Creating Accessible In-Person Presentations
Accessible Presentations Guidelines for the DLF Forum
One of Digital Library Federation’s strengths is that its membership & Forums are inclusive sites for exchange. Our community of practitioners participate in a variety of cultures and disciplines, and they bring with them to the Forum many different professional and personal experiences and learning styles. To help presenters effectively engage with this diverse and dynamic community, we offer these practical recommendations for creating accessible presentations.
- Creating Accessible Presentations LIVE webinar: Tuesday, July 26, 1pm ET
Language and Respect
- Respectfully acknowledge those who make your work possible—whether you’re talking about research participants, IT support, student employee labor, or the ancestral inhabitants of the ground you stand on. Recognize that the audience has knowledge to contribute.
- Give an overview of what will happen and what you’re about to present, making note of sensitive content or language as appropriate.
- Do not assume all cultural touchpoints or references are universal. Give context to the audience.
- Minimize the use of jargon and acronyms, or clearly explain them in your talk.
- Make sure you share information (spelling, pronunciation) about jargon to the live captioner or the person producing the closed captioning to ensure accuracy.
- Adhere to the Code of Conduct for respectful and inclusive communication and interaction.
- Make presentation materials available in advance so that participants using assistive technology can follow along on their own devices. We encourage use of DLF’s dedicated repository for Forum and Learn@DLF presentations or DigiPres.
- Provide a textual version of presentations either in slide notes or in a document accompanying slide decks.
- When making materials available to others, the PowerPoint (PPT) file or Google Slides is preferred over PDF. PowerPoint templates are designed to be more compatible for screen readers and other assistive technology. If you are able to produce an accessible, tagged, and properly formatted PDF that is readable to assistive technology, that is also acceptable. If you are using Keynote on a Mac to create your slides, please make sure you export them as a PPT file and use the PPT version to share with others. Native Keynote files cannot be opened by PowerPoint or easily converted to Google Slides format.
Presenter Audio and Video
- The plenary sessions will be recorded, livestreamed, and made available online with closed captioning and a transcript.
- In all sessions, always use a mic when speaking. It doesn’t matter if you can project your voice; some of the audience may be using assistive listening devices which require the use of the microphone. Don’t move away from your mic while speaking.
- Mute notifications on your cell phone to reduce distractions.
- Speak clearly, loudly, and at a moderate rate. Use pauses to allow for processing time.
- Provide clear verbal descriptions of visual content, such as images, charts, and videos (for example, "This slide shows a screenshot of a Google Image search for kittens."). Imagine delivering your presentation on the radio. This article includes more information on how to visually describe your presentation.
- Provide captioning in video clips that are a part of your presentation.
- Ideally, the speaker will be unmasked or using a clear face shield to allow the audience to read lips or expressions.
- Pause early on to ensure that the audience can see/hear the presentation.
- At the start of the presentation, summarize community norms and methods of expression and interaction.
- Always use the microphone, even if you’re meeting in a relatively small space. Don’t rely on your ability to project. Using the microphone allows a person using a hearing aid or assistive listening device to “tune” into the PA audio.
- Repeat audience questions into the microphone before answering them, especially if a roving microphone isn’t available.
- If the presentation space is elevated, please provide a ramp.
- Provide accessible reserved seating at the front and nearest to the door.
- Refrain from wearing perfume, cologne, or other strongly scented products.
- Refrain from whispering or speaking with other attendees while conference presenters are speaking. These types of ambient noise can impact the ability of individuals to be able to hear or focus on what a presenter is saying.
Designing Presentations Materials
Design Your Content to Be Interpreted by Assistive Technology
- Budget space in the bottom 1/4th of the slides for the closed captioning, so that the captioning text doesn’t block any important information.
- Give your files clear and descriptive names including the event, speaker name, and year. Example: DLFForum_MaggieSmith_2022.ppt
- If you use PowerPoint (suggested accessible templates) or Google Slides (making a template accessible) to create your own presentation style, search for "Accessible Presentations" to find more accessible templates. Be aware, however, that you'll likely have to do your own accessibility checking and editing to ensure that the design is actually accessible. Canva has no accessible templates (This is a good article on Canva’s accessibility issues and how to fix them).
- Use the default slide layouts. For example, rather than adding text boxes to a blank slide, add new content placeholders to the slide master, or use one of the suggested slide layouts. This way they’ll be included in the overall presentation outline and tagged properly for screen readers.
- Customize the reading order of elements added to slides. By default, applications such as PowerPoint and Google Slides arrange elements according to a default template or in the order in which they were added to the slide. Arrange slide elements in an order that makes sense when being read by a screen reader.
- When in doubt, use built-in formatting options for charts, bullet points, shapes, etc.
- Make sure links have unique, descriptive names, rather than just the URL or “click here.” Provide a short URL, and read it aloud. The URL shortener tinyurl.com will allow you to customize the shortened URL for meaning. For example, using TinyURL you can create a link that is: tinyurl.com/SmithDLF2021.
- Use unique titles for every slide, and include slide numbers or an audible sound when changing slides so the audience can track where you are at in your presentation.
Guidance specific to presentation software
This guide was originally created in October 2016 by a subgroup of the 2016 DLF Forum Inclusivity Committee. We thank Eleanor Dickson, Chelcie Juliet Rowell, and Yasmeen L. Shorish for their extensive work and dedication to accessibility.
We are especially indebted to Whitney Quesenbery’s Make Your Presentations Accessible: Seven Easy Steps and the Accessibility at the 2016 American Society for Theatre Research & Theatre Library Association Conference guide. The clarity and comprehensiveness of these recommendations were strengthened by the input of Bethany Nowviskie and members of the broader Inclusivity Committee.
This guide was updated in 2020 by a different group of DLF members (Debbie Krahmer, Lydia Tang, Sarah Goldstein, Stephanie Rosen, Alex Wermer-Colan, and Amy Vecchione), and again in 2021 by Debbie Krahmer and Carrie Pirmann. Special thanks to Stephanie Rosen for further guidance through the Accessible Meetings & Presentations documentation. (insert info about this update)
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