Creating Accessible Presentations 2022

From DLF Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Script and Questions

Note: This is the script version of the presentation, which may differ from the live transcription or closed captioning. We're using this version because it includes the slide numbers. For full transcript, see the YouTube video.


Hello, everyone. My name is Aliya Reich, and my pronouns are she/her. I’m the Program Manager for Conferences and Events at CLIR and DLF. It’s my pleasure to welcome you today to the 2022 Creating Accessible Presentations Webinar.

A few quick logistics. Today’s meeting is being recorded and will be made publicly available in the coming weeks. We expect today’s presentation and Q&A to last up to 90 minutes or so, depending on how many questions folks have. You may notice that we've enabled live transcription so feel free to check on that if you need it. If you’re having tech problems, please DM me, Aliya Reich, Jennifer Ferretti, or Gayle Schechter. When it comes time for Q&A at the end of the presentation, please put your questions in the chat or, if you’d like to come off mute to ask a question, please raise your hand and wait to be called on.

And now I’d like to introduce our speaker. Debbie Krahmer is the Diversity and Inclusion Research Librarian at the Catherwood Library at Cornell University. Debbie serves on the admin team for DLF’s Committee for Equity and Inclusion, or CEI, and is the liaison and facilitator for the Inclusivity at the Forum subgroup of the CEI, which also works with the Forum’s Community Committee.

CLIR is very grateful to Debbie and to these groups for their work to make today’s webinar possible.

Without further ado, it’s my pleasure to introduce Debbie.


[slide 1] Hi everyone, my name is Debbie Krahmer, I’m the Diversity & Inclusion Research Librarian at Cornell University in the U.S. I prefer that you not use gendered pronouns when referring to me; you can call me Debbie or D. Today, I’m here on behalf of the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Digital Library Federation (DLF) Committee on Equity and Inclusion subgroup for Inclusivity at the DLF Forum to talk about creating Accessible In-Person Presentations.

[slide 2] I’m speaking to you from the unceded and traditional lands of the Onyota’a:ká (oh-nyo-DA-aw-GA“), the People of the Upright Stone, or the Oneida nation.

During this presentation, I will use the terms Disabled or Non-disabled, as well as Identity-first language. I acknowledge the difference in ways that disability is described and discussed. As it pertains to person-first (person with a disability) vs. identity-first (disabled person) language, it is important that it be acknowledged that society plays a heavy role in disabling people, while also avoiding the implication that disability is inherently negative. However, it is important to listen to disabled people when deciding which is appropriate to use in individual contexts.

I have a visual disability, so I can’t always see questions that come up chat or if you have your virtual hand up. You can put your questions into the chat, but I won’t be able to address them until the end, or during times when I ask if there’s any questions. I’d also like to take a moment to remind the viewers that we ask you to adhere to the DLF Code of Conduct when interacting with this presentation, and in asking questions.

[slide 3] These guidelines were originally created in 2016 and 2017 by Eleanor Dickson Koehl, Chelchie Juliet Rowell, Yasmeen L. Shorish, and Carli Spina. It was updated for online conferences in 2020 by Debbie Kraher, Lydia Tang, Sarah Goldstein, Stephanie Rosen, Alex Wermer-Colan, and Amy Vecchione. Finally, this information was again updated for the in-person 2022 CLIR (C.L.I.R) events by Natalie Bond, Debbie Krahmer, Carrie Pirmann, and Adele Fitzgerald. Thank you to everyone past and present for your time and dedication to help us create more welcoming and inclusive CLIR events.

[slide 4] Obviously, we can’t cover every possible topic in a single presentation or every possible question. Questions can be directed to the DLF team at, and all materials used in this presentation as well as the guidelines are available at the DLF wiki short URL:

[slide 5] The purpose of this presentation is to give you some concrete examples and guidance on creating an accessible presentation. Most of this presentation will focus on demonstration with Microsoft PowerPoint and Google Slides. Some things we cover are just general good practice for presentations, but the overall focus is on accessibility. This presentation should be used in combination with the more comprehensive guidelines and resources available on the DLF wiki. short URL:

[slide 6] One final side-note, as this is something I come across a lot as an accessibility advocate. I want to be clear that “accessible” does not have to equal “boring”. You can be creative and exciting and interactive and keep your work accessible. However, there are a lot of moving pieces and knowledge that is needed to be a creative, interactive speaker--a lot of practice and training. You won’t be a Ted Talk expert following 10 simple rules, any more than my interest in scifi and astronomy makes me an astronaut. Accessibility is no different. Accessibility, design, public speaking is all a nuanced area of knowledge. So, think of these as guidelines, and helpful hints, or top ten simple rules or whatever, but also forgive yourself for getting things wrong. You didn’t wake up one day with the knowledge of a librarian--you went to school and you worked and you continue to expand and learn. This is exactly the same. So try hard, but forgive your mistakes. You won’t be an accessibility master at the end of this. But hopefully you'll have more information and more tools to hopefully make this less intimidating.

