Accessible Presentations – Questions & Interaction

Classroom with adjustable furniture, presentation configurations

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Most of our presentations involve some sort of question time or participant interaction. Sometimes our presentations are very little “presentation” and mostly discussion or individual and/or group work. We all approach this differently, depending on our content, objectives, time, audience and personal style. If you’ve been at Victoria College for a while, you’ve probably participated in a few workshops focused on active learning or motivation and engagement. Our VC faculty and CAPE specialists will continue to offer these workshops, so stay tuned for Motivation and Engagement Boot Camp workshops this spring!

For now, we’ll consider a few simple strategies to try which may make questions and/or interaction more accessible for some of your participants. You may find that providing options yields greater participation, too. If you’re already using some of these (or other strategies) share your stories!

  • Index cards
  • Interaction badges
  • Virtual interaction

Note: For any method you use, remember the readability tips we talked about a few weeks ago and provide verbal directions/descriptions for those with visual impairments.

Index Cards

Index cards may provide another way for participants to communicate with you during face-to-face presentations. Those with certain communication, speech or learning disabilities may be able to communicate more clearly in writing, especially if given enough time to process the question. Fast paced questions or discussions may seem overwhelming for some, and this may give them an opportunity to participate. More introverted participants or those with anxiety may relish the opportunity to write instead of speak with a large group. Writing some thoughts down before a discussion may help someone have more confidence in responding as well. Writing something down may also help everyone reinforce something they’ve learned. If you’re doing a Q&A, written questions from your audience may also give you more time to formulate your responses.

Note: If you decide to use colored cards, be sure the colors are not so dark that writing is difficult to read (for the student or you). If participants have any visual or dexterity impairments, you may give them the opportunity to share verbally, offer group questions, or provide a virtual option for individual feedback.

Interaction Badges

Colorful name badges with "Hello my nam is" in different languages

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The idea of interaction badges came from considering social interaction at conferences for participants who may have anxiety or neurological differences such as autism. The ability for a quick visual of who the other person is and how comfortable he or she is in a social setting (using a color & symbol coded system) can be a great tool for people who may feel incredibly stressed in new social environments. This strategy may be more geared toward the accommodation needs of specific individuals, but I think this idea can be adapted for other situations, too.

Our Academic Café uses a color coded system indicating whether students are working on their own, testing or have questions. Sometimes presenters use a thumbs up, thumbs down, or thumbs neutral system to indicate how people feel about a topic or if they need a break. A color/symbol coded or ranking system may be useful to indicate how prepared individuals feel for a particular class, what level of prior knowledge they have on a subject, or how well they understood a particular topic. You may have another method of gauging the emotional/subjective pulse of your audience or soliciting and analyzing some quick feedback, too.

Note: If you decide to use a primarily visual means to gather feedback, consider options if you have anyone with a visual impairment in your group.

Virtual Interaction

If you’re teaching, you may wish to include discussions and/or questions in Canvas, even if your class is face-to-face. For any type of presentation, you may request questions or participant information ahead of time via email, polls or surveys. As long as the tool you choose for virtual interaction is accessible and not device specific, it will allow participants to use their preferred device, along with any assistive technology (AT) they need. For certain device-specific tools, such as our TurningPoint clickers, accessible versions are available, too.

If everyone in your presentation has a mobile device, there are many options for virtual polls, surveys or quizzes. If you have several who do not have mobile devices, you may opt for teams or groups. If you participated in Deb’s Active Learning Tools Boot Camp Workshop last month, you had the opportunity to see some of these formative assessment tools (such as Kahoot, Plickers and Poll Anywhere) in action.

Note: Consider your specific audience. If you know that some will be unable to use the interaction tool you prefer, perhaps use a more accessible tool for that particular presentation or provide an equally effective option for communication.

How can you apply these ideas to a class, workshop or presentation?


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