Although our conference will be occurring in a digital environment, the conference is being hosted on the digital platform of the University of Saskatchewan and by our colleagues at the University of Saskatchewan who are sharing with us their vision, community, and labour. We therefore ground this digital conference in an acknowledgement that we are visitors to Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis. Treaty 6 also encompasses the traditional territories of numerous First Nations, including Cree, Dene, Nakota, Saulteaux, and Ojibwe. We are dedicated to ensuring that the spirit of Reconciliation and Treaty 6 are honoured and respected. We pay our respect to the First Nations and Métis ancestors of this place and reaffirm our relationships with one another. We invite all conference goers to begin the conference proceedings by listening to a Territorial Acknowledgement and Reflection by Joseph Naytowhow (Plains/Woodland Cree).
All participants come to our conference from particular places. We encourage all participants to reflect on how they cultivate ethical and reciprocal relationships with the lands and the Indigenous Peoples of the lands where they are and where they visit. Through a series of 5 video blogs, Rose Roberts and Stryker Calvez invite you to explore a few different elements that are important to understand before building your own Land Acknowledgement: worldviews, positionality, treaties, and the Métis homeland. The goal is to help you to build your own awareness about the Cree principle of wāhkōtowin (all our relations) and how you can honour it when you engage these elements and create your own land acknowledgement. Rose and Stryker emphasize that this series is not intended to be the “All-You-Need-To-Know” about land acknowledgements, but rather a beginning. As an association, ALECC is committed to respectful and reciprocal relationships with Indigenous colleagues, Indigenous Elders, Indigenous neighbours, and Indigenous hosts and with the knowledge they hold and share.There are several ways to offer a land acknowledgement during your conference presentation: you may include it in your bio; you may take some time in your presentation; and/or you may use the Disqus discussion forums to extend and complicate these beginnings over the course of the conference.
In accordance with ALECC’s mandate to foster respectful, inclusive, and anti-racist forums, we also offer some guidelines for designing your content in order to make your presentation accessible to a broad variety of learning differences, individual capacities, and sensoriums, as well as some general suggestions for participating in convivial discussion. We encourage participants to consider “where they know from” as they engage with and learn from each other.
Accessibility in Online Presentations
Planning for access in online presentations may seem like an extra step in the already complicated landscape of virtual conferencing. But proactively designing for wider accessibility of your content and ideas will communicate a stronger message to your audience.
Transcripts and Closed Captioning
We require all participants to submit a read-only text script or access copy of their presentation with their media file. Deaf-blind users rely on descriptive transcripts to navigate online media environments. Transcripts can be used without the need to stream or download video files, and can help bridge technical difficulties. Text files can also offset the heavy data requirement of streaming video for participants facing lower bandwidth limits. Transcripts help to capture languages and accents which closed-captioning software can sometimes muddle or miss as well.
For most podcasts, audio-only files, and "talking head" videos, a transcript provides the minimum of accessibility for deaf and hearing-impaired users. However, a transcript of a video file only provides part of the experience of the presentation to a user reading without the accompanying facial expressions of the presenter, so you may wish to include captioning in your videos as well.
Designing Accessible Media Presentations
These guidelines are by no means exhaustive and we stress that access is an open, radical process of mapping our environments, which can only be achieved in community and with a commitment to reflexivity. We have adopted parts of the Web Content Accessibility Guide in developing these suggestions, but should you have further questions please consult the guidelines themselves as they provide detailed and exhaustive resources and rationales for creating accessible content. We hope these initial prompts will be useful in helping you to refine your content and ideas in a broadly accessible manner.
With thanks to Shae Sackman for their assistance in developing these guidelines.
- To assist in maximum legibility, a 70% colour difference between text and background is recommended. A good way to test this is to quickly turn your monitor to grayscale. If you can’t discern individual elements, there is not enough contrast. The USask templates were designed with accessibility principles and so meet many of the best practices and requirements if you are looking for examples.
- The sizing of the text of the page should withstand zooming to 140% of the original magnification.
- Pay attention to the kerning (the spacing between letters) and avoid fonts that distort the shapes of words too much, as these shapes facilitate quicker and easier reading.
- Blocks of text are easiest to read when aligned left. Centered or justified text takes more work to interpret.
- Headlines and titles should be informative and contextual, all related to each other and the overall point of your content.
- Use headings and titles to convey the overall structure and outline an easy way to visually understand the relationships within the content.
- To access a library of accessible USask Design Templates, click here. Of particular note are the PowerPoint templates available for use. To download the PowerPoint (.ppt) templates, click here.
- Consider the quality of the images you insert into your presentations. The lower the quality, the less information is present in the file to be processed by attendees. Higher quality, more concise imagery can be a key access measure for those with visual impairments.
- Please consider including image descriptions. When you add an image or video to a PowerPoint or Word document select “Format Picture” from the dropdown menu (or right click on the image and select "Format picture" from the menu). Click "Alt text", in the sidebar to add your description.
