This page includes guidance for live (synchronous) sessions, both remote and in person, and how to make these as accessible as possible for all.
Online sessions and events
The following guidance is for live online sessions and is focused on UCL's supported platforms which are Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Blackboard Collaborate.
Before the session or event
If you don't already know the needs of your participants, find out if they have any special requirements in advance of the session. Any student with a Summary of Reasonable Adjustments (SORA) should have support in place or you will have been told what additional measures are needed.
Managing the session or event
- Manage speakers and make the rules clear about who can speak and when, how to ask questions, how to request permission to speak etc.
- If possible, have an assistant to oversee the chat and manage parallel conversations.
- Don't put pressure on participants to show themselves on camera as not everyone is comfortable doing so.
- Blur your background to minimise distraction.
- If you are using Teams or Zoom, which allow multiple video feeds to be shown at once, it may be preferable to only have the video of the current presenter on to minimise distraction.
- Look at your camera to create ‘eye contact’ with your students and provide a more personal connection.
- Speak clearly and ask the group to confirm your audio is working well.
- Give your participants time to open or take in what you have shared.
- Embrace the pause. Take a moment after the end of your comments and allow for students to engage before continuing.
There are a number of steps you can take, and advice you can provide to attendees, to improve their experience of viewing shared content. More details can be found in our Guidance for Accessible Screen Sharing During Online Presentations and Meetings (Word document)
Use of captions
Captions are particularly helfpul for participants with a hearing impairment or D/deaf participants but also help those who don't have English as a first language and are generally of benefit to all.
Zoom and Microsoft Teams meetings offer automatic live captioning. In Teams, this needs to be turned on by and for individual participants, so advise participants of this at the start of the session. In Zoom it is controlled by the host or co-host but individual participants can choose to show or hide them once they are activated. It is good practice to enable closed captions and show participants how to hide them if necessary.
Blackboard Collaborate only supports the use of live closed captioning in which a (human) captioner types the captions in real time during the session. This type of captioning will usually incur a cost.
Participants who require captioning may wish to use an app on their smartphone or tablet to provide speech to text functionality. Below are some suggested apps that can be used:
Otter.ai helps you capture, find and share important information from meetings, lecturers, interviews, everyday conversation and generate text with audio on to your phone or web browser. Users can search, play, edit and share conversations via this app.
Web Captioner is a speech to text transcription appears in seconds on your phone or web browser and its free.
Dictation.io is a free website that allows speech to text without downloading or installing it. All you need is the internet connection to use it and Google servers in real time.
- Choosing the right platform for live teaching provides a useful overview of the options available.
- AbilityNet has published guidance on How to host an accessible online meeting.
- UCL's Office of the President and Provost (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) have produced accessible remote meeting guidelines with a focus on neurodivergent participants.
- Visit UCL's Blackboard Collaborate Resource Centre for full details of its functionality.
- The Blackboard Collaborate Accessibility pages have details of the live captioning feature.
- Zoom have put together a factsheet of Tips and Tricks for teachers educating on Zoom.
- Zoom offers guidance on Accessibility features in Zoom including keyboard shortcuts and screen reader support.
- Full details on closed captioning and live transcription in Zoom.
- The UCL Digital Accessibility Hub has created a guide on Making zoom meetings accessible.
- Microsoft offers guidance on Using closed captions in a Teams meeting.
In person sessions and events
Lecture theatres, classrooms etc.
Use a microphone
If the room has a microphone, use it! Microphones are provided to ensure that everyone can hear what is being said clearly. Not everyone will be comfortable to admit that they cannot hear the speaker clearly or ask for speakers to wear the microphone.
There are a range of microphones available in teaching spaces. If microphones are stored in a docking station, please return them to the docking station after use, this will ensure that they stay charged and available for other users.
If you are asked a question from the audience, repeat the question. This is important if the lecture is being recorded as it will ensure that both the question and the answer are clear on the recording. Also, it provides other members of the audience with an opportunity to hear the question clearly.
Say what you are doing/writing/drawing
If you are making use of a visualiser or adding additional annotations to presented materials, talk through what you are doing. This is important if the lecture is being recorded as it will provide additional information for those who may have a visual impairment.
- Allow students to work with a partner or in small groups.
- Consider using plastic instead of glass.
- Allow extra time of setup and taking down of the experiment equipment.
- Address safety procedures for students with mobility and sensory disabilities in advance.
- Provide written instructions, whether this is displayed on a board or on a handout. This helps students who have hearing impairments to better understand what is expected of them, and it also helps all students stay on task
- Describe what is being done during the experiment. This not only helps visually impaired students, but will also help all students better understand what is happening.
Other physical environments
Guidance on how to make field trips and personal tutoring more accessible is available in the Moodle course Accessible Teaching Practices: Providing Access to All using Universal Design for Learning (UDL).
The University of Edinburgh have produced some good practical guidance for creating accessible lectures/tutorials. In addition, there are also key guidelines to making face to face sessions accessible.
In 2017 UCL Education Committee approved policy that lecture materials be made available to students 48 hours in advance. Guidance has been produced on how to make materials available in advance.
For content specific guidance on how to create accessible materials please refer to relevant sections of this site.