Helping Sense charity to create accessible meetings guidance

AbilityNet worked with Sense, a UK charity that supports people with complex disabilities, to help collate a set of guidance documents to organise accessible online meetings for its staff. 

AbilityNet provided guideline documentation for external speakers and internal staff for when virtual meetings are being held.

The guidelines focus on best practice for when running virtual meetings to ensure consistency and that Sense’s values and vision are met.

AbilityNet took care that Sense’s existing formal and informal best practices were included and worked in partnership with the team at Sense to make sure they really fitted the charity's needs and culture. 

Sense logo - connecting sight, sound and life

"We collaborated on a project to produce a useful checklist, a set of detailed guidance and collection of training videos to support the written information, so that anyone holding meetings can now follow best practice guidelines to create an inclusive virtual meeting," explains Adam Tweed, Innovation Consultant at AbilityNet. 

Consolidating inclusive working practices

"As an organisation with a significant proportion of our workforce identifying as disabled, it’s always been important to us to make working life as accessible and inclusive as it needs to be," says Alison Bennett, Director of HR at Sense.

The charity has always had meetings guidance in place and learning available for managers and for learning facilitators. But since the pandemic it had to take a detailed look at how well equipped it was to provide accessible and inclusive online meetings and events, to an increasingly dispersed workforce. 

Across the charity, Alison says, they had a lot of good meetings guidance in place, "but it was scattered in different teams in the organisation."

So, Sense approached AbilityNet.

"We wanted to work with an external expert to really review how comprehensive and accurate our guidance was, who had everything to hand in one place and who could help us make sure our meetings guidance was accessible, comprehensive, thorough and up to date," Alison says.

Woman doing British Sign Language sign, with the text 'Early engagement and feedback' and a set of faces from sad to happy

Producing checklists and guidance 

"Early on in the discussion, it was identified that there were two separate needs when it came to delivering events; the preparation and the delivery," says Adam.

So, the AbilityNet team produced two documents. The first is a checklist that provides a list of things to remember and tick off. The items are separated into pre-, during and post-meeting items to remember, with each point linked to a more detailed explanation in the document. 

The second document is a guidance document for presenters and also external speakers, which provides a reminder of the considerations needed for delivering more inclusive experiences. Including advice such as ensuring speakers introduce themselves, remembering to describe visual content, or to spotlight key people such as British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters. 

AbilityNet also created a set of training videos to provide a high-level overview of accessibility considerations.

Here is one of the guidance videos AbilityNet created for this project with Sense:

Recruitment and retention practices

As another step in creating an accessible workplace, Sense has just launched its Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) strategy. But what other future plans does it have for accessibility and inclusion? "We are looking forward to reviewing our recruitment and retention practices and raising awareness of EDI in the organisation. We also plan to build our knowledge and provide thought leadership in the sector," says Alison.

Alison's advice for others who want to make progress with workplace inclusion is to:
    •    Ask staff what they need
    •    Don’t make promises at interview that you can’t keep
    •    Get your Access to Work ducks in a row for staff and managers

GAP analysis

Another idea under exploration to support these initiatives is working through AbilityNet’s Employee Inclusion Journey GAP analysis process together. This will help set a baseline for inclusive practices at different stages in the employee lifecycle and build a roadmap of improvements for the future. 

Learn more about accessible recruitment and retention

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