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narration, just some background music.
If an audience member is blind or has
low vision, then Z’s action is a mystery.
• Graphs. “This graph shows some
growth of W over time.” A blind or low-vision audience member will not have
any idea of the magnitude of the growth
or the time period.
teach to the level of the students, not
over their heads. Naturally, it is always
good to face the audience and progress
slowly and deliberately through a talk so
that everyone can keep up.
• Pointing. “Look at this equation that
shows the relationship between X and
Y.” The speaker is using a laser pointer.
A blind or low-vision audience member
will not know what the equation is or
what the relationship is. A deaf audience
member who is watching the interpreter
might not be able to also see where the
laser is pointing.
It helps to understand some of
the accommodations, and their
implications, that audience members
• Allusion. “You never know who you
might meet.” The slide shows a picture
of the speaker and the President of
the United States shaking hands. The
reference might be lost on a blind or low-vision audience member.
• Animation. “Watch how our
algorithm manipulates the data.” There
is no narration to help blind or low-vision audience members understand
Personal assistive listening devices for
people who are deaf or hard of hearing
include hearing aids and cochlear
implants. Since these devices generally
do not completely restore hearing,
those wearing them often want to be
able to read the lips of a speaker while
listening. This may mean that the
speaker should be as close as possible
to the audience and face the audience
as much as possible. Some assistive
listening devices have FM capability. In
this case, the speaker may be asked to
wear an additional microphone so that
the speaker’s voice arrives more clearly
at the listening device.
These examples are not meant to
imply that images, videos, graphs,
pointing, allusion, and animation should
never be used. Instead, they illustrate
the risks of using these devices in talks.
Sign-language interpreters are often
requested by deaf audience members.
This quarterly publication is a
quarterly journal that publishes
refereed articles addressing issues
of computing as it impacts the
lives of people with disabilities.
The journal will be of particular
interest to SIGACCESS members
and delegates to its affiliated
conference (i.e., ASSETS), as well
as other international accessibility
What is the purpose of giving a talk
at a conference? Having attended
hundreds of conferences and perhaps
thousands of talks in our careers, we
have found that a great talk is one that
inspires us to read the paper and want
to talk to the speaker about the work.
It is important to recognize that a deaf
audience member using an interpreter
can focus on only one thing at a time:
the interpreter, the speaker, or the
slides. Furthermore, interpreters are
really language translators, so there is
a slight delay from when the speaker
says something to when the deaf person
gets the same information. This means
that when referring to information on
a slide, it is good to pause for a moment
to allow time for the translation and the
attention shift to the slide.
A great talk is not about the slides; it’s
about the speaker. The focus of the
audience should be on the speaker, not
the slides. The slides only amplify what
the speaker is saying. How the speaker
connects with the audience makes
people want to listen, so it is paramount
that the speaker know who the listeners
are. Think of speaking at a conference as
a teaching moment—the great teachers
Tactile sign-language interpreters are
often requested by deaf-blind audience
members. It is even more important to
follow the guidelines above for sign-language interpreters, but to go even
more slowly and have less cluttered
slides. The tactile sign-language
interpreter is not only interpreting what
you are saying, but also describing the
visuals on the slides.
How the speaker connects with the
audience makes people want to listen,
so it is paramount that the speaker know
who the listeners are.