As COVID-19 is uniquely affecting persons with disabilities, and individuals over 70, there is a need to ensure your Sunday services are accessible to all. By creating a plan to incorporate accessibility practises into your online services, you can bridge the gaps. By doing so you can help members of your congregation so they can remain safely at home and still engaged in the church.
Assistive technology provides ways to make all kinds of content accessible to people with a wide variety of disabilities. But just as physical accessibility takes some careful consideration, so does technological accessibility.
Make inclusion part of your continuity plan as you move forward with both in-person and online services. Level Access recommends three core principles when considering accessibility.
- Create multiple paths of access so you can communicate in ways that are visual and auditory.
- Provide multiple means of communicating, such as social media, chat, and call-in. And reduce barriers whenever you can by choosing platforms and materials that are accessible.
- Create multiple paths to access includes providing your material in multiple
Start by considering how you share information about your online services
Make your online worship instructions easy to find
Create an obvious space on your homepage or a separate landing page on your church’s website where you post all the information for accessing church online. With Sunday Services happening in person, you should also provide this information in the same area as you include your regular Worship Schedule page and any social media channels you use.
When it comes to hosting your Sunday services online, areas you can start focusing on include: closed captioning for your videos, use of clear, easy-to-read text in any of your presentations, and translation services.
As you schedule online services, keep in mind opportunities for materials that you can send to your congregation in advance or make sure they know the technology you are using so they have time to download any add-ons if they have assistive technology in their homes.
Craft an accessibility statement on your site
On your website supply an easy-to-find accessibility statement. This should include descriptions of your accommodations for both in-person and online. In person, provide information for parking, entry, passageways, restrooms, sound system, and developmental disabilities.
For accessing your services online, include the accessibility resources you offer such as closed captioning. You can also let people know that they can request accommodation, such as materials ahead of time.
Provide multiple means of access to your services
Use a dial-in option
Allow people to dial-in over the phone for services when possible. Our dial-in option allows you to broadcast your services through a central number.
Not only does this help serve those who have poor internet service, but individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, may use a relay service to call in. The person with a relay may call in, they dial in.
Provide captioning for video content
Closed captions for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. But many others also benefit from closed captions (think English language learners or viewers in a noisy space). Captions are a textual form of the audio information in video items. This includes not only spoken words but also information about who is speaking, important sounds like music, laughter, noises, and other contextual information.
Captions are also useful in creating transcripts afterwards. Depending on the platforms you choose, you can offer captioning for both your live-streaming content and your pre-recorded content.
Producing transcripts allow users to search within the text and optimises the reading experience for assistive technologies like screen readers.
Improve content with considerations for different visual impairments
Visual impairment comes in multiple forms including dyslexia, blindness, low-vision, and colour blindness. Your digital platforms have the potential to solve a lot of those challenges that are harder to solve for in-person services.
If you are using a presentation in your services, sharing these materials in advance is important to the visually impaired. Assistive technology can read this material to the user if they have the document in advance. Otherwise screen readers often cannot read these documents in a live setting.
Here are a few tips for ways to enhance your service for the visually impaired through your presentation:
- If you have multiple speakers leading worship, remind your audience who is speaking. This also helps for transcription services.
- If you have a visual element to your service that you refer to, describe it in detail. This will also benefit any users calling in over the phone.
Include song lyrics and scripture readings in your video
Incorporate a slideshow tool into your video recordings to include hymnal and worship lyrics and any scripture readings in high contrast text. This is especially helpful if you are not using a live-captioning service for your at-home participants. If you display lyrics or verses in the lower third of your video, make sure you are using high contrast, easy-to-read text. Also, be certain you have the rights to share this information under copyright laws.
Consider how you use social media to communicate your upcoming services
You want to notify participants ahead of time about your events and may use social media to do so. But if your social media posts aren’t accessible, you will continue to miss a part of your audience. Here are a few quick tips for social media accessibility:
- Avoid small text and use strong contrast between the background and the text
- Use images, charts and text
- Use the built in alternative text tool to describe these images
- Reduce distractions such as GIFs and flashing and moving content
Post-production considerations for accessibility
After the presentation, make sure you post materials in an accessible format. Post captioned video with the transcripts. If you didn’t have it captioned ahead of time, which you can add captions after the fact.
If visuals weren’t described during the presentation, then you might have to add audio description. Audio descriptions for people who are blind or visually impaired and describe the visuals in those pauses of the narration.
Tools you can use to increase accessibility for your online content:
Many platforms have built-in captioning and subtitle options, but you will have to enable these features manually or work with a third-party provider if you do not have a transcriber:
- YouTube has both live-streaming captioning and subtitle options. However, there are limitations based on subscribers and streaming quality.
- Facebook allows you to provide your own live captioning or use a third-party captioning company to generate and insert real-time closed captions into live broadcasts.
- Zoom has accessibility options that you can enable in advance so members of your congregation such as closed captioning.
- Adobe Connect was one of the first platforms to have a captioning pod built in as well as other accessibility features.
- Amazon Transcribe: Amazon Transcribe can help content producers and media distributors improve reach and accessibility. This tool automatically generates time-stamped subtitles that display along with the video content. The free tier offers 60 minutes of transcribing per month for 12 months. Amazon Transcribe API (for both streaming and batch transcription) is billed monthly at a rate of $0.0004 per second. Usage is billed in one-second increments, with a minimum per request charge of 15 seconds.
- Clipomatic: If you have an iOS device you can use this tool to create live captions at only £4.99 for the app.
- Quicc offers a monthly subscription for automatic transcription supporting 11 language profiles. It also includes the .srt file extension you need for Facebook and YouTube. This app is a little more expensive depending on how many minutes you use per month.