Tips for Enhancing SciComm Inclusiveness

The author's accessibility considerations were accommodated by being able to work remotely (telecommunting) on her dissertation.

The author’s accessibility considerations were accommodated by being able to work remotely on her dissertation.

Guest post by Elita Baldridge

Part of being an effective science communicator is making certain that all of your audience is able to interact with your message.  

Taking into consideration conditions or disabilities that your audience or a fellow presenter might have helps to extend your reach while facilitating inclusion of those with chronic illness/disability.

As an ecologist with a chronic illness, I’m personally and professionally interested in making ecology more inclusive. Science communication is one way for a chronically ill ecologist to remain active in the scientific community.

Making science communication more accessible is important not only to encourage participation from chronically ill/disabled scientists, but also to reach out to chronically ill/disabled members of the general public.

With that in mind, here are a few tips to make science communication more accessible:

If giving a talk at a physical location, ask about accessibility accommodations. Is the location mobility accessible? Are there plans for hearing or visual impairment?  If not, can these things be improved, either for this event, or later events? Include accessibility information in the event announcement.

If doing a blog post, ask if the website is optimized for accessibility. If not, can this be improved? Some things to think about include colorblindness compatibility, compatibility with readers for the blind, and descriptions of photographs and figures. See the Web Accessibility Initiative for more information.

With a talk, there are a few more accessibility concerns than with a blog post. People may not be able to attend in person, due to chronic illness/disability, work, or childcare/caregiving concerns. Streaming a talk and recording the live stream for later provides a way to reach more people. If streaming a talk, consider closed captioning and post the closed captioned version. Also, consider providing handouts in advance of the talk. This helps people who process information differently to be able to interface with the content.

None of these suggestions takes that much time, but greatly improves accessibility. For an example of how one presentation can address many of these considerations see my PhD defense advertisement and supplemental information available online.

Improving accessibility is a process, and the important thing is to continually try to improve. Making the effort to apply one or two of these suggestions will improve accessibility. Not only are efforts to improve accessibility is greatly appreciated, but prioritizing accessibility normalizes inclusiveness.

Indeed, I am trying to start a new ESA section – Inclusive Ecology – to achieve that goal. Click here for more information and to sign the section petition.

About the author: 

Elita Baldrige has a PhD in Ecology from Utah State University. She is currently an independent researcher working on computational ecology and disability advocacy.  Connect with her via Twitter: @elitabaldridge.

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This article is the second in the SciComm Section’s 2015 series on science communication in ecology. Click here to view the full series, or click here to check out our 2014 series!