Creating accessible lectures

On this page we list some strategies that will assist lecturers in meeting the needs of disabled students in their lectures. Many of these strategies can be thought of as good practice for non-disabled and disabled students alike.

  • Check that the lecture room and the route to it are accessible. Remember, wheelchair users may need or want to sit at the front and at a desk; try to accommodate this when selecting lecture rooms.
  • Beware of the lecture environment; try to minimise background noise and ensure that at all times there is enough lighting for those with sensory disabilities (this term refers to impairments of vision and hearing) to see you clearly. (If you turn the lights down so the overhead can be seen this may limit the students' ability to take notes.)
  • Always face the students when talking to them and beware of standing with your back to the light. (This places your face in shadow and makes it difficult for hearing-impaired students to lip-read.)
  • Try not to move around the class when lecturing, as this is distracting and once again poses problems for students who are trying to lip-read. It also means that you may not be able to use the microphone upon which the hearing-impaired student may be relying.
  • Provide reading lists in advance (at the start of each term is best) to enable students with a print disability (a disability that makes it difficult for someone to read or access standard print - usually refers to students with vision impairments and those with dyslexia) or sensory disability to have reading materials transcribed into a different medium. It can take several weeks to transcribe a book to Braille or onto tape.
  • Providing all students with copies of your overheads or slides in the form of a handout at the beginning of each lecture is considered good practice for those with sensory disabilities and dyslexia. Ensure that the print size is at least 14 point. Alternatively, it may be possible to provide these resources on the intranet.
  • Many disabled students may find it difficult to access and follow overheads and PowerPoint slides. The following are some suggestions to help improve access:
    • Where possible, type overheads in a black, clear font in 22-26 point. (Italics and elaborate fonts may be difficult for those with dyslexia and vision impairments to read.)
    • Check with students before using coloured acetates; while some dyslexic students find these helpful, students with vision impairments may not.
    • Try not to cram too much information onto overheads and slides - white space makes them easier to read for everyone!
    • Include any new vocabulary on overheads and handouts; this will assist students with dyslexia and those with sensory disabilities. It may be vital for a deaf student to receive lists of new words in advance so they can work out a sign for those words with the interpreter.
    • It helps students with vision impairment and dyslexia if you read out what is on the overhead, allowing them to follow along with you.
  • Write down and verbalise any alterations in class times and venues or assignment due dates, ensuring that students with both vision and hearing impairments receive this information.
  • Remember that it is perfectly acceptable to make a general announcement at the start of term, inviting any students who have a disability to come to talk to you in confidence about specific needs they may have. This will reassure students that you are open to their needs and willing to make accommodations where necessary.