[slide 7] I’d like to start out by covering some basic information about delivering a presentation. Clear audio is very important. AS you can see, I’m using a headset with a microphone directly in front of my mouth. No matter what, you should always use a microphone; it ensures the best quality audio, makes creating transcripts and closed captioning easier, and, for in person events, ensures that everyone can hear you. It doesn’t matter if you can project your voice like an opera singer: USE. THE. MICROPHONE. And speak directly into the microphone. If it helps, think of it being attached to your lips. If you move away from the mic (cover mic for no audio), your audio will cut in and out. If someone asks a question and they don't have a mic, repeat it into the microphone before you answer it.

While speaking, use a clear, steady voice. Think of yourself as a news anchor--you’re calmly reporting information to a wide variety of people--or you can think about just having a coffee conversation with a friend. Take your time, and don’t try to rush.

When you are using acronyms, you should read them aloud and make sure they’re clear. For example, I am a member of ENY/ACRL – E.N.Y./A.C.R.L. or “eenie Ackrl”, the eastern new york chapter of the ACRL. Reading them out just makes it easier to caption what you’re saying and make sure it’s accurate. Additionally, try to avoid jargon, or if you do use it, define the term if it’s not familiar to your audience, and make sure that you have the proper spelling available to your live captioner or the person doing your closed captioning.

Now, during a live presentation, be sure to face the audience throughout the session, so your facial expressions and your lips will be easier to read. Since technology is always tricky, be prepared to have your script or presenter notes in a printed file or on your phone, that way you’re not caught out if you can’t get the right display going on the computer. Try to keep these notes or your phone away from covering your face. It’s very tempting, when you’re gesturing to your presentation, to just keep talking. For many people, that’s like (cover mic for no audio). Keep your mic on your face, keep your face at the audience, and if you’re turned away, just stop talking for a moment.

[slide 8] Now, let’s move into the Design portion of the presentation. It’s good practice to have your slides and other presentation materials available prior to the actual presentation time, so that audience members can be prepared to fully participate. For example, it’s helpful to me to have access to the slides to follow along on a laptop or tablet with a screen reader while also watching the presentation. Make sure you’re sharing it as a PPT or Google Slides format, NOT PDF. This is because powerpoint format and google slides includes many things that make it more accessible than a PDF, including reading order, proper tags and full access to notes and alt text. If you can make a fully accessible PDF, then you can include that as well.

The most important part of what I’m about to tell you is that you should use the built-in templates for creating your presentations. This is because the templates are already designed to work with assistive technology, such as screen readers. When you create your own slides, by putting in text boxes on a blank slide, you will have to do more work on your own to make them accessible. You’re welcome to do that, but we won’t be covering the difficult setting in this presentation. For this presentation, we’re focusing on “easy.”

Additionally, using templates creates an automatic outline. You can view it in the outline view. Templates in PowerPoint and Google Slides also have built-in reading order, styles, and other things that make them accessible. If you need to make a change throughout the presentation, you can make those changes in the master slide, and it’ll work for all the slides. For example, if you want to add more text boxes or media markers, in PowerPoint go to the View tab, Master Views section and select Slide Master. In the slide master editor, select the layout you want to edit. You can insert new placeholders, or even add images or text that will appear on all slides with that layout. Close Master View to save and apply.

In Google Slides, you want to go to slide → Edit Theme. In the Theme editor, by default it’ll open to the layout master slide that you were on or you can select them from the list.

The main reason that you will want to use this for is to make sure that your text colors are high contrast for the entire presentation. Bullet lists and subtitles in default templates are often set at a slightly lighter shade which might affect the readability. By changing it in the Master Slide, any new slides you add will reflect the changes. You won’t have to go back and make the change on every slide.

Also, if you decide to change the template, you will need go back into the master slide or edit theme to make whatever changes you had made before–every time you change to a new theme, your Master Slide will reset to defaults. Make sure you leave a good bottom margin to make space for closed captioning (¼-⅓ is pretty good).

I’d also like to address the reading order at this point. When you use the templates, the reading order of your slide is pre-determined. You can change it on a slide-by-slide basis, but if you make edits to the master slide or change your design template, you will need to re-check that reading order. Just click in a blank area of the slide so that you don’t have anything like text actually selected, then tab to see the order. To change the order, click on the box and then right click to bring up the “bring forward/send to back” options. If you’re using a keyboard, it’s actually a massive pain in the ass to try to adjust reading order in the current versions of PPT (PPT 2016 or PPT for Mac seems to retain the old way of arranging the read order).

