Accessibility at 4S

The Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) supports a transnational, engaged community of scholars working in the interdisciplinary field of Science and Technology Studies. Ensuring the accessibility of our community is part and parcel of this work. 4S understands accessibility broadly, including accommodations, not only for individuals with different capacities for vision, hearing, mobility, and sustained interaction, but also those coming from historically marginalized groups.

To support expansive accessibility at 4S events, the 2019 annual conference committee developed the guidelines below.1  All conference participants and particularly those chairing sessions should read carefully.  During the conference and afterwards, there will be an email address and phone number where a 4S ombuds person can be reached to report accessibility problems.

It should be noted that disabilities such as hearing and visual impairments can be difficult to notice. It is thus best practice to prepare presentations and related conference activities with the assumption that some participants will have disabilities. Preparing for the conference in this way will benefit all participants. Similar guidelines have been adopted by other organizations as standard policy. We have been particularly inspired by the Society for Medical Anthropology’s guidelines.2

Guidelines for Participation in 4S Events

In order to make presentations more accessible to all attendees, 4S suggests the following:

General Considerations

  • Panel chairs should actively moderate their sessions, striving to ensure that all panelists have allocated time and the discussion welcomes diverse and respectful participation.
  • Panel organizers or panel chairs reading introductions should check in with co-panelists in advance about pronunciation of names, pronouns, and access needs.
  • Minimize perfume and even lightly perfumed personal hygiene products. Opt for scent-free products when possible.
  • Allow dry-cleaned clothing to air out before wearing.
  • Refrain from eating high-allergen snacks (e.g. peanuts or snacks with peanuts) in closed and public spaces.

Paper Presentations

  • Bring multiple hard copies of your paper and/or presentation, even in draft form, for audience members who prefer to follow a text.
  • Have some copies be access copies printed in large font (size 17 font or greater).
  • Consider putting your paper and/or presentation on a website, which people can access from their devices and choose their own text size. If you include images in this online format, include written captions and/or describe the images in the “alt text” field of the images’ metadata.
  • When speaking, position yourself so that participants can read your lips—try to avoid speaking while facing away from the audience, or while looking down at papers or screens.
  • Identify yourself clearly at the beginning of your talk, and identify yourself before asking a question in Q&A sessions.
  • Use a microphone if available, and speak clearly at a pace slightly slower than normal conversation.
  • Repeat all questions and comments from the audience into the microphone.
  • If leading learning activities or using non-traditional modes of presentation, make sure to plan for the inclusion of all participants, regardless of physical abilities.

Use of Visual Materials

  • Describe all slides and visual materials. Do not assume that your audience can see any of the images. Identify rows and columns in tables and describe where figures are located within a table.
  • Use a high contrast PowerPoint slides with large (17 size font or higher), sans-serif font (such as Arial or Calibri).
  • Limit the volume of text on each slide (however, see above on hard copies of your presentation so that material not on the slides is available in text format).
  • If distributing handouts, allow the audience time to look at the material before discussing them.
  • If showing a video during your presentation, plan on captioning or subtitling the video and/or having transcripts available.

Space Considerations

  • There is space for two wheelchairs in each meeting room. Please keep this area and the aisles clear for persons who may be using wheelchairs, canes, crutches, or motorized vehicles. Space should also be left around doors and aisles to allow access.
  • People who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing and who use sign language interpreters or read lips need to sit where they can see both the speaker and the interpreter. The interpreter may stand close to the speaker or within a direct line of sight to allow the audience to view both the speaker and the interpreter. Speakers should be aware of the location of interpreters and attempt to keep this line of vision clear. Two seats at the front of the room should be reserved for people who read lips.

Resources for Participation

Maternal Care Room

  • A designated maternal care room will be available for use by all registered attendees who are nursing mothers.

Gender Neutral Restrooms

  • There will be designated gender neutral bathrooms available at the conference venue.
  • Attendees should use the bathroom that accords with their gender identity.

Accessible Guest Rooms

  • All attendees are responsible for their own guest room accommodations. The conference hotel has accessible guest rooms available. Please indicate your request when making a reservation.

Additional Resources

Handicapped Access in New Orleans:

Parking in New Orleans:

Accessibility at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel:

Louisiana Law on Service Animals:


  1. These guidelines borrow from best practices on accessibility identified by  the American Sociological Association, Modern Language Association, National Women’s Studies Association, and The Society for Medical Anthropology.  
  2. See, for example,