The truth is, we don’t always know who is going to be in the room as a learner – and we certainly don’t know what challenges they may have learning in this typical format. As the educator, it is up to each of us to not only present the best content possible, but to do so in a manner that will account for the varied learning needs of our audience. It is up to each of us to be more inclusive speakers.
One way to be more inclusive is to use a microphone whenever possible. We may perceive that it is a small room, not a great deal of attendees or that we have a naturally booming voice. We may even ask if someone in back can hear us if we don’t use a microphone. Here is the thing: If someone does have a disability where they can’t hear well, they may not want to publicly raise their hand. If there is a microphone available, it is not a blow to a speaker’s ego to use it; instead it allows everyone to hear a speaker better, accounting for all learners’ abilities to hear well. Jessie B. Ramey gives some good tips in her article in The Chronicle of Higher Education:
- If a microphone is available, use it. Make it a personal habit, and make sure your guest speakers are using it, too. Bonus points: As an ally to those with disabilities, you can model inclusion by explaining to your audiences why you are using the microphone, and why they should, too.
- If you are running an event or organizing a conference, be sure there is amplification in the space you are using, or arrange to have it brought in. Build this technology into your budget.
- If you have a Q&A with an audience, pass a microphone around for listeners to ask questions. In a large room, passing around a mic might require a lot of patience. You can let people know why this is so important. If there is no way to amplify audience questions, make sure the moderator with a mic repeats the question clearly. If you are moderating a panel, be sure all the panelists are speaking into their microphones.
- Learn to use a microphone correctly. For most mics, you must hold them very near your mouth. If it’s on a stand, make sure you keep your mouth very close (usually one to two inches away) and don’t wander away or turn your head from side to side. With hand-held microphones, be aware that it’s easy to forget and let your arm drop. With clip-on lapel mics, make sure they are secured high enough on your clothing, away from clacking jewelry, and facing your mouth.
- When you show a film, be sure to turn on the subtitles if they are available. Make this standard practice, not just when you know a person with hearing loss is in the room.
If you have questions about inclusion, please email Gayle Coon.