Accessibility Guidelines for Presenters

General Guidelines

Presentation Slide Design

  1. Optional but helpful: start from an accessible template.
    PowerPoint: Select File -> New --> More themes. Select a theme with high contrast between the text and the background, or search for one by name. Retrospect, View, Slate, Modern Design, Universal Presentation, and Science Project Presentation work well.
    Google docs: Select a theme with high color contrast between the background and the text. Simple Light, Simple Dark, Slate, Geometric, and Luxe work well, or use this free Google Slides template from the University of Michigan Libraries.
  2. Use built-in slide layouts when possible, rather than starting from a blank slide and adding your own text boxes and images. Built-in layouts help ensure that you have a logical reading order (see point 11 below).
  3. Use a large, readable font. Stick to sans serif fonts like Calibri, Arial, Helvetica, or Tahoma; semi-sans fonts like PT Sans, Source Sans Pro, or Tiresias; or serif fonts like Georgia or Book Antiqua, and use at least 18 point font. Avoid serif or sans serif fonts that are very narrow or that have light character weight, such as Arial Narrow or Gilroy.
  4. Avoid overloading your slides. Leave some white space on each slide, and split content into multiple slides if needed to enhance readability.
  5. Give each slide a unique title. If you have multiple slides on the same topic, label them like this: Topic (1), Topic (2), etc. This practice makes your slides easier to navigate for screen reader users.
  6. Verbally describe images when you present, and add alternative text (alt text) for images. Alt text is read by screen readers, and it will appear if an image fails to load. In both PowerPoint and Google Slides, add alt text by right clicking on an image and selecting "Alt Text" or "Edit Alt Text" from the dropdown menu. Keep alt text short and describe the key information that you want attendees to learn from the image. This article by Amy Cesal provides a good template for writing alt text.
  7. Use descriptive hyperlinks. It should be clear where a link is going from the text alone. Avoid using vague text like "click here" or long URLs.
  8. Use sufficient color contrast. Use Microsoft PowerPoint's accessibility checker or the free Accessibility Checker for Slides browser extension to check for contrast issues. If you have to ask if something is difficult to read, it probably is.
  9. Use animation sparingly. If you do use animations, share a separate version without animations with attendees. Animations can mess up the reading order and cause a screen reader to read the same text multiple times.
  10. Do not use rapidly-flashing images. Ensure that none of your embedded videos or gifs includes rapid strobing, flashing, or blinking, which could trigger seizures.
  11. Check the reading order of each slide and adjust if needed. Reading order is the order in which a screen reader will read each item on a slide.
    PowerPoint: Select "Review," then "Check Accessibility" (see Microsoft Support's reading order page for more information). If Microsoft detects a potential issue, “Check Reading Order” and the slide number(s) will appear in the right panel.
    Google Slides: Use the tab key to see which item is read first (it will be highlighted). Hit tab again to see what comes next. Use the "Arrange" menu to adjust the reading order if needed.
  12. Use the Accessibility Checker once you’ve completed your slides to check for any issues.
    PowerPoint: Select “Review,” then “Check Accessibility.”
    Google Slides: Download the free Accessibility Checker for Slides browser extension. Open your slide deck, select “Add ons” from the top menu, select “Accessibility Checker for Slides,” then “Check Accessibility.”

References and Additional Resources

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