Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

Remote Participation in Meetings

Ensuring access for students and employees

People who are most vulnerable to complications from COVID may be provided with remote participation options as an academic or workplace accommodation even when the meeting is otherwise being planned as an on-site activity, These scenarios will require collaboration and partnership.

When possible – it is best for meeting facilitators to anticipate the need for remote participation and build flexibility in from the start.

General User Experience

We shouldn’t expect perfection, and should extend grace and patience for one another. Also, we should try to do what we can to improve the experience where we can.

Accessibility Considerations
  • There are microphones in all general purpose classrooms now, and microphones can be requested for other spaces as needed. With a microphone in place, it is typically pretty straight forward to open a google meet or zoom session, and then share the screen. This way anything being presented is being shared, and audio from the room is being captured and sent to remote participants. If possible, it is great to have one person (not necessarily the facilitator) designated to pay attention to chat.
  • Even if a remote meeting tool is generally accessible, some specific features may not be. Stick to basic and well-documented features whenever possible.
  • Whether due to disability, a poor connection, or personal comfort level, participants may need to use (or avoid) video, audio, typing, or asynchronous methods to contribute. Choosing tools that allow a variety of ways in which to participate is ideal, so people can use the methods that work best for them.
  • Typed chat messages may be missed by people who are juggling tabs, calling by phone, or using assistive technology. Read them aloud if they seem intended for all participants, but check with the sender first if the message is private.
  • If you are holding an event and believe it is likely that someone will need interpreting or transcribing in order to participate, please contact cap@pcc.edu.
  • If you are holding an event and want to improve access, please consider one of the note taking approaches AEDR is offering.
Recording

Consider recording for participants who can’t attend synchronously, as a plus, the recordings will also be helpful for later reference and review by everyone, including those who did attend synchronously. Note that chats may not be saved with the recording. You may be able to save chats manually with some tools.

Choosing Equipment

At minimum, you may only need a phone, mobile device, or laptop. Audio quality can be impacted by distance between speaker and mic, background noise, and other factors, so if the quality is not good initially it may be helpful to try other options.

When it’s important to share information visually, you may be able to share screens or capture projections, but may also want to consider different camera options – depending on the type of event.

Regardless of what equipment you choose, always test it in advance of a meeting to be sure it’s working properly.

Audio Quality

Poor audio quality is frustrating for everyone, whether they have a disability or not. Lots of information can be missed, and it makes concentration difficult.

  • People connecting remotely will typically have options to connect by speakers or call in by phone, headsets can help with echo or background noise.
  • Audio should remain muted for all participants except the person who is speaking.
  • When multiple users are sharing a microphone, the active speaker should move closer if possible, or the participant closest to the microphone should repeat what was said.
  • Be mindful of rustling papers, eating, typing, or handling your device while a microphone is turned on; it can be very loud.
  • Remember that some participants may not have a reliable Internet connection and may need to participate by phone, so try to describe anything that is being presented visually.
Audio Device Tips
  • Headsets that plug into a PCC desk phone generally cannot be used with any other devices.
  • Wired or wireless earbuds with a microphone can be used for mobile devices and tablets. These may work with some laptop and desktop computers as well; check in advance to be sure.
  • USB or Bluetooth headsets can be used with laptop and desktop computers. Consider a model with stereo headphones if you need to shut out noise and distractions in your environment.
  • Bear in mind that Bluetooth can sometimes be finicky; a wired headset may be more reliable.
  • Some Bluetooth headsets have the ability to connect to both a mobile phone and a computer, and switch between them.
Video Quality

Video may not be needed in many situations, and if that is the case, audio only can be a good choice. Video that is created offline, then shared, is different than video that is streamed live. In either case, to the degree possible, consider things like:

  • Lighting – try to avoid being backlit.
  • Background – try to find a neutral background without distracting elements.
  • Webcams, document cameras, and conference cameras can have different resolution and focus capabilities
Webcams

Webcams are already built into many devices, including smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers. External webcams are available for desktop and laptop computers. These are usually connected by USB and may also include a built-in microphone.

  • Phones and tablets may have front-facing cameras (on the same side as the viewing screen) rear-facing cameras, or both. You can usually toggle between cameras by tapping an icon on the screen.
  • When using a camera on a portable device, position the device so that you can see the screen clearly when your outgoing video is framed. Avoid holding the device in your hands or moving the camera; this is distracting to other participants.
  • When a webcam doesn’t seem to the right option, remember that there are other types of cameras that may work better.
Choosing Remote Meeting Tools

Meeting tools and methods vary in features and degree of accessibility. Select the tool that provides required features while being broadly inclusive to the most participants. You may still need to provide additional support to some participants, such as interpreting or captioning.

