For the past year our Design Review team has been hard at work striving towards a more inclusive process for historically underserved communities in Seattle, while at the same time creating automated process to reduce repetitive tasks that drain time and resources.
With an eye and ear towards making Design Review meetings more accessible, we are studying the values to hosting the meetings virtually. Through our Racial Equality Toolkit, we have identified numerous key components that elevate the virtual experience for members of our community.
Such benefits include:
- Remove the need for transportation to physical locations.
- Minimize childcare issues
- Diminished carbon footprint from transportation
- Eliminate travel time, parking difficulties, costs and impacts to traffic
- Easier access for individuals with mobility impairments.
- Comments are submitted via an online form, thereby reducing barriers to sharing experienced by those unable, unwilling, or hesitate to verbally communicate their concerns.
- Attendees are presently unable to share their video feed which reduces the potential for race and gender-based biases, providing a higher degree of anonymity than available through in-person meetings.
- Technology allows for increased accessibility for both visually and hearing-impaired individuals.
For ethnically diverse communities, a conventional mainstream public meeting may not be culturally sensitive or appropriate. The transition to a virtual meeting format has created an opportunity to establish new norms of inclusivity and openness within the public participation process. Further outreach with community members and stakeholders is necessary to determine how to maximize potential benefits from this cultural shift.
To streamline the preparation process for virtual Design Review meetings we have also developed several tools and resources to help applicants become acquainted with and efficiently prepare for Design Review Board meetings.
First, we created a 6-minute training video that details how our meetings are run, and what the applicant team needs to be prepared. This link is sent to applicants several weeks before the scheduled meeting date.
Second, we launched an automated Presenter Identification tool last September for applicants to identify the speakers for an upcoming Design Review virtual meeting presentation. If you are comfortable with our process and technology, you can simply let us know who will be speaking utilizing this automation.
Finally, if your team is new to our virtual meeting platform, we offer and suggest a full 30-minute Tech Check session with one of our technical producers that run our meetings. In December, we will be rolling out an automated Tech Check Request tool which will allow Design Review applicants to directly request this personalized session. This is a great option for new or returning applicants or those using new devices.