Accessibility Issues in Presentations

Presentation displayed on a laptopCreating presentations with accessibility in mind helps a variety of learners. Students with visual disabilities may need to use a screen reading device, which needs to have ADA friendly documents to ensure the device can read the content to the student. Other elements, such as headings, font size, and color, can have an effect on all viewers.

Many tools, like Microsoft PowerPoint and Google Sheets, have built-in features that help with creating accessible and easily viewable presentations. 

Titles & headers

Presentations should always begin with an initial title slide, and each slide should have a unique header/slide title. These titles and headers use document heading styles, which help breakdown important parts of a presentation. This generally helps everyone as they are then able to know what the content is on each slide.

Slide headers should always be unique. This uniqueness helps individuals know that they are moving along the course of a presentation rather than possibly reviewing the same content over and over. If multiple slides are on a particular topic, it is good practice to simply append a number to the end of the slide header.

Any pre-made slide elements, such as a subtitle on a title slide, should be deleted if unused.

Font size

When presenting, always consider the screen size in your presentation room, as well as the room size itself. A small font size in a large room would be unreadable by many within the room, causing eye strain or total disinterest. In typical presentation style, do not use a font size below 18 point in a presentation or it may become unreadable by most of the room. Typically use a font size of 22 point or larger, but 18 may be possible in smaller rooms or on larger screens.

Slide layout

When creating a presentation, make use of the pre-made slide layouts available in the program. This helps to ensure that each slide is set up in a readable fashion for all individuals, especially those using screen reading or narration technologies.

Reading order

As elements are added or modified on a slide, the reading order of the slide may be disrupted. This typically occurs if an item is added then moved, or if content is added in a non-linear fashion. This causes reading issues for any screen reader or narration tool, as the slide would then be read in an unorganized fashion. Most programs offer tools to help review and adjust reading order.

Images and charts

Images and charts in any presentation must be sufficiently sized and captioned. Additionally, any image or chart needs a descriptive alternative tag (alt tag) to describe the image to an individual who may be using a screen reader or narration. The tag should not be the name of the image file or chart itself as it is not sufficiently descriptive.

Charts, in particular, should have readable text following the same guidelines for font size. Any overwhelming chart would be unreadable by most of an audience. Overwhelming charts are best viewed in a personal fashion as individuals can then zoom in on their content. 

Images in a presentation can occasionally cause a presentation file to become exceptionally large. Most programs for presentations offer a method of compressing images to ensure smaller file sizes.

Lists

Lists in any presentation should be ordered (ex: 1, 2, 3, or A, B, C) or unordered (bullet points). This allows for easy formatting, while similarly aiding an individual using a screen reader or narration.

Links

Links to any external web site should be descriptive for a presentation read on a computer of mobile device. This allows an individual to know the purpose of the link before actually accessing it. A fully visible link is needed for a printed presentation, preferably with context of its purpose.

Tables

Tables are best used for data purposes rather than document layout. Tables need to have definitions of heading cells, as well as a reading order – particularly down a column, or across a row. Data tables typically will include headings and reading order, while layout tables need definition. Additionally, tables also need descriptive alt tags. All of these elements allow an individual to have knowledge of the table’s purpose, while also aiding an individual who may use a screen reader or narration.

Color contrast

Color selection should be considered when creating a presentation. A high level of contrast between text color and slide background is helpful for everyone. This similarly can effect charts, as chart elements may not have high level of contrast. The general rule of thumb: If it’s hard to read for the person writing it, then it’s hard to read for the person reading it.

 

Additional resources

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