In GOogle Slides, you can tab through to see the order, and then fix it in the Arrange menu. If you’re using the defaults, the layout tends to be logical: slide title first, then main text or image placeholder, or left side first, etc.

[slide 9] So, you have your basic design set, and you’ve selected the pre-defined templates. The first thing you want to do is make sure the language is set for your slides. This is especially important for screen readers, so everyone knows they’re using the correct language. It may already be set to the default language of your programs or computer, but it’s always worth double-checking, or change it in case you’re presenting in a different language. In PowerPoint, you go to the file menu, More, Options and select language. FOr Google slides, it’s File - Language.


Next, your font size should be at least (24-32), but I like to use 28 pt minimum. You should use a single, simple font type throughout the presentation, usually we suggest sans serif like verdana or arial. Do it in your master slide, to ensure all slides are the same. This is where it’s also more accessible to make the PPT file available ahead of time, so the individual can change the font sizes or font type to what works best for them.

So, using structure is important. You can use bullets for this. Again, use the built-in options for bullets because, for example, for screen reader software it’ll tell you something like “Bulleted list, 4 items…” If you use an asterix or an image of your own without having that bulleted (or numbered) list, it makes your presentation less accessible. Use the built-in styles or headers to give a visual (and accessible) hierarchy to the slides.

[slide 10] Finally, just a note about structure. One thing I come across a lot as a web accessibility expert and screen-reader-user, is the idea that no one will pay any attention to your presentation (or website) because it’s predictable or boring. I often hear, “Each slide should be set up in creative and interesting ways.” Well, first off, this is a conference or event that people want to attend to learn new things. Funky-cool is great, but it’s better to just communicate the information in accessible ways so your audience can walk away with what they need. You have a limited amount of time to communicate your topic, and the audience has a limited amount of time to engage with your topic. So don't focus on being entertaining, focus on communication!

Additionally, when you have unpredictable elements like sideways text or animated gifs, you’re making your audience work a lot harder to follow along … unpredictability can be very costly in terms of cognitive processing. If people are getting frustrated, have difficulty seeing or hearing what’s happening, they’re anxious, whatever--it takes away from being able to fully participate in a presentation. If you’re squinting at text, or you’re trying to figure out what that weird image MEANS, or if you’re focused on why in the world this person used that particular gif, then you’re less able to engage with the presentations. Having a predictable structure helps your audience to anticipate what will happen next, it’ll be standard, so they’ll be able to catch on quickly to what you are showing. Keep things simple. You’ll notice my slides are very simple, have short statements or bullets, and are very predictable.

[slide 11] Now, this is an example of a chaotic slide. First, on the left, there’s a bullet point spinning in from the distance to state “Why is this happening?” The next bullet point similarly spins into existence beneath it, stating “What is going on?” So, what do you think will happen next? Of course the title pops up from the bottom of the slide, stating “Where am I?” WEll, that doesn’t make sense. It’s the title introducing the two previous bullet points! So now my slide reads “Where am I? “Why is this happening” and “what is going on?” Okay.. so what’s going to happen next? Oh! A Title bounces in from the top of the slide to land on the right side! It says “Now I’m over here!” What’s next? A bullet comes spinning in, only now it’s at the bottom right of the slide, and it’s upside down!! What the heck? The text says “What will happen next?” I don’t know… I’m scared. Let’s see…

A gif comes up in the middle of the screen. It’s a low quality gif of a dancing hamster spinning in circles.

Now, all of that might have been entertaining, but what information did it convey? Could you imagine if I was trying to outline the steps I took in a project and did it in this manner?? Sometimes, simple is better!

[slide 12] Use high contrast for your colors--white on black, black on white, etc. You can use dark text on a light background, or light text on a dark background. These slides use black text on a white background, which, according to, gives you a contrast ratio of 21:1 (high contrast). You can get creative, but make sure that you’re picking good color contrasts. Minimum guidelines for contrast ratios are 4.5:1 (or for large text 3:1). The site will show you success and failures for all sorts of color combinations.

There are also some colors you should be careful about mixing, despite the fact they may be high contrast. Red and blue are also terrible together-they tend to visually vibrate or move, and in terms of color blindness, it can be difficult to see the contrast between them (change to greyscale).

Now I’m going to show you a slide. If you have color or light-sensitive migraines, you may wish to look away, but I will try to not keep it up more than 30 seconds.

[slide 13] This slide is dark green text on a light red background. It’s not too bad for a short bit of time, but it gets worse after you stare at it for a while, especially if you’re trying to read it. I’m shifting back to the black-on-white now.

