Graduation is an important milestone in a person’s educational journey, yet too often these important events are inaccessible for deaf students, their family, and their friends.
In an effort to support schools increase accessibility, the National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes (NDC) hosted a webinar called “Commencements for All: Making Graduation Accessible” to guide attendees through best practices and strategies for planning accommodations for graduation ceremonies. NDC’s Lore Kinast guided attendees through how best to proactively arrange accommodations, as well as tips on how to include accessibility in all steps of the event planning process.
Be Proactive with Accommodations
Kinast explained providing access by default without a specific request needed is best practice for full inclusion. Interpreters, speech-to-text services, videos with captions, assistive listening systems, braille or large print copies of documents, and more should be incorporated as part of the overall event planning strategy.
If your institution is not ready to take this inclusive approach, be sure to have a clear process on how requests can be made and who will coordinate accommodations when requested.
You can start with these helpful tips:
- Include communication access as part of the event planning process. It is important to ensure that a representative who has expertise with access and accommodations is on the Planning Committee. This person plays an integral role in communicating with the group on how to proactively plan and provide accommodations to ensure equitable access for all deaf attendees.
- Use an access statement or icons on marketing materials. An access statement shares what accommodations will be provided and who to contact for additional accommodation requests. Make sure the information is easy to find,lists a deadline for requests, and has clear procedures.
- Secure services providers and share materials ASAP! As soon as you know the date of your event and/or receive a request, begin the proactive planning process. Provide the service providers with resources such as scripts for speeches, names of presenters, and any music lyrics. Invite the service providers to attend practice sessions for logistics and placement planning.
- Capitalize on technology. If your institution has access to technology such as jumbotrons or projection screens, consider capitalizing on these options to provide wider access to the interpreters and live captions by including these in the video feed.
Watch the full webinar for more detailed information on each of these tips, as well as more helpful information.
Planning Accessibility Helps Reduce Last Minute Issues
Following the presentation portion of the webinar, participants joined a breakout Q & A session for additional guidance, to share barriers they had encountered, to learn from one another, and identify solutions on making their graduation event accessible.
Question: What if the deaf person wants an interpreter but the graduation event already decided they were providing speech-to-text services? Would that be sufficient, or do they need to add interpreting services?
Response: Speech-to-Text Services provides access for many people, but it does not fully meet access needs for all deaf people. Deaf people have diverse communication preferences and to ensure full inclusion, it is important to honor requests for interpreting services also.
NDC recommends adopting an inclusive approach of proactively providing interpreting and speech-to-text access from the start. Working with the committee planning team will also reduce the potential for last-minute issues, such as rearranging and moving seats for better sight line access to the interpreters or technical issues with streaming captions.
Question: Do you have tips on providing open captions and how to stream interpreters on screen?
Response: Work closely with the graduation planning committee with the goal of providing proactive sign language interpreting and speech-to-text services at graduation ceremonies. Many of these strategies, such as streaming captions, also benefit others in attendance due to poor acoustics in large venues. Additionally, these strategies will reduce the additional access labor for deaf graduates and attendees which means they can focus on celebrating the accomplishments of the graduates!
Do you have more questions you’d like to discuss? NDC is hosting a follow-up interactive dialog session on Apr 14, 2022 at 1pm CT to answer questions, share experiences, and provide resources. There will be breakout discussions on implementation practices and policy to ensure an accessible graduation experience for deaf people.
Here are some more resources from NDC to help make your next graduation more accessible:
- Campus Events and Activities
- Creating Access: Graduation Events
- Creating Access: Campus Visitors
- Dual Accommodations: Interpreters and Speech-to-Text Services
- Equitable Access Guide: Section 5: Beyond the Classroom: Non-Academic Programs
- FAQs: What are some considerations when planning for an accessible, virtual commencement for deaf participants?
- Improving Campus Access (e-learning short course)
As always, NDC’s help team is here to support you with any additional questions you may have. You can also stay up to date on the latest news and events by joining NDC’s listserv, as well as connecting with us on social media!