Opinion: A little less conversation, a little more action please

There's more work to be done around digital accessibility at events, according to Luli Adeyemo.

Luli Adeyemo, director of Best Scenario Event Management, pens an opinion piece on why there’s still more work to be done around digital accessibility at Australian events.

A little less conversation, a little more action please

For months now, I have had hundreds of like, shares, comments, impressions, high-fives, fist pumps, thumbs up, smiling nod gestures, cheers and a serbian three finger salute (ok I may be exaggerating with the last one) for my work raising awareness about digital accessibility.

My hope is that I am not creating an illusion that the issue of digital accessibility at Australian events is being taken care of and we can all get on with other priorities.

Don’t get me wrong, support, encouragement and collaborations are all foundations for change and I’m very grateful for everyone who has high-fived me along my journey of awareness, but please let me explain, based on my experiences, why I get the feeling the ‘action’ isn’t quite there.

Organisation politics get in the way of change

Two words: no shame. I experienced one organisation who are not willing to switch to an Australian-built accessible registration platform because of geographical location within Australia.

Is it not enough for them to be compliant with World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0? Not to mention the fact they could support a local organisation that is donating registration fees to local Australian charities.

There are too many other priorities

Okay, I get this — the last thing I want to do is to ensure that all images on my website have alt text descriptions. But then when I think of people using screen readers, the benefit outweighs the pain — my web visitor will be able to read an alt attribute to better understand an on-page image.

So when you have delegate targets to reach, sponsorship revenue to draw in, agendas to publish, social media to update and justify ROI, accessibility is last on the list, right? This leads me to the business value of accessibility.

This business value is still not valued

W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative covers the social, technical, financial, legal and policy factors in the business case for web accessibility. This is useful as it recognises each organisation has different motivators for adopting accessibility. For us event planners, much of the motivators are around:

  • Financial gains and cost savings from increased web usages
  • Reducing risk of legal action, legal expenses and negative image
  • Public relations benefits of demonstrating CSR

Other benefits not listed in the W3C report include:

  • Increased delegate volume due to ease of registration and inclusivity
  • A more diverse agenda by enabling people with a disability to speak at events and ensure their needs are met via a web-accessible registration platform like Humanitix

A guide to accessibility

Meeting and Events Australia has developed a guide for accessible events for meeting and event organisers. It’s an excellent guide heavily focused on physical accessibility, however it is refreshing to see on page 34 it touches on the following digital accessibility points:

  • Is the promotional material available in accessible formats or can it be made available on request?
  • Is the website used to promote the event and allow for registration and ticketing on an accessible site? If not, can it be made accessible or can alternative accessible paths for registration and ticketing be offered?

If you haven’t started the conversation around web accessibility in your organisation just yet, then I’m hoping this read is a good starting place. For those who have reached the phase of ‘a little less conversation, a little more action please’, I have a team who are willing to launch you into the action phase and get things done.

Luli Adeyemo is director of Best Scenario Event Management a full-service event management company focused on making Australian business events accessible to people with a disability.

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