W3CWeb Accessibility initiative

WAI: Strategies, guidelines, resources to make the Web accessible to people with disabilities

How to Make Presentations Accessible to All
[Draft updated $Date: 2010/05/13 15:37:41 $]

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Do you remember a time when people around you broke out in laughter, but you didn't hear the joke?
Be careful not to leave out information for some people in your audience. For example, if you say "you can read it on the slide", you are probably excluding people who cannot see the slide.

This page helps you make your presentations, talks, meetings, and training accessible to all of your potential audience, including people with disabilities and others. Inclusive presentations have many benefits.


[An alternative version of this section is open for review.]

Basically, be aware that some of your audience might not be able to see well or at all, hear well or at all, move well or at all, and might not be able to process some types of information easily or at all.

They might use assistive technologies or adaptive strategies. For example, people who are hard of hearing might use assistive listening devices (ALDs), hearing loops, or induction loops that amplify sound from the presenter's microphone. For people who are deaf, there might be a sign language interpreter or CART (Computer Aided Real–Time Captioning or Communication Access Realtime Translation), which is when someone types what is being said so that people can read the text output. (Additional benefits of CART are mentioned below.)


Ask if participants have accessibility requirements.
For example, include a question on registration forms for conferences, send an email to internal training participants, etc. Invite participants to include specific requests, for example, seating small discussion groups in a circle so you can see each other is useful for people who are hard of hearing.
Ensure the facility and area is accessible.
For example, ensure the building entrance, meeting room, break rooms, etc. are accessible by wheelchair; ensure adequate sound system, including working ALD/hearing loop with sufficient batteries as needed. When feasible, allow participants to check out the room in advance to suggest optimum positioning of the speaker, screen, seating, etc. (There are checklists online to help ensure a facility is accessible.)
Arrange for a microphone.
Often a wireless lavaliere microphone is best so that the presenter can move around. Ensure connection to the ALD/hearing loop system.
Arrange for good visibility of the speaker and interpreters.
Have good lighting on your face and upper body. Avoid distracting backgrounds, such as bright sunlight or flashing light.
Work with CART writer and interpreters.
Give them material in advance and be available to answer any questions.
Arrange for good Internet connection when needed.
Sometimes you might use the Internet for providing alternative formats of materials during the presentation; for example, allowing screen reader users to follow along an online version of your displayed material. For remote CART, you will need connection that is reliable and has sufficient bandwidth for transferring audio.
Consider activities.
Remember accessibility issues with any participant activities (responding to questions, arranging sticky notes, small group projects, etc.).
Provide material ahead of time -
- and make it accessible. (More about accessible material below.)

Preparing slides and projected material

Make text and important visuals big enough -
- to be read, even from the back of the room. This includes graphics on slides, videos, and non-electronic material.
Use an easy-to-read font face.
Avoid fancy fonts that are difficult to read. Simple fonts with consistent thickness are often easier to read from a distance (as opposed to fonts where parts of the letters are thin, like Times New Roman).
Use sufficient color contrast.
Color contrast guidelines and evaluation tools for web pages might be helpful to determine sufficient contrast (although the medium is different because those guidelines are specifically for web pages).
Use appropriate background and text colors.
Some suggest when presenting in a light room to display dark text on a light background; and when presenting in a darkened room to display light text on a dark background, and ensure that the weight of text is sufficient (for example, bold).
Caption audio, or otherwise make it available.
Ideally, any audio you use is also available in text, for example, videos are captioned. However, if CART is provided for your presentation, that can provide text of the audio.
Use multiple communication modes.
Some people will learn better verbally, others with pictures and diagrams, and others with text.

Providing accessible material

Offer slides, handouts, and other material in accessible formats.
Electronic formats such as HTML (that is, web page format) and RTF are often the most flexible to meet different people's needs. Ensure your materials are accessible, for example, provide alternative text for images. HTML material should meet WCAG 2.0, at least Level AA. (Some other resources are listed under For More Information below.)
Participants might need material in alternative formats such as large print or braille; however, if they get the material in advance electronically, they might not need it in print at all.

During the Presentation

Speak clearly -
- and not too fast.
Be visible -
- and in good light so participants can see your face when you talk, which helps some people hear and understand better. Especially when you don't have a microphone, be careful not to face turn away from the audience to read the projected material.
Use a microphone.
Even in a small room, some people might need the audio electronically, including people using ALDs/hearing induction loops and remote CART writers.
Repeat audience comments into microphone.
Make sure everything goes through the microphone. For example, if the audience doesn't have a microphone, repeat their questions and comments into your microphone (saying that you are repeating the audience person, so it's clear that it's not your words).
Cover all displayed text.
Say all of the information that is on each slide. (This does not mean that you have to read the slide exactly as it is, just that you cover the visual information in what you say.)
Describe pertinent parts of graphics, videos, and other visuals.
Describe them to the extent useful for understanding the presentation. (You usually do not need to describe decorative images.)
Describe other visual information.
For example, if you ask question of audience, summarize the response, such as, Speaker: "How many people make their websites fully accessible? Please raise your hand... About half raised their hand."

Providing recording afterwards

Make media fully accessible.
For example, provide alternative text for images in presentation material, provide captions and/or transcripts as appropriate for audio, provide visual description of videos as needed. Guidelines for media on the web is available in WCAG; it includes specific guidance such as providing an alternative for audio-only content (like podcasts).

Known and Unknown Audiences

In some cases you might know the accessibility needs of participants ahead of time, for example, an internal training. Even then, something could change, for example, someone could develop accessibility needs before the training, or a new participant could join the training at the last minute.

Some times you won't know whether your participants have disabilities, for example, presentation at a large conference where they didn't ask registrants.

In any case, it's best to make your presentations fully accessible so you are prepared for any situation.

Additional Benefits

Presentations that are accessible to people with disabilities have additional benefits. For example:

For additional benefits of making online material accessible, see Developing a Web Accessibility Business Case for Your Organization.

For More Information

An example of presentation material provided in both presentation format and web format (HTML and CSS) is linked from the top of the page after "The Benefits of WCAG 2 presentation is available in 2 formats:".

This page addresses in-person sessions; there are additional considerations for online, remote, and virtual sessions.

Details on how to make material that you give to participants accessible is beyond the scope of this document. There are many resources online that provide details, such as:

Information on web accessibility:

Status: This document is a complete draft published for public review.
Please send comments to wai-eo-editors@w3.org (a publicly archived list) by 28 April 2010.