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Snap's DEI Summit does accessibility right.

Written by 
Aletta Hiemstra

Virtual events already have the upper hand when it comes to accessibility — removing geographic, financial, and other barriers to attendance. But how can virtual event planners ensure that their events are as inclusive as possible?

Panel with live captioning, sign language, a text box to submit questions, and links to a help desk and schedule.

Snap’s first-ever DEI Innovation Summit, hosted on ohyay earlier this month, reimagined what accessibility can look and feel like for over 3,000 attendees at a six-hour jam-packed event. The summit was designed to spark meaningful dialogue about how companies can improve diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) outcomes within the tech industry. 32 speakers from 19 companies, including Kara Swisher, Idris Elba, and Evan Spiegel, joined panels, fireside chats, and lightning talks to discuss cross-industry action and alignment on DEI.

Snap designed every virtual room to feature both American Sign Language (ASL) and live captioning. Throughout the event, attendees celebrated the inclusion of sign language, insightful conversation, and more.

We sat down with Lauren Velez, on the Global Brand Experience team at Snap, to learn how the Snap team considered accessibility from the beginning of the event planning process.

What specific challenge were you trying to overcome when building the ohyay space for the DEI Innovation Summit? 

Lauren: A huge goal for this event was to make everything as accessible as possible. The event was centered on innovation and equity within the tech community. We knew that, if we wanted to bring people together to discuss how to make our industry a more inclusive place, it was imperative that we start by ensuring that this event was welcoming and accessible. We wanted to construct our workspace — and every room in it — to offer things like closed captioning, sign language, and large participant windows for our speakers. 

How did you make the ohyay space accessible?  

Lauren: Every keynote, panel, and performance — whether live in ohyay or pre-recorded — had a live ASL interpreter and closed captioning. We worked with the woman-owned agency TotalCaption to get live captioning and were excited that they found ohyay easy-to-use. 

Our interpreters and captioners sat together in a virtual backstage room where they could communicate with one another while watching a live feed of the event.

Virtual backstage room for live captioners and interpreters.

The interpreters used a designated spot in the backstage room known as the “hot seat,” which was displayed to whichever room the attendees were in. This made for a very dynamic yet consistent experience, and functioned to ensure that our content was as accessible and inclusive as possible. 

Backstage live ASL seat displayed to rooms with attendees.

How did interactions in the virtual space lead to the event’s success? 

Lauren: The reaction emojis and Q&A board encouraged diverse participation during the event. It was fun to see speakers’ faces light up when they saw audience members reacting to something they said that was funny, moving, or empowering. The Q&A board met the event’s need to vet or reframe questions before they appeared to the panelists. We received excellent feedback from attendees and panelists about how much they enjoyed the interactive elements and the event as a whole.

Guests react to the conversation with streams of emojis.
At the end of the event, guests could easily download the ACT Report and share feedback.

Learn how to make your ohyay events accessible here and reach out to with questions.

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Aletta Hiemstra

Community & Communications at ohyay