This feature comparison may help you choose which tool to use.

Item Google Hangouts Meet Zoom Meetings Conference Calling
Video support Yes Yes No
Screen sharing Yes Yes No
Text-based chat Yes, to all participants Yes, to all participants or private No
File sharing Yes Yes No
Live streaming Yes, up to 100,000 viewers To Facebook only No
Captioning Automatic Automatic or third party provided Third party provided
Recording Yes Yes No
Dial in by phone Yes Yes Yes
Dial out to phone Yes No Yes
Desktop client Yes Yes No
iOS client Yes Yes No
Android client Yes Yes No
PCC Licensing All Users Limited All Users

Tips for Specific Tools

Google Hangouts Meet
Auto-captioning

Automatically generated captions are not sufficient to provide access for people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing however they can be useful as a general tool. Please email cap@pcc.edu to get in touch as soon as possible when you anticipate the need for transcription, interpreting, or captioning.

If you find the automatic captions helpful, and also want to have a transcript, you may want to use tactiq.io which can run as a chrome extension and will save the transcript into your google drive folder. This can be useful for generating meeting notes, and can also be a useful tool for captioning workflows.

Customizing the layout

You can choose among several screen layouts manually, or allow Meet to choose an appropriate layout automatically. This Google layout guidance page for more detail.

Pinning a participant

Click on a participant’s image to “pin” their video, preventing Meet from automatically switching the main video to the active speaker. This only affects your view; other participants will not see your changes.

Recording

Recorded meetings will be saved to Google Drive after a short processing time. You will receive an email when processing is complete. If you record during a meeting created with a Google Calendar invite, the link to the recording will automatically be added to the calendar event when completed. See the Google Recording guidance page for more detail.

Hangouts Meet Tutorial

PCC-specific tutorials and detailed information are posted on Spaces.

Zoom Meetings
Auto-captioning with live transcripts

Automatically generated captions are not sufficient to provide access for people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing however they can be useful as a general tool. Please email cap@pcc.edu to get in touch as soon as possible when you anticipate the need for human generated transcription, interpreting, or captioning.

Zoom’s live transcription converts what the speaker is saying into a text caption or transcript live within the meeting. This is an incredibly powerful feature and all staff and faculty are strongly encouraged to enable it in your meetings and class sessions.

Here’s how you turn it on. In the Zoom app:

  1. Click on the Live Transcription button at the bottom of the app
  2. Click the Enable Auto-Transcription button

If you like the way automatic transcription works, and want to use it within a captioning workflow for content that is not originally recorded in Zoom, you may want to consider otter.ai which is a paid service managed by Accessible Ed & Disability Resources. We have accounts that can be enabled for employees. If you are interested in Otter.ai please contact cap@pcc.edu.

Instructors who pre-record their class content via Zoom cloud recordings have likely already seen the ai generated interactive transcripts. The Otter team account extends the transcription that is available in live and cloud recorded meetings, and enables additional features for editing, commenting, and sharing.

Pinning or Spotlighting a participant
  • In Zoom Desktop, participants can  pin a video and hosts can pin multiple videos.  The host can also allow participants to pin multiple videos. This can be really important for participants who need to view Interpreters as well as the instructor or shared screen. See the documentation for details and equivalent instructions for other devices.
  • The meeting host can spotlight a speaker to make their video the active view for all speakers.
Recording

Recordings can be created locally (laptop or desktop), or in the cloud (all devices).

See Zoom’s documentation for local recording, and documentation for cloud recording.

Conference Calling

A simple telephone conference can be made accessible by using remote interpreters or transcribers. Contact us as soon as possible if you will need this service.

Interaction Desktop and Interaction Connect

You can use PCC’s phone system to create a conference call by using either the Interaction Desktop client, or the browser-based Interaction Connect. Both are accessed using a desktop or laptop computer.

  • The desktop client requires a VPN connection, but the browser client does not.
  • You cannot use your computer’s audio with these clients. You will still need a telephone to participate.
  • Due to the drag-and-drop nature of this software, the interface is not accessible to conference hosts who use a screen reader or cannot use a mouse.
Telephone

Conference calls cannot be created using a telephone without one of the Interaction clients on a computer. This only applies to the host; participants can call in with any phone.

Getting Additional Help from AEDR
  • Still have questions about remote meeting accessibility? We’ll be glad to help you. Contact the our Tech Team at access-tech-group@pcc.edu or 971-722-TECH (971-722-8324).
  • Need interpreting or transcribing for your meeting? Contact cap@pcc.edu.