- Alternate captions, or “alt text” on slides and in content should be meaningful. E.g. Showing a picture of a sandwich and labelling it “create the sandwich” is not helpful if your presentation is about how to make a sandwich. Consider a more descriptive phrase, “put ingredients between two slices of bread to create the sandwich”.
- Audio descriptions of video content are typically utilized for those with visual impairments, and describe visuals shown on the screen that provide additional information.
- In creating audio or giving presentations that will be streamed online, it is important to minimize interference from other background noise. Additional noise tends to make it more difficult to focus on the spoken information. Use headphones to record your presentation to help minimize background noise.
- This may seem like an obvious point, but speak slowly and clearly. Practicing your presentation out loud will help you to determine your pacing and allow you to find the muddy points in your content.
- Avoid flashing lights, flickering effects, strobes or other quick shifts in colour. GIFs of this nature are best avoided.
- org has a very detailed outline on how to develop media that includes best accessibility practices and offers guidance for creating media files. Access the Making Audio and Video Media Accessible guide here.
Creating Accessible PowerPoint Presentations
Adding audio to your online PowerPoint presentation is essential for accessibility. There are a few ways of doing this with varying degrees of time commitment.
The Microsoft guide to adding audio to your PowerPoint can be found here.
- To audio record in PowerPoint: Create your PowerPoint presentation and when you are done, click on the “Slide Show” option at the top. A new tool line will appear, click on “Record Slide Show.” This takes you into recording mode. Follow the ensuing instructions. Save your PowerPoint as an MP4 or .wmv in order to upload it to YouTube or Vimeo.
- Once you have saved your PowerPoint as an MP4 you can add closed captioning. YouTube’s closed captioning is only 85-90% accurate, so you may wish to simply paste in your script as the captions. More info on how to add captions is found in our “how to guide.”
- PowerPoint does offer the capability to include subtitles, which it will prompt you to include once you press record. However, we recommend adding captions after uploading to YouTube or Vimeo to reduce visual clutter.
- An alternate approach would be to create your PowerPoint/presentation and audio as separate files. Using a digital recorder (or your phone), audio record the script to your lecture and upload it as an audio file to be played while audiences view your presentation. Microsoft Office’s help page for turning a PowerPoint into a video offers detailed information on slide timing and what can and cannot be saved in a video file.
With thanks to Cathleen With and the Including All Citizens Inclusive Pedagogy Project at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.
Guidelines for Creating a Descriptive Transcript
In general, transcripts record all speech content, but descriptive transcripts also include text description of the visual information needed to understand the content. Please be careful to describe any visual or audio media in your discussion that you reference or include in your slides or screencaptures. Make sure that you account for this descriptive process as you edit since it will contribute to the length of your presentation.
If there is speech excluded from a transcript it is helpful to indicate that this speech has been excluded in brackets. For example: [Side conversation between participants about the weather while the presenter reboots his computer.] The decision on what information you choose to include in the transcript will of course depend on whether you upload an audio file or an audio visual file, and whether you have sound or visual media that needs to be described.
Include Relevant Information
- Speaker’s names.
- When there are multiple speakers, use hanging indents to make it easy to identify speakers. If your transcript records a conversation you may wish to distinguish between interviewee and interviewer by choosing to bold an answer or to use a different font.
- Relevant information that is not conveyed in your prose (e.g. laughter in a presenter’s voice).
- Relevant non-speech audio (e.g. noises like explosions, humming, or interpolations).
Edit According to Situation:
For most presentations, minor edits for readability are appropriate. It is best not to edit in such a way as to change the meaning of your content from the audio track.
Add Navigation and Clarifications:
Add headings and links where it will make the transcript more usable: e.g., adding links or headings or, in PowerPoint, indicating slide transitions.
It is generally acceptable to add clarifying information to a transcript, as long as it is clear that it is not part of the actual audio, e.g., words added to a paragraph put in [brackets], or separate sections with headings "Introduction", "Transcript", "Resources," “Slide 2” etc.
- Click Save or Save As if you have previously saved the document.
- Click Tools.
- Click General Options.
- Click the Read-only recommended checkbox.
- Click OK.
- Save the document.
Captions are another way to create a more accessible media file for a variety of users. They can be used:
- In loud environments where users cannot hear the audio.
- In environments where users cannot turn on sound.
- For users who are second language listeners or who understand written language better.
- To assist those who learn differently to focus and retain the information being communicated.
Detailed guidelines for creating captions can be accessed from our “how to” page.
Best Practices for Synchronous and Asynchronous Participation
(Courtesy of the Energy In/Out of Place Conference Organizers)
- Please join Zoom events at least 5 minutes early to allow time for all registered participants to be admitted through Zoom’s waiting room function (and time for technical troubleshooting).
- To improve the legibility of the conference audio, please wear headphones when you are speaking.
