Make materials accessible so that the user can make adjustments to suit their needs (e.g., size of font, alternative text, navigable by keyboard alone)
  • Follow accessibility guidelines for slide presentations (see Accessibility Checklist for MS PowerPoint )
  • Break the presentation into small chunks and provide the opportunity for attendees to ask questions after each section
  • Do not use flashing or strobing animations in the presentation
  • Do not use transitions that have a lot of motion
  • Design a well-organized presentation (e.g., use title slides to separate sections)
  • Provide a clear outline at the beginning of the presentation
  • Recap the main points at the end of the meeting
  • Use visual representations of complex concepts (e.g., flow chart, concept map) and give attendees time to process complex concepts
  • Make materials available before the meeting
  • Define acronyms and abbreviations both verbally and in writing the first time they appear
  • Include a variety of media formats (e.g., text, graphics, audio, video) to communicate concepts
  • Clear copyright for 3rd-party material, especially the right to create alternate formats (e.g., transcripts and captions) for audiovisual material

Assign Roles

  • In addition to a meeting facilitator, designate one or more meeting organizers to serve as a monitorwho can keep an eye on the chat and address technical or other problems during the meeting.  The monitor should not be the facilitator or the individual responsible for recording the meeting.  The larger the meeting, the more monitors are required.

During the Meeting

  • Include short breaks for meetings over 60 minutes


  • Provide written and verbal instructions on how attendees can communicate with organizers if they are experiencing difficulties with audio and video
  • Clearly outline the agenda, learning outcomes, and timing of the presentation at the beginning
  • Check in with attendees to ensure that your technology is operating as expected
  • Invite feedback from participants
  • Enable live, closed captions
  • Provide instructions (written and verbal) on how users can enable closed captioning
  • After posing a question, do not interpret silence as agreement or acceptance. Ask participants to use the “raise hand” feature to indicate agreement, rather than asking participants to voice their response.

Auditory Considerations

  • State your name and introduce each speaker
  • In a conversation with multiple speakers (e.g. a panel), ask each speaker to state their name before they speak
  • When sharing materials on your screen, describe all visuals (e.g., charts, graphs, figures, photos) and explain their significance.  If showing complex diagrams or charts, draw attention to the specific parts of a chart that you want participants to focus on while you speak and do so in a way that describes what is being shown
  • If the meeting includes questions from attendees via a chat or microphone, repeat the question out loud before responding
  • Speakers need to speak clearly at a reasonable speed with a natural flow for captioning. Do not speak slowly in order to watch the words appear in the caption window; rather, maintain a natural rate of speech.
  • Note that if you are using more than one source of audio (e.g., from a video, multiple speakers), do not speak when the other audio sources are present
  • Remove or minimize background noise
  • If possible, use a good external microphone and sit close to the microphone or use a headset with a built-in microphone
  • Note that good internet connection is important for high quality video and audio.  If necessary, position yourself close to a Wi-Fi router
  • Mute the microphone of all attendees and speakers except the individual who is speaking
  • If attendees are expected to silently read a passage of text shown on the screen, read it out loud

Visual Considerations

  • Use a well-lit environment, avoid being in shadow, and sit close enough to the camera so that your face is visible to those who need to lip-read
  • Face your camera when speaking and note that if you speak when your microphone is muted (e.g., to a family member who walks into your room), attendees who can lip read might be able to understand what you are saying
  • Avoid excessive movement

Physical/Motor Considerations

  • If there is an interactive component (e.g., live poll), allow time for people to use the technology.  It may take some people more time to unmute their microphone, type in the chat box, or toggle between websites for live polls, surveys, etc.

After the meeting

  • Share materials and the meeting recording in an accessible format to those who need it
  • Invite feedback from participants



These guidelines were based on recommendations from the following sources: