Virtual events accessibility is hard, but Sight Tech Global has a plan

Wednesday morning at 9:15 a.m. PST we sent an email announcing that registration for the event is finally open. We were dismayed to discover shortly afterwards that the payment processing on EventBrite, our registration partner, was broken. Eventbrite was quick to fail over to another payment processor and by 10:00 a.m. payments were working again. Free passes were available throughout and the optional $25 donation to the Vista Center is now working as well. 

While that brief hiccup was not an accessibility issue as such, it’s worth noting that we are learning fast how challenging accessibility can be. This morning I spoke to a very helpful registrant who got in touch to let me know about a few accessibility issues on the EventBrite site. One was the 20-minute time limit to register, which he suggested should be extended. Another was a possible improvement in the way our drop downs work, at least for VoiceOver users. A third was the company and title required fields, could we make them optional? We are looking into all those suggestions.

We tested the EventBrite experience with several individuals as well as consulted with our partner Fable, whose guidance throughout has been great. We are learning that it’s super tricky to get to a well optimized state from an accessibility standpoint. When we launched Sight Tech Global, for example, we missed a few low vision issues that friends at Adobe pointed out. Our very accessibility-minded designer and front-end developers at Cohere Studio quickly addressed the issues.

As we prepare for the event on Dec. 2-3, we’ve done a lot of research and carefully observed the great efforts of others in the accessibility event space. We’ve seen that most if not all event platforms are not ready to handle events that aim for solid accessibility. The best outcomes – such as Disability:IN’s July event –  involved careful workarounds on one of the event platforms to produce a good experience. 

Some popular virtual event platforms are investing to improve accessibility, and we hope they will be better prepared in the months ahead. Most virtual events are work-related and companies have turned to these platforms in droves to host trade shows. It’s important that they be accessible to everyone at work. 

As we prepare for Sight Tech Global in December, we are confident that we can provide a virtual event experience that will be simple, clean and accessible. It will be important to have customer service at the ready for questions, and our partner Be My Eyes will be an important part of that. 

Thanks everyone for your patience, encouragement and feedback.
—Ned Desmond


Watch all recorder Sight Tech Global sessions from the 2023 event held on December 6th and 7th.