Making Presentations Accessible

Susan Burch | Dec 1, 2007

One of the things to love about the AHA annual meeting is that it facilitates intellectual dialogue with fellow historians. Indeed, the discussion that follows the presentations can be the most exciting part of the sessions. But in our rush to share our thoughts and to debate with others, we often forget the all-important need to engage the attention of listeners, including those with disabilities. In the spirit of creative and continued dialogue, and in the hope of making the sessions more accessible to all, I offer some suggestions.

Presenters at the annual meeting should take steps to ensure that their presentations are accessible to all audience members:

  • Make eye contact with the audience and avoid monotone aklmnnd/or rushed speech, which can make it difficult for many people to absorb the ideas in a presentation.

  • Share copies of your talk, notes, or outline with audience members. Many people benefit from reading as well as hearing presentations.

  • Presenters using visual aids like PowerPoint, photographs, and video clips should describe all images, providing vital information to those with visual impairments.

  • If the session will be sign-language interpreted, presenters should provide a copy of their talk to the interpreter. Interpreters need time to prepare adequately for a panel to become familiar with the specific terminology, names, or concepts in the presentation.

Crafting accessible presentations demonstrates a commitment to AHA's mission of promoting good practices, disseminating historical studies as broadly as possible, and fostering a network of scholars.

—Susan Burch (Ohio State Univ.) is a member of the Local Arrangements Committee.



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