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Client Stories

Presidential Inaugural Committee: Virtual inaugural celebration brings together over 40 million people

The Client:

The Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) 2021 was the non-partisan organization in charge of the ceremony and activities connected with the Inaugural Address of the 46th President of the United States.

The Challenge:

COVID-19 was a worldwide concern, which made planning for the 2021 presidential inauguration complex — and unlike any that had come before it. PIC was tasked with creating a fully virtual inauguration that was not only secure from potential cybersecurity threats and other interference, but also completely accessible so that people around the world — regardless of ability — could join in the celebration. PIC was also tasked with ensuring that the inauguration was carried out safely, and did not contribute to a rise in COVID infections in the district.

The Solution:

Whereas a political campaign is focused on a candidate, PIC is a non-partisan organization focused on the people. Chief Technology Officer, Laila ElGohary explains that accessibility was much broader in the context of the inauguration during these unprecedented times.

“Of course, we were thinking of people with disabilities, but we were also thinking about access for the hundreds of thousands of people who would normally be in D.C. to view the ceremony, attend the festivities and be part of community outreach,” ElGohary said. “We couldn’t host [the inauguration] on the National Mall — we needed people to stay home and celebrate without putting neighbors at risk. So we challenged ourselves to find ways to reach people where they were, and to make everyone feel like they were included in this historical moment.”

The team’s goal was to create an experience that went far beyond simply streaming a broadcast on a website. It was a huge project and there was not a lot of time.

“The Perkins Access team was incredibly responsive, which is important for us, given the pace of our work. Having Perkins Access available on Slack, knowing we could reach them and that they could ping us frequently if there were issues was critical” said ElGohary.

She continued, “We’d often need to turn new things around within 24 hours, which didn’t leave a lot of time to make recommendations. But Perkins Access made sure that everything was fully tested and ready to go.”

ElGohary worked with Perkins Access to ensure that the inauguration was as accessible as possible. PIC’s website was constructed to be usable from the keyboard alone, and with assistive technologies such as screen readers and screen magnifiers. All streaming-video events were provided with captions and many carried audio descriptions for users who are blind or visually impaired. And all of these accessibility features were available to any user on any device.

The Outcome:

Perkins Access provided ongoing digital accessibility support for PIC — from their website to the once-in-a-lifetime, accessible inaugural celebration that brought together over 40 million people of all means and abilities from around the world.

“This process was so educational for the PIC technology team. We never wanted to just check a box or do the bare minimum, and Perkins Access was able to guide us to understanding, not just the letter of the law, but also the spirit of the law,” ElGohary said. “I’m grateful to Perkins Access for their partnership.”