Weekly Poll – Online Meetings and Events

Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue.  For the week beginning 31 May 2021, we asked a question about Online Meetings and Events.

Results

Question 1. Have you found online events easier to join compared to face-to-face events?

  • YES – 93% (345 respondents)
  • NO – 7% (27 respondents)

Comments

We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.

Engagement

The vast majority of respondents (93%) have found online events easier to join compared to face-to-face events. Respondents reflected on the increased levels of engagement they have experienced, which has helped to stay connected with others during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As stressful and horrible as this pandemic has been especially for us high-risk people, many disabled people have thrived socially and culturally due to having remote options available that otherwise haven’t been.”

“Being able to join meetings and webinars online has made such a difference. I have learned so much from being able to participate in more events and even expanded my friends group and peer support.”

“Because of online I have engaged more than I did pre-pandemic. It is so much easier and convenient.”

Due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, we have delivered our events through a series of online webinars. Some believed that being offered the opportunity to join our events online had resulted in increased levels of engagement with Disability Equality Scotland.

“I feel I have discovered so much about the work of Disability Equality Scotland since you started the online events and it’s been very useful.”

“I attended your Annual General Meeting and Access Panel Conference, as well as your webinars. I hadn’t attended these before and hope they remain online as I really enjoyed them and wouldn’t manage in person. I feel more connected to Disability Equality Scotland now.”

“I just joined your webinar on Public Appointments today and if this wasn’t online I would have missed this opportunity. The webinar was very informative and gave me the opportunity to ask questions and have a voice.”

“Please keep it this way. It has given me a new lease of life and I feel so much more connected with you.”

Buildings and Transport Accessibility

Respondents reflected on the physical barriers, such as the accessibility of buildings, the surrounding built environment and public transport, which can make it challenging for some disabled people to attend face-to-face meetings and events.

“It is good to be able to join some of these discussions without the worry of having to plan travel to the finest detail and often being let down by parking and building accessibility. I need an accessible toilet and my toilet at home is adapted. Very few places that say they have accessible toilets are actually accessible and they are always at the far end of buildings meaning I need help to get there and lose my independence.”

“I find it so much easier to attend events online as I don’t have to worry about travel, access to events and time spent travelling. I have been able to attend events for all sorts of conferences and online learning and really appreciate them.”

“On days when I’m crippled with pain and mobility isn’t great, it’s good to be able to join a Zoom event or any other online platform. It doesn’t matter if I’m still in my pj’s, I don’t have to stress about how I’m getting dressed or how I’m getting to a face-to-face event.”

“It’s easier online because it reduces the need for travelling, less hassle. It also reduces the worry of lack of toilet facilities which also means I can participate for longer.”

“It’s so much easier to join online than having to make all the arrangements to attend in person, which frequently results in me not attending.”

Carers

There were specific comments from carers and people who require the support of a carer, who have benefited from being able to join online discussions straightaway, without the need for arranging support.

“I used to miss out on events because of my care needs and not having support to attend with me. I wouldn’t manage on my own. I can now join in and don’t feel excluded. Please continue to offer online options.”

“I have a circadian rhythm disorder and being able to sit up from bed 15-20 mins before a session has been relieving, compared to the time and effort to get up and ready to leave the house. I also need someone to help me leave the house so it has been nice to not have to worry about making sure someone is available for that. I have been able to leave for a break if I wish just by turning my camera and speaker off for a short time and recently I was able to do so while my nurse arrived and go back to the event afterwards which I would not have been able to do had the event been in person.”

“I am an unpaid carer and missed out on meetings and conferences before as I didn’t have anyone and couldn’t afford anyone to look after my husband to let me get to meetings. Online has made this easier and my husband also listens and enjoys the conversations.”

Digital Exclusion

There was recognition from some respondents that there are people who are unable to participate in online events due to various factors linked to digital exclusion. This includes the affordability of broadband and mobile internet services and the affordability of devices and software that are required to access broadband and mobile packages. There are also factors to consider in terms of the accessibility of software and devices and the access to digital skills training.

“I am lucky to have a laptop at the moment but that is not always the case.”

“Some phones do not have the capacity to do it or people don’t know how.”

“I understand some people may be excluded by costs, but the government needs to assist here to make sure everyone can afford to be digitally connected if they choose.”

“Where I live internet connection is very slow, unpredictable and even with a minimalist browser, the poor bandwidth of my internet connection does not allow for any form of video conference or online viewing!”

Challenges

Respondents shared their concerns of why joining online meetings and events can be challenging for disabled people. One respondent finds online meetings to have too many distractions. There were also comments on the difficulties of online interactions for deaf people.

“Having ADHD makes my attention span minimal. There are too many distractions for me when meetings/seminars are online and I find it extremely hard to concentrate. Also I really struggle to ‘read’ people when I can’t see all of them. I cannot attend events, even ones I really want to participate in, if they are an online event.”

“It has been a period of total exclusion not being able to interact in a face-to-face way. A very difficult time for Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) users especially.”

“For deaf people webinars and zoom meetings are useless. Before lockdown I had no trouble attending proper meetings and I didn’t need any help at all. The sooner we get back to normal the better.”

“Zoom is certainly more accessible than a number of other software products, however even with it many do not routinely enable captions or provide other forms of communication access. I do benefit from the ability to lip-read if people have positioned themselves well and can generally hear better with earphones although many have poor microphones, poor environments and background noise. Being one of those affected by deafness I can say there are benefits to moving online, however there are still issues to be managed and steps taken to make average experience better.”

“I have autistic processing difficulties and passwords or pass numbers do not get organically retained, or come easy for me. This has excluded me from many (particularly Zoom) events, since last April. Automatic invitation and reminders of events and meetings at set points the day before, 5 days prior, etc have been very beneficial and means I’m not to be excluded entirely.”

Mixed Approach

Some respondents who have found online events easier to join, also recognised the benefits of face-to-face meetings. It was suggested by some respondents that a mixed approach of hosting face-to-face meetings with the ability to join virtually should be trialled.

“I find it easier to attend online events and have attended many more than I could have in real life, however, I do miss the social interaction of face-to-face meetings/events if that could be incorporated into online events somehow that would help greatly.”

“Zoom has been a lifesaver but for me and possibly most people, a hybrid approach would be ideal, so that I can attend some things from home when I’m unable to leave the house but also have access to in person events.”

“Online events may mean less travel and expense, but gawking at a screen for too long takes a toll. Something gets lost in the transition.”

“Although it is easier to attend webinars, I do miss face-to-face meetings. It is easier to see peoples’ responses and have face-to-face conversations.”

Conclusion

The vast majority of respondents have found online meetings and events easier to join. This has been particularly important for allowing people to stay connected throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. For some respondents it has resulted in increased levels of engagement with Disability Equality Scotland. Respondents reflected on the challenges of attending face-to-face events due to the inaccessible nature of buildings, the built environment and public transport. However, there was also recognition of the barriers in place that exclude disabled people from participating in online events. This includes the affordability of communication services and devices, and access to appropriate digital skills training.  There were also concerns about accessibility of online events for people with autism, ADHD, and hearing impairments. At Disability Equality Scotland we understand the need for offering a variety of accessible formats for delivering our commitment to meetings and events and will use the comments received in this poll to help shape our approach going forward.

You can view previous webinar recordings on the Disability Equality Scotland website: www.disabilityequality.scot/webinars

Disability Equality Scotland, June 2021