W3CWeb Accessibility initiative

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

Editor's Draft: $Date: 2010/03/31 16:41:37 $ [changelog]
Status: This document is an early rough draft. Please send comments to wai-eo-editors@w3.org (a publicly archived list).

[Draft] How to Make Presentations Accessible to All

Page Contents

[@@catchy intro?] 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 said "you can read it on the slide", you may be 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, older users with age-related impairments, and others. [@@ another wording option: The information on this page can help you make your presentations accessible to audiences that may include people with disabilities and older users with age-related impairments.]


Generally, be aware that some of your audience may not be able to see well or at all, hear well or at all, move well or at all, and may not be able to process some types of information easily or at all. They may use assistive technologies or adaptive strategies.

For example, people who are hard of hearing might use assistive listening devices (ALDs) or hearing loops that amplify sound, usually from the presenters microphone into a headset the user wears. For people who are deaf, there may 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.


Ask if participants have accessibility requirements.
For example, include a question on registration forms for conferences, send an email to internal training participants, etc.
Ensure the facility 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. (There are checklists online to help ensure a facility is accessible.)
Provide material ahead of time
and make it accessible. (More on material below.)
Use multiple communication modes.
Some people will learn better verbally, others with pictures and diagrams, and others with text.
Consider activities.
Remember accessibility issues with any participant activities (arranging sticky notes, small group projects, etc.).
Work with sign language interpreter or CART writer.
Give them material in advance and be available to answer any questions.
Arrange for good Internet connection when needed.
For remote CART, you will need connection that is reliable and has sufficient bandwidth for transferring audio. 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.
Arrange for a microphone.
Often a wireless lavaliere microphone is best so that the presenter can move around.
Arrange for good lighting on the speaker's face
so that people can see your mouth, which helps some people hear and understand better.

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.
Use sufficient color contrast.
Color contrast guidelines and evaluation tools for web page may be helpful to determine sufficient contrast (although the medium is different that those guidelines are specifically for websites).
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. [this needs editing]
Offer "slides", handouts, and other material in alternative formats
such as electronic, large print, and/or braille; and make it accessible, for example, provide alternative text for images. It is often best to provide material in HTML (web code) format and ensure that it meets WCAG 2.0, at least Level AA. Many people can use HTML material easily and will not need other formats (such as large print or braille).

During the Presentation

Speak clearly
and not too fast.
Be visible
and in good light so participants can see your mouth 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 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, consider a live presentation with visuals that is recorded and made available online as a podcast. If during the presentation you described the visuals (for people who are blind), those listening to the podcast will also get the visual information. If you have CART output (for people who are deaf) you can use that to create a transcript to put online, to increase search engine optimization (SEO) and realize the other benefits of transcriptslinks off WAI website.

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

For More Information

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

The details on how to make material that you give to participants accessible is beyond the scope of this document. Some information is linked below:

Information on web accessibility:

@@ Review Notes