Participating in W3C conference calls.

A guide to Participating in w3c calls with a screen reader

The meetings/calls are the core of the work we do at W3C, but the W3C calls, even those of accessibility working groups, are not fully accessible. You need to know a few tips and tricks to ensure you can attend and participate effectively. On this page you will find all you need to know.

The W3C calls have two parts to them: The audio call where the discussions and exchange of opinions happens, and the text chat where scribing takes place, people post agenda items, links and other information relevant to what is being discussed on the call. To be effective you have to monitor and participate in both the audio and the text chat portions of a W3C call.

The audio part of W3C calls is conducted via WebEx. While the WebEx desktop client has some accessibility issues it is mostly usable with Firefox, especially if you have a compatible USB or Bluetooth headset . Users can also dial into calls using their phones. We will share a few tips and tricks related to both options.

The text chat part of the W3C calls is conducted using IRC. There are many IRC clients with varying levels of accessibility. On this page we describe how to participate in W3C chats using the Firefox chatzilla plug-in, which people have found to be pretty accessible with a screen reader. We also describe using a web-based option that does not require instaling software or plug-ins.

Joining a W3C WebEx conference

Dialing in.

The most accessible option to attend W3C calls is to use the good old telephone (or a fancy mobile phone).

To attend, simply dial the W3C meeting number (usually 1-617-324-0000). Then type in your access code when prompted and press the pound key. The meeting number and access code are provided in all W3C meeting invites.

Helpful hint: If you dial in using an iPhone you can mute and unmute yourself while on the call. To do this:

  1. When on the call, locate and double tap the “hide” button (bottom right corner of your on-screen keypad. This brings up a screen of call-related options.
  2. In the top left corner of the call options screen, under the call heading (about two swipes from the top) is a “mute” control.
    • To mute yourself, simply double tap that control. The control is announced as “selected mute” when active.
    • To unmute yourself, simply double tap the mute control again. You are no longer muted and the control is announced as “mute”.
    • If your phone has gone to the lock screen during the call, You can return to the call screen by double tapping the “return to call” icon on the right side of the status bar at the top of your iPhone screen.

This is a useful option when attending calls from a noisy environment, or while eating a crunchy lunch.

Helpful hint #2: If you use an iPhone with headphones, make sure the microphone on those headphones is not too close to your computer headset. The screen reader voice starts bleeding through. That can be particularly embarrassing if you are checking your email, reading the news, or looking up how Pokemon Go works instead of listening in.

Using the WebEx desktop client

Your W3c meeting invite should include a link to the WebEx conference. You can also find the link to the WebEx call from the irc channel for the meeting (see below). For the most accessible experience, open the link in the Firefox browser.

The first time you use WebEx, you are promted to download a WebEx client. Follow the promts to install it. The process should be fairly accessible.

To join a meeting you need to do one or all of the following 4 things (it depends on the way the meting is set up):

  1. Enter the meeting number (aka access code). This is the same code used to join the meting by phone.
  2. Enter the meting password. If you don’t know the password, Join the IRC channel first (see instructions below) and ask about it there. If you type in an incorrect password you have to complete an inaccessible CAPTCHA or clear your browser cookies and try again.
  3. Enter your name and email address, then activate the “join meeting” button. This should open your WebEx client.
  4. Tab around in the client until you find the “join audio” button and click it. You should get a menu of options. Select “join using your computer”.

Now you should be in the call from your WebEx desktop client.

The most accessible way to mute and unmute yourself while on the call is to use the button/buttons on a WebEx compatible headset.

When the meeting is done, tab around until you locate the “leave meeting” button. Once you find it, activate it.

Participating in W3C meeting text chat

The text chat portion of W3C meetings takes place on an IRC channel. The W3C has its own irc server: port: 6665. In this section we will cover a couple of the most accessible options to join a W3C meeting IRC channel. Warning, once you have mastered this you may be forced to scribe meetings from time to time.

There are a lot of IRC clients out there. A popular one among screen reader users is a Mozilla Add-on called Chatzilla. Another convenient option that enables you to join meetings directly from your browser without instaling software is W3C’s own web-based IRC client.

Using the W3C Public IRC Web Client page.

Note: It is best to use the Firefox browser. If you use IE (at least IE11) the page often stops refreshing, forcing you to restart the browser and rejoin.

To join a channel using the W3C page:

  1. Launch the W3C Public IRC Web Client (the URL is
    You will land on a webpage with the title “Connection details – W3C Public IRC Web Client”
  2. Fill in the required fields:
    • In the nickname field type your nickname (make sure it clearly identifise you and is consistent between meetings, best to use your first name as your nickname, or use your whole name if other people on the call share your first name).
    • In the “channels” input field, type the name of the W3C meeting channel (provided in the meeting invite), with or without the hashtag (number sign).
    • Tab to and activate the “connect” button, or just press enter after typing in the channel name.
  3. The channel page should load, and your focus is moved to the unlabeled edit field where you can type in text. The title of the page should be “#channel – W3C Public IRC Web Client”, where #channel is the name of the channel you joined.

If you move your screen reder focus to the top of the page you will see the page title, a couple of links, the channel name and the WebEx link for the W3C call.

Then you will see the chat log (from oldest to most recent), followed by the list of participants.

The page should refresh automatically when someone types a chat message and the message is added to the end of the timeline in the chat history. Keep in mind that this does not necessarily work in IE11.

Hint: It is often better to set your screen reader’s auto forms mode to manual on this page, because you frequently switch between inputting text and reading page content.

Join using Chatzilla

This guide assumes that you have the Chatzilla for Firefox add-on installed on your system. If not, downloading and installing it is a breeze.

To join a meeting text chat using Chatzilla:

  1. Go to Firefox tools (alt-t) and arrow up until you find the Chatzilla menu item. Then activate it.
  2. Use f6 to locate the “edit messages” panel.
  3. Type:

    and press enter

  4. Stay on the same field and type
    /join #Channel

    where “channel” is the name of the meeting channel which is included in your email). Make sure to type the hashtag (number sign) before the channel name.

You can use f6 to move between the 3 Chatzilla panels:

  • The multi-select listbox of users in the current channel.
  • The edit field where you enter commands and messages. If you are the designated meeting scribe, you will spend the vast majority of the call in this panel)
  • The chat log/history (where you can review the meeting chat log.

To leave the meeting, go to the edit message panel and type “/part” or press ctrl-w to close the tab.

Clearing your browser cookies.

In Firefox or IE, to clear the browser cookies, press ctrl-shift-delete on your keyboard. Then follow the prompts (selecting to clear all cookies) and press enter to confirm. This may be necessary if you face the much dreaded WebEx CAPTCHA, or if your browser has started acting wierd. Your browser will forget all about visited pages and login information, but generally it does not take you long to re-enter all that info.