Making Video Conferences Equitable and Inclusive

By Brian Pillsbury, Jehan Hill, Sarah Patterson-Mills and Azra Karajic Siwiec

The COVID-19 crisis has necessitated a shift to online work activities and service delivery in most sectors of our workforce, and the field of career services is no exception. Because of the increase in usage of online technologies such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and other virtual communication systems, the NCDA Committees on Diversity Initiatives and Cultural Inclusion and Ethics would like to present these tips for conducting online workshops and presentation services, such as virtual professional conferences. These tips, which are organized as either Participant Needs or Privacy Concerns, will help ensure maximum accessibility and sensitivity to the needs of diverse populations.

Participant Needs

  • Explore ways to adhere to ADA compliance such as utilizing closed captioning features and being aware of color contrasts when sharing presentations (U.S. Department of Justice, 2014). This includes muting participants in order to eliminate background noise that may be distracting or make it difficult for others to hear.
  • Prior to conducting your virtual communication, check-in with your participants regarding access to the internet, technology concerns, and connection strength. To verify that the participants are familiar with the virtual platform, send a “how to video” or detailed instructions with screenshots. Be mindful that some features, such as virtual backgrounds, may not be available to all due to hardware or bandwidth limitations.
  • Mention to participants that they can add gender pronouns to their profile or screen name. The presenters can model inclusivity by including gender pronouns with their introductions.
  • When conducting workshops, have a designated person moderate the chat function. This promotes equity for participants as it gives them an opportunity to be heard if they do not feel comfortable or are unable to verbally ask questions. Decide on ways to select questions to be asked (e.g. making notes of the questions for the end of the workshop) and consider alternative ways to address questions such as using an interactive document.
  • Be aware of time zones and the impact that the selected time may have on individuals attending the career presentation or workshop. For example, if a participant lives in the eastern time zone, a workshop at 7 pm pacific time zone may be challenging to attend as there is a three-hour difference. Tell participants the time zone that the workshop is being offered in; announcing a blanket time (e.g. 5 pm) could create confusion for participants living in areas outside of the presenter’s time zone.
  • Recognize the potential of audio lag, Zoom fatigue, and other impacts on communication. Presenters are advised to wait longer for responses to questions, utilize inclusive and simple language, and repeat new or complex terminology to assist with comprehension.
  • Photo By Kobu Agency On UnsplashPresenters should consider the use of PowerPoint when covering content. This allows for closed captioning opportunities if you select “always show subtitles” when presenting your slideshow and could be a better way to share complex material or help individuals with an auditory disability.


Privacy Concerns

  • Before recording your workshop, make sure to gain verbal consent to record. Participants should be aware that they can leave the session or workshop at any time with no repercussions from presenter. This should be explained before the workshop begins so that participants do not feel pressured into being recorded.
  • Provide audience members with the option of changing their screen name and/or turning off their camera.
  • Discuss ways to increase opportunities for privacy (e.g. headphones, white noise apps, virtual backgrounds) if they are unable to find a private space during participation.
  • If the video is recorded, considerations of electronic storage should be evaluated. Not all cloud storage systems meet HIPPA compliance; make sure to review security measures regarding the video/audio. Notify your participants regarding how long the video will be stored.
  • Although it is difficult to manage social media posting by participants during a workshop or presentation, be aware of potential use or misuse by attendees. For example, a participant should not mention the name of another participant when sharing their attendance at a virtual workshop. At the beginning of your event, explain the group rules with the participants and have them acknowledge and agree to the rules. If you become aware of potentially improper social media usage in relation to your event, take steps to remedy the situation by asking the participant in question to remove or alter their content.
  • When conducting workshops or presentations, know what laws and regulations must be followed dependent on the state or organization. For example, if you are conducting a virtual career workshop in an educational setting you must abide by Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA, 2015).


We hope you reflect upon these tips as you prepare for your next workshops. If you would like to learn more about the NCDA Committees on Diversity Initiatives and Cultural Inclusion or Ethics, please visit https://www.ncda.org/aws/NCDA/pt/sp/about_committees for chair contact information as well as descriptions of each committee.



Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) 20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99 (2015).

U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section. (2014, January 31). ADA Requirements: Effective Communication. Information and Technical Assistance on the Americans with Disabilities Act. https://www.ada.gov/effective-comm.htm




Brian Pillsbury, Ph.D., is Assistant Director of Career Services at Northern Illinois University. At NIU, he serves on the Presidential Commission for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and is a facilitator of Conversations on Diversity and Equity. He is a member of the NCDA Best Practices Subcommittee of the Committee on Diversity Initiatives and Cultural Inclusion. He can be contacted at pillsbury@niu.edu

Jehan Hill, Ph.D., LPC, is an assistant professor for the Department of Counseling and Higher Education at Northern Illinois University. Her scholarly work highlights methods of advocacy, activism, and culturally responsive counseling practices to better support historically marginalized and oppressed communities in the educational system. She is currently on the NCDA Best Practices Subcommittee of the Committee on Diversity Initiatives and Cultural Inclusion. She can be reached at jhill2@niu.edu

Sarah Patterson-Mills, Ph.D., is a Licensed Professional Counselor and formerly a 7-12th certified school counselor. She is the program chair for school counseling at Lindenwood University. She was the counselor educator representative for the Illinois School Counseling Governing Council and appointed as a legislative liaison between the Governing Board and legislative efforts. Dr. Patterson-Mills is active in the field of career counseling and has been co-chair of the NCDA Ethics Committee and editor of Career Developments, Ethics. She can be reached at spatterson-mills@lindenwood.edu


Azra Karajic Siwiec, Ph.D., is a graduate of Youngstown State University and the Pennsylvania State University and has been a counselor educator for the last 13 years. She is serving as contributing faculty in counselor education at Walden University. She is co-chair of the NCDA Ethics Committee. She can be reached at akarajic@aol.com


Printer-Friendly Version


Jim Peacock   on Friday 10/02/2020 at 11:53 AM

This is very helpful. Thank you to all of you.
Now that we have moved to nearly everything online, it is important to consider all the implications of how this affects different people and privacy issues. Nice job.

Dina Janicki   on Sunday 11/01/2020 at 08:29 PM

Thank you for this, these are great tips.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the views or opinions of this organization.