[slide 14] This slide may feel brighter to you now but you’ll get used to it again. So, the previous slide was a dark green (hex code 2E481E) with a background of light red (hex code FFCCC0), which results in a contrast ratio of 7.11:1—well above minimum guidelines. But that was a terrible slide to try to read! I try to leave that up for a short time because I’ve had people say that it made them feel anxious, sick to their stomach. That they liked it at first, but then things started to get weird. So just because something IS high contrast, doesn’t mean it’s actually easy to read. This is also a good time to remind you all that the reason you are making your slides available as PPT or Google Slides is that the person wanting to use them for reference can then change the colors to what works best for them!

[slide 15] Using URLs in a presentation--use a short URL, and descriptive text for the link. Read it aloud, instead of just “you can see the url there.” Well, maybe they can, maybe they can’t. It’s helpful to read it out loud for everyone. We suggest that you use to create short URLs because you can make the short text into actual words.

[slide 16] Speaking of what people can or cannot see, it’s important to provide clear text alternatives (alt text) to non-textual content, aka images and videos. Images have meaning, otherwise why else would you use them? So it’s important to make it available to everyone. For example, this slide has a picture of a giraffe. I should include some sort of alt text or even a caption to this image for those who are accessing my slides before or after my presentation, and I should include a verbal description while presenting it. If it’s important enough to include in your presentation, then make sure everyone can access the same information. As a disabled person, to me it’s terrible to be in a webinar or workshop, and someone puts up a slide that’s an image of a joke, and everyone else in the audience is laughing, but you have no idea what’s going on. It’s just silence, audience laughter, and then maybe the speaker chuckles before moving to the next slide. What happened? What did I miss? It feels terrible as a person in the audience, so don’t leave anyone out.

To add Alt Text, right-click on the image and go to edit alt text. Some versions of PPT include a Title and Description as the options for the alt text: just use the same information in both boxes. This version just has a single box. In Google slides, it is also just a right click and choose Alt Text.

What makes good Alt text? Well, think to yourself about why you're using this image, and what you’re trying to say. For this slide, the giraffe is just there to be decorative, and to give me something to refer to when I talk about images. I can mark it as decorative, or just give it a simple, “a giraffe” as the alt text. If this were a science class, I might say, “In this picture, a giraffe is standing in tall grass, with its long neck stretched out. DId you know that despite growing to 8ft long, a giraffe’s neck is made up of only 7 bones.” My alt text could just be “a giraffe standing in tall grass, its long neck stretched out.” Maybe I’m introducing the concept of a giraffe to someone who has never seen a picture. Then things might need to get more complex: “A giraffe is a tall, 4-legged horse-like animal. It has a neck that is longer than its body, with a small head.” But if I’m just talking about adding alt text to a presentation, it’s sufficient to say “a giraffe” and tell people, “This is a picture of a giraffe.”

For more advice on writing good alt text, go to

If alt text doesn’t make sense for your presentation format, for whatever reason, then there are a few other things you can do. You can include a caption instead, or put the image description in the notes of the slides. If you’re showing graphs, you can include a link or citation to where the actual data or image information is at if it’s super complicated. You can even hide the explanatory text in a text box behind the image--make sure that it’s part of the overall reading order of the slide, and that it’s hidden well enough so that it’s not distracting to the non-disabled audience.

[slide 17] Finally, in terms of alt text, if you’re using video in your presentation, you will want that clip to be closed captioned. You can also include the transcript of the video in the slide notes. You should also include some introductory description of the video, especially if the visual content is super important. I attended a vendor presentation once where they kept playing videos that were simply animated text with fun music, which was completely not accessible to me. (I had a friend read the videos aloud.)

[slide 18] Finally, make sure you perform an accessibility check on your PPT or google slide before you make it available to others. In powerpoint, you go to file - info and select check for issues - check accessibility. Or on newer versions, there’s just a little auto checker going on all the time at the bottom of the screen. [demo] While google slides doesn’t have a built-in accessibility checker, you can export it to PPT and run it through the accessibility checker. You can also download and install checkers such as Grackle docs to do the check within the google slides format.

[slide 19] If you have any questions about this presentation, please contact the DLF Team at These materials are available online at the DLF wiki short URL:

Webinar Questions

  1. I am an archaeologist, and often use illustrations of ceramics or skeletons and use animations to highlight a particular element, is there a better way to do that so that I can highlight multiple things in a row?

  1. I noticed one of the template options in Powerpoint shows placeholders for footer content, and I've seen lots of presenters use this space for branding their institution or funders or Twitter handles, etc. But it looks like this content would interfere with captions. Do you have recommendations for alternative ways to brand your slides without using that prime real estate?

  1. Thank you so much, Debbie! I really appreciate this very helpful presentation. Perhaps a question for DLF organizers: Debbie advised making our slides available in advance of our session. Should we do this through the OSF repository that DLF has set up? Thank you!

Back to main CEI page.