By Emily Loof
AFP SOCO IDEA Committee Chair
It’s no secret that we are all pretty tired of Zoom hangouts.
Fourteen months into this pandemic, we’ve all had to adjust to conducting all or most of our business and leisure activities online. As vaccinations ramp up and as Governor Polis and local officials begin to relax the health-based restrictions that were put into place to protect the public, many are returning eagerly to the in-person experiences they missed, including our fundraising events and programming.
But one thing I hope we do not lose sight of in this moment of transition is how important it is to make sure these events and programming are accessible to all our audiences. The pandemic has highlighted how truly doable it is to move our events online, which has allowed our audiences to grow as the barriers to access have been lowered.
Those barriers are varied and can include physical disabilities such as Deafness or Blindness; geographic barriers; and cost barriers. The pandemic has shown us that virtual or even hybrid events are a way to mitigate these barriers and open the aperture for involvement with our organizations.
Approximately 446,132 Colorado residents are deaf or hard of hearing and approximately 107,700 are blind. This means that 10 percent of the population of our state are deaf/hard of hearing and/or blind. In a dream world, we as fundraising professionals would ensure that all of our events and programs going forward have a virtual component and offer accommodations like image and video description and closed captioning services for these members of our communities, and for those who are unable to attend our events in person due to health conditions, inability to travel, and more. I know that many of us probably lack the infrastructure to incorporate these elements immediately-- but I still hope we can work together and lean on each other to achieve the accessibility that our community deserves. For example, we on the AFP Southern Colorado board have vowed to offer a virtual component to our programming going forward wherever possible--and soon, I hope to explore adding closed captioning services to these virtual offerings.
Do you have other thoughts or ideas on how we might prioritize accessibility going forward? I would love to speak with you. Please feel free to reach out to myself and the rest of the IDEA committee anytime by emailing email@example.com.