Making Presentations Accessible

Annual meeting speakers should be aware of the 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, we 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 and/or rushed speech, which can make it difficult for many people to absorb the ideas in a presentation.
  • Avoid turning away from the audience while speaking.
  • In roundtables and discussions, only one speaker should talk at a time.
  • Moderators should repeat all questions and comments from the audience so everyone can hear.
  • 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.

For more information on making scholarly presentations accessible, see the Modern Language Association’s “Access Guidelines for Convention Session Organizers and Speakers,” or the American Academy of Religion’s guidelines on “Making Your Presentations Disability Friendly.”  

Based on an article by Susan Burch, Ohio State University, a member of the 2008 Local Arrangements Committee.