Tips for How to Make a Graduation Ceremony Inclusive for a Person who is Blind or Visually Impaired

A cartoon photo of a person who is blind wearing a graduation cap and gown. The person is holding both arms above his head, in his left hand he is holding his diploma and in his right his white cane. The person is shaded in purple, standing in front of a light gray circular background.

I can’t express my excitement that I will be graduating from my Ph.D. program this year! As I am preparing for the graduation ceremony, I was thinking of some of the graduation and award ceremonies I have had in the past. In my experience, accessibility at these events was inconsistent. Therefore, I wanted to share with you some tips on how to make graduation ceremonies inclusive and accessible for people who are blind or visually impaired (BVI) because everyone wants these memorable moments to be perfect.  You can find the tips that I have prepared below:

  1. If a person who is BVI registers for the graduation ceremony, make sure that you follow up with the person and ask about any specific accommodations that they may need (e.g. large print or braille brochures and guiding assistants). 
  2. Share with the person who is BVI the organization plan for the graduation ceremony (e.g., the time for the walking ceremony, the place where the ceremony will be held, the activities, seating arrangements, and where photos will be taken after they exit the stage).
  3. Share with the person who is BVI what the graduation ceremony is going to look like based on their degree level. The graduation ceremonies for different degree types involve different rituals such as hooding for Ph.D. graduates. 
  4. If possible, let the person explore the place in advance so he/she can get oriented to the event space and feel comfortable. 
  5. The person who is BVI might need someone to guide them in the ceremony and on the stage, so make sure they have a chance to meet with the guiding assistant about the guiding preferences beforehand (e.g., if they want to be guided by arms or by voice). When the person who is BVI is being guided by an assistant, make sure that the person is facing the crowd, not the assistant. It is important to discuss this before the event. 
  6. If the graduate is supposed to face or look toward specific people, inform them before the ceremony so they know how to position themself on the stage. 
  7. Inform professors and faculty sitting on the stage that there is a person who is BVI participating in the ceremony today so they know how to assist the person if needed. 
  8. On the stage, it is hard to hear others, so it will be beneficial if you discuss a way of how to communicate with a person who is BVI that they are about to receive their graduation diploma and should raise their hand to take the diploma. This is crucial as it is the most important moment for a person who is graduating. Make sure you know how to handle this situation and so you do not hand the diploma to their assistant or person who is walking with them. 
  9. Alert the graduation photographers that there is a person who is BVI graduating so they know how to communicate with and help the person who is BVI look at the camera to capture good photos of them. 

I hope these tips are useful and congratulations to all people who are graduating this year, 2022! Please share below any tips you may have regarding graduation ceremonies for persons who are blind or visually impaired. 

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