Hosting a panel presentation featuring computing students with disabilities is a great way to help students, faculty, staff, and other stakeholders learn about the challenges that students with disabilities face in education and employment, including their use of information technology. Student panel presentations can be part of a larger workshop on disability and inclusion, featured during diversity celebrations, hosted as a standalone meeting, or facilitated during a regularly held department meeting, seminar, or class.

Goals and Learning Outcomes

Examples of goals and learning outcomes for a student panel can include:

  • Preparing faculty, staff, and teaching assistants to support students with disabilities in their courses.
  • Determining ways that a department or institution can become more welcoming and accessible to people with disabilities.
  • Learning about the experiences of people with disabilities when using information technology.


Organizers are encouraged to recruit student panelists with a variety of disabilities, including students with both apparent and non-apparent disabilities. Try to recruit panelists with diverse characteristics related to gender, race, and other attributes. Recruiting three to five participants can provide diversity among panelists while allowing time for each panelist to speak.

On a postsecondary campus, locate panelists by working with the disability services office or other disability-related groups. Depending on your goals, you may also consider recruiting recent graduates to serve as panelists. When recruiting for online panel discussions, consider reaching out to the AccessComputing project at the University of Washington.


Early in the planning, ask panelists what accommodations they may need to participate; for example, they may request an accessible meeting space or accessible videoconferencing software. They might request a specific accommodation such as a sign language interpreter. Many students will not need accommodations. Contact your disability services office if you have questions about how to provide or arrange accommodations. Plan ahead, as some offices require two weeks or more to arrange certain types of accommodations.

Before the event, prepare a list of questions. Share the questions and information about the audience with your panelists so they can prepare ahead of time. This will empower panelists to develop more thoughtful answers, reduce anxiety, and build confidence. Let panelists know ahead of time that they don’t need to answer every question. Remember that panelists may not want to share certain information.

Questions you might ask panelists to address at a postsecondary institution include the following:

  • What challenges have you faced as a student with a disability in postsecondary education?
  • How can faculty support students with disabilities?
  • What types of accommodations do you receive? Which of these have you found most helpful? Are your accommodations different in an online setting than in person? Are your accommodations different in a work setting than in school?
  • How do you communicate with faculty about your needs? How would you like faculty members to communicate with you about your accommodations?
  • What are your experiences regarding teamwork in your classes?
  • Do you disclose your disability in employment settings? If so, how?
  • Do you use any assistive technology or other technology to help with your access?
  • What do you think computing professionals should know about people with disabilities when developing future technologies?
  • Have you encountered accessibility barriers with technology that your institution uses (e.g. course management systems, online meeting software, websites)?


Be sure that the moderator and panel members use a microphone. For a panel conducted remotely, ask participants to use a headset or external microphone. Have panelists introduce themselves with relevant information, such as their major, career goals, and access technology they appreciate. Encourage the audience to think of questions they would like to ask.

Ask some of the prepared questions, and then invite questions from the audience. Arrange for members of the audience to have access to a microphone or have facilitators repeat questions into the microphone before panelists answer them.

Manage the conversation to ensure that each panelist is allowed adequate time to speak. A facilitator may choose to direct questions to specific panelists or to redirect the conversation as needed. Consider tying together themes that emerge during the discussion, especially those related to

  • assistive technology and accessible information technology,
  • helpful communities and stakeholders,
  • resources related to equitable access of computing, and
  • tips for faculty and staff who wish to provide welcoming and accessible postsecondary experiences.

 At the end of the event, thank panelists for sharing their experiences and perspectives.

Lessons Learned 

For individuals who wish to conduct a panel at their institution or event, past panel organizers suggest the following:

  • Pay panelists an honorarium to recognize their expertise and time.
  • Schedule a panel discussion for 45-60 minutes. Be aware that the more panelists you have, the more time you will need.
  • Ensure the discussion contains a lot of information about solutions and successful practices, which is more helpful as compared to focusing on barriers alone.