Making vIMC accessible for all delegates

There are only a few days to go until the first virtual International Medieval Congress and we’re looking forward to (virtually!) welcoming delegates from around the world.

The move to a virtual congress creates a brilliant opportunity for those who may otherwise have found it difficult to attend the physical IMC to enjoy online sessions. With this in mind, (and despite the quick turnaround!), we’re hoping to make the vIMC as accessible as possible.

We’ve already asked those with additional access needs to get in touch so that we can see how to best support them and have made a number of steps including putting these delegates in touch with moderators in advance.

Unfortunately, Blackboard Collaborate Ultra does not currently have any automatic captioning service for delegates with hearing impairments and, as a free event, vIMC does not have the budget to provide additional live support. However, a ‘captioner’ role is available in every vIMC room, which allows any hearing person to provide live subtitles for anyone in the room who is unable to hear the speaker. Whilst the core IMC team does not have the expertise to provide this, if you are interested in either captioning a session, or need captions, please contact the moderator.

There are also a number of free-to-use speech to text systems available for mobile devices. Among them is Otter (which can be downloaded from their WebsiteGooglePlay, or the Apple Store). This app is free to download and has a number of useful features, though time limits do apply for non-premium customers.

We are currently working with Disability Services and IT teams to see if it is possible to privately record sessions and provide the captioned recordings or transcripts of recordings to delegates who require them. Owing to the scale of the vIMC, recordings of particular sessions would need to be requested in advance via email (imc@leeds.ac.uk).

Additionally, to ensure the vIMC can be enjoyed by all delegates, we’re calling on our speakers to use these remaining days to make their presentations as accessible as possible. This can be done in the following ways:

  1. Share your slides – Share your slides and/or paper text in the chat prior to your presentation. This allows anyone who has difficulty following your presentation to read along.
  2. Speakers should keep their cameras on – This allows audience members to lip read. Speakers should also ensure where possible that their face appears in full on screen and are as large as possible to facilitate lip-reading.
  3. Minimise background distractions – Speakers should be aware of their background, and ensure their camera is angled so that they are facing the camera head-on rather than looking up or down at it.
  4. Ensure your face is well-lit – This also aids non-verbal communication and makes lip-reading easier.
  5. Minimise background noise – Think about the environment where you will deliver your presentation and ensure ambient or background noise is kept to a minimum.
  6. Check your microphone – If you are using an external microphone, ensure this is set up correctly and positioned for optimum sound capture. If you are using the microphone built in to your device, ensure that it is clear of obstructions and is picking your voice up well using the checker before entering the vIMC session room.
  7. Share your paper in full – If you are happy to do so, please share your paper in full with those in the session room. You can do this by dragging and dropping the relevant file onto the Chat window on the right hand side of the screen. This will share the file only with those currently in the session room. Shared files will not be recoverable following the end of the session, or visible to participants who join later, or leave and rejoin the session.
  8. Provide a summary – If you are unable to provide the full text of your paper, please consider producing a short summary of your key points and paste this in the Chat window prior to your paper beginning. This is helpful not only for attendees with hearing impairments but also for any delegates who experience connectivity issues during your talk.

We can’t wait to see you all on Monday and look forward to making this the best (and first!) virtual IMC.

The IMC Team