- When speaking, identify yourself by name to the group first.
- Please mute your microphone whenever you are not speaking.
- To reduce the data usage and carbon intensity of a Zoom event, consider turning off your video when you are not speaking.
- To provide verbal and non-verbal feedback to speakers, the facilitators/chairs of each event will keep their video functions on throughout.
- There is no expectation that you will be seated in front of the computer during Zoom events. Feel free to move around or do any activities that would help you focus and contribute to the discussion.
- You may use the chat function throughout the event to pose questions or comment on the discussion. You can also “raise your hand” during the discussion to post a question. During the question and answer period, facilitators will reiterate questions posed in the chat.
- Zoom crashes sometimes. This might be a combination of local network connection issues and the use of data-intensive features like screen sharing. Fortunately these drops don't last long. If this happens to you, simply rejoin the call as soon as you are able and all will be well. Closing other applications on your computer may help.
Asynchronous Website Comments and Citation Practices
- Please do not screen capture, copy, or otherwise reproduce any materials from presentations or discussions unless you have consent from the writer or speaker.
- A conference is a venue for experimentation and play. Please respect this ephemerality by refraining from citing material without permission.
- Discussion forums require a unique identifier for each commenter. They will not be anonymous.
- To keep a lively discussion going, we suggest that panelists enable notifications on their discussion posts and check in on the forum every few days for the duration of the conference. Consider “crip time” and technological uncertainty in the discussion forums and expect some delay in response.
- We ask that all participants strive for a respectful and generous tone in discussion. As at any conference Q&A, try to foster discussion rather than offering commentary. Off-topic or discriminatory comments will be removed. Remember that an online conference is a community and criticism should be offered in this spirit.
- We do not expect that comments will be grammatically perfect. Be kind: participants may be writing in a second language or on their phones.
Guidelines for Moderators and Chairs
Just as participating in an online conference is new for most participants at ALECC 2020, chairing or moderating an online panel will be a new experience for many of us as well.
We are expecting that panel chairs will play a similar role at this conference as they do at face-to-face events. Because of challenges related to technology, time zones, and accessibility, however, it is important to be explicit about some elements of this role.
To be clear, too, we view ALECC 2020 as an experiment, as something we should be trying to enjoy. In other words, we hope all chairs will be able to find some fun in their labours!
Before the conference
It would be helpful for you to become familiar with the conference website’s best practices and how-to documents about participation. If you are able to answer questions from your panellists, which may include referring them to right information on the site, you’ll be providing a useful service to them (and to the organizers).
As with a face-to-face conference, we encourage chairs to be familiar with the work of their panellists. Here, this would mean viewing each presentation at least once as soon as possible, attentively enough that you could ask a number of valuable questions of each person.
We also hope that you will reach out to each participant to establish a clear understanding among the full panel of each person’s likely availability during the conference. The discussion forum for each panel will fill the role of the traditional Q&A, which will last for two weeks. This offers an exciting opportunity for an ongoing exchange of ideas, but the online exchange of ideas benefits from careful reading and regular monitoring. Planning ahead will facilitate this.
During the conference
Each discussion forum should open with curtain-raising remarks from the chair. These should be aimed at centring attention on the panellists’ work, so that participants are set up to engage thoughtfully and productively with the separate presentations as well as the panel as a whole. The panel may wish to consider posting a collective territorial acknowledgement, too, and the chair may play a useful role in this discussion.
The chair, along with each panellist, should be checking the discussion forums regularly. Comments will be handled through Disqus, which will include moderation and allows for notifications about follow-up comments.
We are hoping, of course, that the forums will proceed respectfully and unproblematically. If you have any concerns about a post, however, please contact the organizers immediately at email@example.com.
Live online events
The above statements also apply to synchronous events, but moderators of live events should keep a few additional points in mind. It will be important to review, more than once, the conference guidelines on using Zoom.
First, technology can go wrong, and we’re all fully aware of this. If Zoom goes down for you, for example, just log back in; it’ll be fine. Ideally, every live event will have two hosts on two separate wireless networks, so that there should always be someone with a stable connection. Again, this is an experiment, and we’ll need to adapt to circumstances as they come.
Second, live events regularly experience difficulties with how time is allocated to their participants (the panellists, but also those with questions or comments). It is important to think ahead about how time will be managed during live events, so that participants and attendees know what to expect. We encourage shorter individual presentations rather than longer ones, open-ended rather than closed; we encourage questions from attendees, and discourage comments that diverge from the panellists’ work.
We expect our social hours to be informal gatherings much like those at an in-person conference, but unstructured conversation in digital environments can sometimes be unwieldy. We encourage participants to take advantage of Zoom’s chat function and in-session gestures (e.g., “raise your hand”), and to practice good microphone etiquette (e.g. muting your mic when you’re not speaking), to keep these gatherings inclusive for everyone.