Online Accessibility by Dynamite Young People’s Forum Co-Ordinator, Joe McLeish
In March, we went into lockdown and everything went online. Even the biggest technophobes were forced to have a crash course in how to use platforms like Zoom to do the things we usually do in person.
For many professionals working with young people (myself included) it was the first time we’d used these platforms at work. It was also the first time that many young people had used these platforms and for most of them they were a good way to stay connected with friends, continue with college or play games with their youth group.
Young people in the Dynamite group suggested we start a weekly zoom catchup which has been so successful that we’ve continued as we’ve come out of lockdown ( it’s every Thursday, to find out more email firstname.lastname@example.org )
However, since lockdown we have also been hearing from young people for whom video platforms aren’t working. There are lots of reasons for this:
- Social cues are harder to pick up on videocalls
- Screensharing is not as good as having your own paper copy of work
- Bad wifi or using an old device can make the video glitch
- There can be lots of background noise from other users
- Feeling under pressure to talk to a whole group, or not wanting to be on camera.
When we talk about support and accessibility in schools, colleges, health services or youth clubs I could give lots of examples of what that might include. Things like 1 to 1 support, a slightly longer dentist appointment, or being able to leave a classroom a bit early to avoid sensory overload in the corridors.
When people talk about online accessibility, I am less clear what that means and I think many other professionals working with young people feel the same.
Maybe a tool so that text can be read aloud?
Part of this problem is that we are all just learning how to use these platforms and we haven’t worked out how to make them accessible for young people with SEND. Luckily our new Dynamite Development Worker has been researching online accessibility so that we can work with young people to produce a guide to online accessibility.
There are already some great resources online at https://abilitynet.org.uk/free-resources and even some webinars at https://abilitynet.org.uk/webinars/how-run-accessible-online-meetings-disabled-people-working-and-studying-home
If you’d like to share your experience of being a young person with SEND using online platforms like zoom and help us with our online accessibility guide then email us at email@example.com