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Updated March 2, 2020

Presentations for Accessibility

This document provides guidelines for speakers and presenters when creating presentations for an A11YChi meetup event. This is a living document; we will add to it as new items are discovered.

Table of Contents

  1. Overview
  2. Video: How to Deliver an Accessible and Inclusive Presentation
  3. Presenter Info
  4. Preparing Presentation Content
  5. Presenting the Presentation

1. Overview

There are several aspects to a presentation that can make them inaccessible to portions of the audience. What follows are observations and guidance to ensure that your presentation is as accessible and inclusive to as many participants as possible.

2. Video: How to Deliver an Accessible and Inclusive Presentation

In How to Deliver an Accessible and Inclusive Presentation (105 mins), digital inclusion and accessibility expert, A11YChi co-organizer, and speaker extraordinaire Fen Slattery will share their expertise for giving inclusive talks, which they’ve developed as a seasoned tech conference speaker.

Often, when we’re excited and knowledgable about a topic, our focus on communicating with our audience is missing. It’s so easy to make slides that aren’t readable, to structure our talks in confusing ways, or to use unintentionally harmful language. Just as easily, though, we can consider the needs and identities of our audience members, and avoid placing barriers in the way of learning and engagement.

View transcript of How to Deliver an Accessible and Inclusive Presentation

3. Presenter Info

  1. If you have not been asked yet, do you have a headshot and/or brief bio description (1-5 sentences) to share?
  2. Before the presentation, what is your preferred pronouns to be identified on social media and event announcements? For example, "[Jane Doe] is an engineer at [company]. Jane uses she/her pronouns and just recently published her new book!" If you do not want to share, it is totally okay.

4. Preparing Presentation Content

Foreground/Background Colors

Presentations with a light background (ex. white) and dark foreground (ex. text) can be difficult to view by members of your audience. The white background can create a glare that is actually painful for some individuals. It also can make viewing the presentation content difficult to view via the live stream.

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Suggested Guidance

We suggest using a dark background color (ex. black, grey, blue) to host your light (ex. white, light grey) foreground content. The dark color creates an improved negative space for the lighter content.

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Color Contrast

Just as WCAG 2.0 guides us on color contrast for the web, these guidelines should also be considered for your slides (aren't slides really just big web pages?).

WCAG 2.0 requires that the foreground and background colors have a 4.5:1 contrast ratio at Level AA and a 7:1 contrast ratio at Level AAA. You can use a contrast checker tool to determine what the ratio is between any foreground and background color.

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Presentations can suffer even more, unexpected contrast issues, as lighting is typically not controlled by the organizer.

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Suggested Guidance

Ensure contrast between foreground and background colors meet and, preferrably well exceed WCAG 2.0 standards for color contrast. This will help when the projection system, monitor, screen or wall where your slides are being displayed on is less than adequate in presenting your slides in the best possible manner.

Font Size

As most presentations are created using desktop or laptop monitors in relatively close proximity. When the same slide content is viewed in a larger room, likely from a distance, this text is likely to be too small to be easily read.

Suggested Guidance

Try to use a font size that can easily be viewed, without strain, from 100 feet or more. The minimum font size should be about 24 points (if using PowerPoint or Keynote) or 32 pixels (if using HTML/CSS). Headers and subheaders can be much larger, between 40-60 points (if using PowerPoint or Keynote) or 53-80 pixels (if using HTML/CSS).

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Font Weight

The weight, or thickness of a typeface can drastically alter the ability to view the text on a slide from a distance.

Suggested Guidance

When possible, consider using a medium to thick-weight typeface, which can be more easily see and read from a distance.

Amount of Content

Try to limit the amount of content on a single, particular slide. Slides with too much content will be difficult to read by the audience and difficult to cover by the presenter (as the presenter should read the content out loud for audience members with low to no vision). Addtionally, the more content you have on a slide, the smaller the text will likely need to be, creating the issues of font size discussed above.

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Suggested Guidance

There's no explicit guidance on a word or character limit that should be adhered to for a slide. The guidance provided is based on the need to read the content back to the audience; if it feels like too much text to read back, reduce the amount of content.

Content Positioning on Slide

Audience members, especially those from the middle-to-back of the room, struggle to read content on the lower portion of a slide. And, as different venues place the receiving screen at different heights, some audience members may only see the backs of the individuals in front of them.

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Additionally, the recording of the live stream places text captions in the lower third of the recording. If you have textual content in this area, the caption text will overlay the text on the slide.

Suggested Guidance

In general, you should attempt to only use the top two-thirds of real estate on any slide.

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Slide Effects

Slide effects may be exciting and engaging, and many audience members may find them interesting. However, some audience members can find them distracting, disturbing, and even some may become ill from them.

Suggested Guidance

Limit slide effects. Less is more. If you have an animation that's frivolous, not key to the content, consider removing it, or ensuring that it is a brief as possible.

5. Presenting the Presentation

You must be heard

It is very important that the presenter is heard clearly by all attendees. Environmental sounds, audience members talking amongst themselves can create audible contrast issues for those who are hard of hearing.

Suggested Guidance

Whenever possible, the presenter should use the venue-provided microphone to project their voice. Just before beginning the presentation, the presenter should perform a sound check with the attendees, to ensure the volume is neither too soft or loud.

Describing Visual Content

Each slide must be described audibly to the audience. Attendees with low to no-vision and individuals with cognitive impairments will have difficulty or even not be able to understand the slide content otherwise

Suggested Guidance

Ensure that all the textual content is communicated audibly to attendees. If there is non-textual content on the screen, it should be described to attendees.

Switch between screens

There may be a need to switch from the presentation slides to an application or web browser to illustrate a point or demonstrate something. Switching back and forth repeatedly and in a rapid manner can create cognitive overload for some attendees, and even make some ill.

Suggested Guidance

Keep switching between screens to a minimum. Think about what you are doing before simply switching back and forth.

Repeat audience questions

When audience members ask questions, either during the presentation, or during any question and answer session after the formal presentation, the audience member asking the question is typically not using a microphone and frequently cannot be heard or fully understood by all audience members. Additionally, the audience member cannot be heard by members on the live stream. Therefore, the captioner will not be able to provide captions for the question.

Suggested Guidance

The presenter should always repeat the question, whether the audience member is using a microphone or not. If there is an additional microphone available, it should be given to the attendee with a question to use.

A note for meetup organizers: Audience members should be asked to think about their questions and ask them in as a concise manner possible. At times, it may be difficult for the presenter to repeat or even answer the question if the audience member develops the question audibly, and in the moment.

Be aware of your time

We typically provide 60 minutes for a standard meetup presentation and 15 minutes for a lightning talk. This includes any audience question and answer section. When we run over time, we impact the venue partner, who typically needs to ensure all attendees have exited the venue by a certain time. Additionally, there is a fee for live captions. When the presenter runs over, additional fees are incurred by the caption sponsor, and at times, by the meetup organizer.

Suggested Guidance

Please practice your presentation in advance, not only for quality and fluidity, but to ensure the length of your presentation is within the communicated timeframe. For an hour presentation, work towards a 45 minute presentation, allowing 15 minutes for question and answers. Know in advance whether you can accept questions during the presentation, or whether taking questions may jepordize the presenter's ability to stay within time constrainst.


A guide to accessible presentations, for presenters, speakers.



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