General Guidelines for using Audio-Visual Aids


General Information

Audio-visual aids are widely used by university professors. When using such aids, professors may need to adjust their presentation style if students with disabilities are in their class. People with disabilities, even the same disability, do not necessarily have the same needs (e.g., one student may request a copy of an overhead transparency in large print, while another may request it on disk). Professors should therefore speak privately with the student before any modifications are made to their presentation style. Students and professors can contact the Blundon Centre for advice on how to implement any of the following recommendations.


  • Students should meet with their professors to discuss any modifications they require when audio-visual aids are used. Inform your professors how they can help (e.g. "Using an overhead projector rather than the chalkboard will help me speech read, because I will be able to see your face").
  • If you know solutions to problems that have been effective for you in the past, tell your professors (e.g., "Last semester my professors provided me with a large print copy of the information presented on the overhead projector").


Students With Visual Impairments & Students With Learning Disabilities

  • When writing on the chalkboard or a transparency, try to speak as you write. Indicating the spelling of specialized words or new terminology is also a good idea.
  • Describe drawings, formulas, charts, graphs, and diagrams on the chalkboard or overhead projector. For some students, an overhead transparency is more visible than the chalkboard. As well, it might be helpful if you meet with the student to redraw the item on a piece of paper (noting its important features), or provide a handout of the drawing.
  • Students may have difficulty seeing pictures and slides, or may miss important portions of films and videotapes. Provide a commentary on slides, introduce visual materials by providing a synopsis in advance, and fill in the gaps of visual information on films or videotapes.
  • Diagrams, charts, pictures, etc., can be produced in tactile (raised) format at the Micro Computer/Workstation Resource Centre in the Henrietta Harvey Building, Room 2015, phone: (709) 737-2356. The copies are made with a stereocopier. Duxbury braille labelling software is also available at this location.
  • Give the student a copy of the overhead transparency (or information displayed on a computer screen) in an accessible format (e.g., large print, braille, darkened contrast, double spacing, cassette, or disk). Most computers have features which can easily accommodate these formats (e.g., increasing the size of the font, bolding text, double spacing, etc.). Ask the student which format he/she requires. Feel free to contact the Blundon Centre for advice on how to prepare alternative formats.
  • Consider giving the student typed or printed notes. Another option is to assist the student to locate a volunteer note taker in the class. Discuss with the student how to best handle this matter. Notepaper is available at the Blundon Centre. Another option might be for professors to post class notes on an Internet discussion group for the class.
  • Speak slowly and clearly during the lecture. Avoid using terms such as "this" and "that" or "here" and "there" when referring to written information, as they may be meaningless to someone with a visual impairment. Keep in mind that nods, gestures, and other non-verbal behaviors may not be seen.
  • Lend films and videotapes to the student to review at a later time. Professors may wish to place videos on reserve at the library (e.g., the Media and Data Centre, Room 1005, Queen Elizabeth II Library, phone: (709) 737-7472). Some students, for example, may need to view a film with an assistant, while others may view it with adaptive technology.
  • Allow preferential seating, if requested. Some students, for instance, may require the first seat, closest to the front.
  • Use everyday words such as "see." Deliberately avoiding such words can make communication ineffective and, if noticed, it may make the student uncomfortable.
  • Let the student know you are available to discuss course issues and keep in contact with him/her during the semester.

Students With a Hearing Loss

  • Some students who are hard of hearing may have difficulty understanding your commentary on slides, films, and videotapes if the room is darkened. If possible, keep the lights on or shine a spotlight on your face. It is beneficial to give a brief synopsis before the presentation and review key concepts afterwards. It may also be helpful to lend audio-visual materials to the student so they may use their own closed captioning decoders (assuming the film was prepared with closed captioning) or obtain explanations from their assistant at a later time. Such videos can be placed on reserve at the library (e.g., the Media and Data Centre, Room 1005, Queen Elizabeth II Library, phone: (709) 737-7472). Sign language and oral interpreters may also need to preview uncaptioned films and videotapes before interpreting the voice track to the student.
  • Students may miss audible information on films and videotapes if they cannot read the speaker's lips and see facial expressions. Allow preferential seating if requested, as the student may find it beneficial to sit closer to the screen.
  • Many television shows and videotapes are captioned films for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. The captioning automatically goes onto the videotape when a program is recorded. When an appropriate decoder is used (i.e., a device similar to an external television converter), the dialogue appears at the bottom of the screen, as on a subtitled film. Captioned tapes will not interfere with other students' viewing and will allow a student with a hearing loss to follow the program. A Telecaption 4000 closed captioning decoder is available on the main campus (St. John's) at the Centre for Audio-Visual Education (CAVE) in E-1034, phone: (709) 737-7552.
  • When possible, provide an advance copy of the information to be covered and a list of highly technical or unfamiliar words.
  • Consider using an overhead projector rather than a chalkboard during lectures. You will be able to face the student, thus enhancing communication. Turn off the overhead projector (or other equipment) when not in use. The sound and vibration from such machines can be disturbing for some students who wear hearing aids.
  • If you are asked, please wear the microphone and transmitter for an FM amplification system (i.e., a non-recording assistive listening device).
  • Let the student know you are available to discuss course issues and keep in touch with him/her during the semester.

Other Disabilities

Many of the recommendations noted in this section can be equally effective for students with other disabilities. It is important to remember that accommodations should be made on an individual basis between the student and the professor.?


Glenn Roy Blundon Centre for Students With Disabilities

230 Elizabeth Ave

St. John's, NL A1B 3X9 CANADA

Tel: (709) 864-2530

Fax: (709) 864-2552