In my job as a researcher, I am part of different projects, which means I attend many meetings with different groups. I have attended a number of meetings where the agenda or a document is projected to organize the meeting and keep everyone on the same page. However, when this information is not read or described, I, as someone who is blind, miss information or get lost during the conversation, which makes me feel not included.
I know that my teams are smart and want to make me feel included, but over time, they have begun to forget that inclusivity requires intentionality. Even for people who have worked with individuals who are blind or visually impaired, it is easy to forget to be intentional. I am sharing with you 7 quick tips on how to make group meetings inclusive and meaningful to a person who is blind or visually impaired.
- Share the meeting agenda in advance, i.e. at least two days before the meeting.
- Clearly point out in the agenda if you are going to talk about a specific article or handouts or graphs or master sheets during the meeting. This will give the person who is blind enough time to review it and familiarize themself with it prior to the meeting so they can join and follow the conversation.
During the meeting
- The intention is for the colleague who is blind to have access to all of the information about the meeting that your sighted colleagues have access to, including who is attending or who just entered the room. This can be done by greeting the individual verbally and naturally as you or they enter the room. This could as simple as saying, “Hello.” That will make them feel included and understood.
- During the meeting, if you are looking at an image or reading through questions, make sure you allow some time to read them out loud or describe them to everyone before the discussion, naturally making them part of the conversation. For example, “On the screen, we’re sharing this page, which has …We want to discuss… Let’s look at Number 1: read the question…” Make sure to make this a habit until it comes naturally to you.
- While it might be necessary during a meeting to look at different tabs at the same time to clarify specific points, it can distract the individual who is blind from the main point of the meeting. Therefore, avoid flipping between tabs without explaining what you are doing and saying the name of the documents so the person who is blind can follow the conversation.
- If someone attending the meeting virtually writes something in the chat, be sure to read it out loud naturally. For example, you may say, “Karen is asking in the chat…”
- If there are snacks or drinks, be sure to point them out to the individual.
These tips are simple, but it takes time to incorporate them into your work. They can be useful for everyone, not only the person who is blind. Remember, inclusive means intentionally including the individual in all activities, meaning you consider all of their needs to make them part of the group. These are the quick tips that came to my mind as I was writing this article. If you have other tips, please share them!