Accessibility Guidelines for Conference Presenters and Moderators

In 2015-16 the Canadian Society for Women in Philosophy established the Working Group on Accessibility (Jane Dryden, Tracy Isaacs, Anna Mudde, and Shelley Tremain). The Working Group produced “Guidelines for Conference Hosting,” a document that was subsequently endorsed by the membership at the 2016 Annual General Meeting in Regina. Note that it is to be considered a “living document.” Suggestions for revision are welcome and should be sent to the CSWIP executive.

The document begins:

The Canadian Society for Women in Philosophy (CSWIP) recognizes that rigorous philosophical practice requires a robustly inclusive philosophical community. Conference accessibility is, therefore, a matter of good philosophical practice and a condition of doing good philosophical work. It is also a matter of justice within the organization and the profession.

This document has been produced by the Working Group on Accessibility (2015-2016) and is intended to stand as a living document that can continue to be revised in light of expanding capacities, considerations, and needs for accessibility in the organization and the discipline.

The organizers of Feminism, Philosophy, and Engaging the Public encourage all presenters to observe the accessibility guidelines for presenters, and all session moderators to observe the accessibility guidelines for moderators, as outlined in the CSWIP Guidelines (Appendix 3). The respective guidelines are as follows:

Presenter Guidelines for Feminism, Philosophy, and Engaging the Public: PREPARING FOR THE CONFERENCE

Prepare to be flexible. Access needs are shifting and fluid, and it may be that even your accessible presentation will need to shift depending on who attends your presentation.

Create a script or detailed outline for your talk and bring copies to distribute. Many people find it hard to follow auditory talks, but this is particularly helpful for those who are deaf and also helps the many people who struggle to process you reading your paper, such as those with traumatic brain injuries and second-language learners. If your talk is not scripted, please provide a detailed outline. If you do not want your work cited without your permission, indicate this on your draft (or collect drafts at the end – the moderator can assist with this).

Make your PowerPoint more accessible (NOTE: current best practice, as articulated in the 2017 Guidelines posted by PhiloSOPHIA: the Society for Continental Feminism, is to avoid PowerPoint altogether). [If you must use PowerPoint] Avoid flashing images, arguments that rely solely on color, and small print. Use a plain background without any watermark, photo, or design behind the text. Plan to have a backup (such as a handout, or using the board) if your PowerPoint fails or is not accessible to your audience.

Bring versions of all handouts and scripts in large print (17 point or larger).

Large-print copies should be single-sided as they may be held close to the face for viewing.

Consider sharing your paper, script, or slides online. This can be in addition to providing printed drafts.


Speak at a reasonable pace. People read much faster than they typically talk, which is hard for everyone to follow. If present, the ASL interpreter or CART transcriptionist also needs to keep up. (CART is Communication Access Real- Time Transcription, which is live captioning for a computer or projected screen.) Before your talk begins, provide a script to the ASL interpreter or CART captioner with jargon you’ll use repeatedly (so they can create signs or short-cuts).

[NB for 2017 at Western: CART will be available for the keynote address]

Announce the accessibility practices you are using. Before you begin, note that scripts, large print, copies of the PowerPoint, etc., are available. Ask if you can be heard. Have someone distribute handouts rather than having people come forward.

Describe any images you display. This includes participants with low vision and makes your images more purposeful for everyone. Rich auditory descriptions are best prepared in advance, and avoid a bare description merely of what is in the photo – communicate meaning if that is clear and pertinent to those who can see the images. (Consider Georgina Kleege’s piece on visual description: https://www.kennedy-

Use captioned videos. Avoid forcing participants to choose between watching videos or interpreters. Recognize that YouTube automatic captioning is flawed. Resources on captioning YouTube videos is here:

Use the microphone. This helps all listeners and is often connected to a FM monitoring system for those with hearing impairments.

Re-voice questions. Re-voice (repeat) the questions so all can hear before answering them.


Avoid wearing scents.

As stated in the PhiloSOPHIA 2017 Guidelines, “Accessibility practices are ongoing and fluid in response to the particularity of a given community.”

Moderator Guidelines for Feminism, Philosophy, and Engaging the Public

Thanks for agreeing to serve as a moderator! CSWIP is committed to increasing accessibility, and moderators will facilitate panels and assist in making panels accessible to all attendees. Attendees may or may not be comfortable publicly stating their needs, so be prepared to have conversations ranging from public requests to subtle communications.

Please review the general Accessibility Guidelines, available at the registration desk. If you need help while serving in your moderator role at the conference, please contact Jane Dryden or have a student volunteer track her down. Her cell phone number will be made available during the conference.


  • Arrive early. Please be early to allow time to execute needed changes or
  • Check in with presenters: Ask presenters about any access needs, how 
they are comfortable being reminded of time, and their preferred names and
  • Collect materials to be shared with panel attendees. This includes 
handouts and website addresses.
  • Consider the room layout. Adjust for any obvious obstacles, such as chairs that might block wheelchair access. Note the locations of emergency exits so that you can share this with session attendees. 
  • Identify access as important and encourage access requests. Accessibility is an ongoing, collaborative effort, and explicit recognition of accessibility encourages conversation and feedback. Ask attendees about access needs (such as better positioning for an interpreter, changes in lighting, etc.).
  • Distribute panelists’ materials. Distribute handouts or designate an audience volunteer. Announce website addresses and write them on the white board, if available.
  • Make question cards available: A stack of index cards will be available in each room. Make these available for audience members to ask questions on, if they prefer. Alternate spoken and card questions during the Q&A.
  • Remind the audience of the Twitter hashtag for the conference (#cswip2017). This provides a connection for those who can’t attend CSWIP.
  • Identify emergency exits for session attendees. DURING THE PANEL AND Q&A Monitor the pace and audibility of talks: If a presenter is speaking quickly, ask them to slow down. Ensure that everyone speaks into the microphone. Remind presenters to re- voice (repeat) the questions after hearing them.
  • Keep presenters to their allocated time. This allows necessary breaks between panels.
  • Encourage one speaker at a time. It is easy for Q&A to become informal and chatty, but this can be challenging for those who communicate in non- traditional ways.
  • Ask for help. If access needs are being denied or violated, pause/stop the panel and/or immediately head to the registration desk for help.
  • AFTER THE PANEL: Provide feedback to Tracy Isaacs or Carolyn McLeod , or informally around the conference; they will forward it to the organizer of next year’s conference. It will be very useful for CSWIP to track any specific accessibility issues – positive or negative – that arise during the conference.

These guidelines have been adapted from the guidelines for philoSOPHIA 2016 and 2017.