UCL Human Resources


Accessible remote working - guidance

1 April 2020

New guidance has been developed to support virtual interactions, so they do not create unnecessary barriers for disabled colleagues. It is more important to talk to people about their specific needs, than rigidly following these guidelines.

Image of a messy desk

Some disabled colleagues will be happy to share their identity and express their needs.  Others will not feel comfortable doing this, but will still face barriers

Before the meeting

When sending the appointment to attendees, include the agenda and any slides and other materials you plan to refer to.  It is good practice to share these in advance, to remove barriers for neurodivergent attendees, those with low vision and other needs.

Slides should be compliant with digital accessibility guidelines e.g. have captions.

Starting the meeting

All meeting attendees should join the meeting with their microphone muted and video turned off.

The chair should:

  • Begin by explaining what the meeting is for and make sure everyone has the agenda.
  • Ensure all attendees understand the protocol of the meeting.
  • Invite attendees to turn on captions and open the list of meeting attendees, if they wish.
  • Call on each attendee in turn to introduce themselves.  When doing this each attendee should turn on their video and mic.  When finished they should turn them off again.
  • Ensure attendees turn take and there isn’t unnecessary chat (in the chat facility) at the same time.
  • Manage timings of breaks.

During the meeting

  • Anyone who wants to ask a question or to contribute, should turn their video on. Alternatively, the chat facility can be used to indicate when someone wants to speak. The chair should make clear which system is to be used.
  • Sign Language interpreters must always be on camera.
  • Attendees should wait for the chair to call on them before they speak.
  • If more than one person wants to contribute, the chair will use a turn-taking system. Everyone will be asked to turn their camera off until it's their turn.
  • When called upon by the chair to speak, the nominated attendee should turn on their video and mic.  When finished they should turn them off again.
  • When speaking, attendees should state their name so visually impaired attendees can keep track of who is speaking.
  • The chat facility may also be used to respond to questions from the chair such as a brief ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
  • Avoid having parallel conversations in the chat as it is distracting and makes it very difficult to follow what the speaker is saying.
  • Use chat to share additional documents or links.
  • Describe all onscreen activity when onscreen tools are used as some tools may have low contrast and not always be usable with screen readers.

  • Describe slides, videos or other visual media when used to enable those with low vision to follow.

Other tips and considerations

  • Add a break of at least 5-10 minutes for long meetings. One break for every 30 minutes.
  • Turn the sound off from your Microsoft Teams or email notifications when in a meeting and specially when taking a turn to speak.
  • Speak slowly and clearly.
  • Repeat as needed.
  • Give attendees time to respond when asking a question.
  • Allow time to transition between applications or features.  Navigation screen elements are often obscured or hidden making it harder to transition for those with low vision.
  • Indicate when done talking.
  • Indicate when the call is finished.
  • Indicate when you cannot hear others.
  • Blur the background when video on to minimize distractions in the background (e.g. decoration, pets, other people).
  • Please be mindful that switching tasks will take time for some attendees. Please be patient and respectful.
  • Some neurodivergent attendees might be direct and honest. Please do not take things personally.
  • Some neurodivergent attendees might be highly empathic and find it difficult to hide emotions. Please ensure you give them time to process, be respectful and patient.

  • Attendees with non-visible disabilities may require breaks outside of the agreed time or not be able to participate in longer calls.

Why we need these protocols

  • Some Deaf or hearing-impaired colleagues will prefer the use of captions, while others will require the video activation as they prefer to lip-read or use interpreters.
  • Some low vision attendees will take a little longer to navigate features and screen reader may not work with some applications.
  • For neurodivergent attendees:
  • Overload of information (video, chat and audio) makes it difficult to understand what people say, leading to overwhelm and fatigue
  • Lack of an agenda and a chair not enforcing rules means that colleagues do not know when to talk
  • Need time to process information


It is acknowledged that some of this guidance may be contradictory as people may have conflicting requirements.  If you know the needs of your meeting attendees go with that if not apply general guidelines and check in with meeting participants and respond to their needs.

Guidance compiled by the Disability Equality Steering Group.