Veronica With Four Eyes

Strategies for Hand Raising and Low Vision

When I was shadowing a classroom teacher in an elementary school, I noticed that I had trouble noticing when students were raising their hands, or figuring out which student was raising their hand. When I talked about this with one of my professors, they helped me come up with several strategies for hand raising and taking note of visual cues with low vision, which was really helpful for teaching in the classroom as well as for conferences and other events. Here are my favorite strategies for hand raising and calling on participants with low vision.

Numbered or colored push lights/tap lights

When I walk by students working on classwork, I can’t see what they are writing and may not notice if they are struggling to write something. One of the strategies my professor recommended was using push lights or tap lights that are numbered or that have colors on them. If a student had a problem, they could tap the light and I would notice the light and come over to where they were sitting, or they could tap the light in addition to raising their hand. These lights can be purchased at the dollar store and placed on top of desks- students can even add their own designs with permanent marker to the top of their lights.

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Submitting digital responses

When I present at conferences or events, I recommend that participants submit feedback or questions in a chat box or using a forms tool like Google Forms or Microsoft Forms. This way, I can enlarge the text more easily and keep track of questions that may need a more in-depth follow up response.

In another classroom, the teacher would use a digital response tool like Kahoot for students to submit responses or answer questions in class.

Holding up a colored piece of paper

Instead of using a hand signal, many of the event organizers I’ve worked with will hold up a colored piece of paper to indicate how much time is left in a presentation or to convey other information without text. Since I can’t read text from far away, it’s easier for me to use a color code like “hold up a green paper when there is ten minutes left” or “hold up a red paper when there is three minutes left.” I’ve also had organizers send emoji during online presentations.

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Drawing popsicle sticks

Instead of looking out into a sea of hands, I would draw popsicle sticks with student names on them when I was a student teacher in another classroom. In addition to having the students name written in large print, each popsicle stick also had a unique sticker for each student so that I could identify them more easily- for example, a student who really liked dinosaurs had a dinosaur sticker on their popsicle stick.

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Using a distance video magnifier to see the audience

When I was giving the keynote at a technology event, the organizer set up a distance video magnifier so I could see the audience and more easily spot people raising their hands or see who was in the audience. This was done by setting up a webcam in front of the podium and streaming the video to a computer or tablet- the video was not recorded, rather it was a live camera feed.

Appointing an assistant

Another strategy I’ve used for speaking events and student teaching, I appoint an assistant to help call on people who are raising their hands or identify who is talking. When I was in a mentorship program in high school and worked with students on school news, I would have students take turns serving as my assistant and let me know if someone had a question or needed help with something. At speaking events, I have had my brother serve as my assistant, or had another professor or staff member monitor participants for me.

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More strategies for hand raising and low vision

  • If I call on a student, I ask them to say their name or identify themselves before giving an answer, i.e “This is Jack, the answer is 42”
  • When I am doing a lecture in a college classroom, I will sometimes walk around the classroom to determine who is raising their hand, or have students submit a question through an online form/chat box
  • Another strategy I’ve seen that is similar to the popsicle sticks is using two decks of playing cards. Each student has their own card and the teacher shuffles them/draws a card at random to determine who will be called on. Learn more about accessible playing cards in Playing Cards and Low Vision
  • Another tool I’ve used is a random name/list generator, which chooses a student or name from a list at random. The Randomly app is great for this- Randomly (

Raise your hand if you have trouble seeing when others are raising their hands to speak, and learn about strategies for hand raising alternatives