Please help me make my presentations more accessible
October 23, 2017 4:26 PM   Subscribe

Hello! I spend several hours a week giving PowerPoint presentations to an audience that is mostly elderly. The context varies from lectures to trainings to group forums, but each time involves a set of slides shown on a projector in a fairly large room. Because several people in my audience are hearing or vision impaired, or both, I am trying to design my slides to be as accessible as possible. Are you an expert or differently-abled person who can help our nonprofit do a better job?

I would like my team to also adopt this practice. I'm not a professional graphic or ui designer, or anything in that realm. Please help me proof this template to make sure I'm doing all I can. The template is here and I would love any insight you can give. Thanks so much!
posted by skookumsaurus rex to Technology (9 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Honestly? It's pretty good. Really strong colour contrast, big font, etc.

The only things I'd note:

-Text in the bottom third of screens might be hard for people to see because of heads intervening.

-Segoe UI isn't a known factor when you're discussing dyslexia and readability. Here's a good discussion. (This can also improve readability for non-dyslexic audiences.) This also notes that italic fontfaces can hurt readability significantly, so maybe cut down on your use of italics?
posted by flibbertigibbet at 5:22 PM on October 23, 2017

I do not have any power point experience for this, but hope this helps you or others. I do have years experience with various accessibility standards for different media (I wouldn't call myself an expert).

If powerpoint has a Wave plugin, that has all sorts of goodies baked in. You could likely also use a browser plugin to check your presentations if not.

To me it seems your images are too small with small text, compared to the baseline font. In addition to being more accessible, having a "Big heading" slide and then the image slide is easier to scan/follow for most normal people too. Any text should be text next to the image (or below, etc) instead of baked in (forgive if you did that -- again, not a powerpoint expert and may have missed you already did that!). You could even cut the images (thinking of the do's and don'ts one in particular) into like 5 separate slides to improve the readability for all - most people tend to prefer presentations with as little detail/text as possible per slide.

Your color contrast looks good and Wave plugins (usually? always?) have that baked in if you wanted more color palettes.

Not sure about the use of italic fonts; those tend to be dicey for readability.

I doubt that a nonprofit has these kinds of resources but if it would be possible to include a pure-text transcription along with an audio transcription that would be almost ideal.
posted by love2potato at 5:50 PM on October 23, 2017

This is such a great question and I look forward to following the answers. Just something to think about, and it might not apply to your situation at all:

I'm not sure whether there are illustrations and so forth that you absolutely need to project, and perhaps there are. But is it possible that your audience might not even want or need a slideshow, and might prefer something more grounded in conversation? I always have to remind myself in my own work that slideshows are a relatively recent arrival on the scene.
posted by sophieblue at 5:56 PM on October 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

I agree these slides look good (aside from the images, which definitely are too small/cluttered -- but my impression was that those are for the people making slides, not something you'd be using in your presentations).

If it is possible, another nice thing to include would be large-print paper handouts with the key info, especially if you do have any more detailed information like that included in the images on the slides. That way people have something to take away and remember what was said, and can also look more closely if the PP projection isn't working for them for whatever reason.
posted by rainbowbrite at 5:57 PM on October 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

But is it possible that your audience might not even want or need a slideshow, and might prefer something more grounded in conversation?

As someone who is hard of hearing: no. I would never be able to follow most presentations without a slideshow.

I agree with handouts. They should have section headings that more or less match the slides so I know where we are in the presentation even if I haven't been able to hear it.
posted by AFABulous at 6:10 PM on October 23, 2017 [7 favorites]

(Thanks so much, point taken.)
posted by sophieblue at 6:14 PM on October 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you're using your own projector and laptop, great, but be prepared in case your borrowed equipment causes the colors to vibrate against each other and/or if the laptop doesn't have your font.
posted by carmicha at 6:19 PM on October 23, 2017

The context varies from lectures to trainings to group forums, but each time involves a set of slides shown on a projector in a fairly large room. Because several people in my audience are hearing or vision impaired, or both, I am trying to design my slides to be as accessible as possible.

I've run this by the blind accessibility professional I'm married to. His feedback:

The slides are generally good - you've adopted some best practices, and the links you have in that sample deck go to the right places for other folks to credibly learn more about this (WebAim/W3C). You're on the right track there.

The logistics of these sessions, beyond the deck being as accessible as possible, is important to consider. Are these sign-up/by-invitation sessions, or is there some kind of prior communication with people attending? If so, you have the opportunity to ask a few relevant questions about accommodations people may require to access the content you're presenting (e.g., is there anyone who requires ASL interpretation, speakers' notes ahead of time to help them follow along - whether electronically or in hard copy, the opportunity to sit close to the presenter if they are low vision or hard of hearing, etc.). Reserved seating for people requiring that might be something you'd consider.

Long story short: asking people who are signing up about what would be helpful will guide you to what your audience needs in order to fully participate. You could also consider a post-session survey to assist you in figuring out how to refine your approach and make sure it's accessible to all (Can be very simple: "Were you able to fully participate today?" "Do you have suggestions about how we could do better next time?" etc.).

And apologies if this is already in the mix of how you're thinking about this: this will also come down to the presenter (e.g., are they building in some narration/description to their presentation and doing things like announcing something like "So, up on the screen, we've got a quote. It's from X and says Y.") So in addition to having a deck that's accessible, will presenters be presenting in an accessible way?

Oh! And! Here's a related previous AskMe:

Improve meeting accessibility for the hearing impaired
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:50 PM on October 23, 2017 [8 favorites]

I used to work for a charity for people with sight loss. I can't access your slides though.

Make copies of your presentation slides available ahead of time in a variety of formats (ask people what they need): all the slides, black and white version of the slides, word document with just the text, printed and electronic versions. If you are doing printed copies, have some different coloured papers on hand, particularly yellow.

Don't put anything on screen that you don't also share verbally. Describe every image. Read out every bit of text. You might have to consciously relearn how to present, slow down and always be asking yourself if you have explained everything you can see.

Use text as well as images. One picture per slide, text should always be on a plain background, with a good contrast. Keep the font large, I'd not go any smaller than 28pt.

Documents at the charity I worked for had to be black text on white background throughout, no images, no tables, always Arial, never any smaller than 14pt, and no italics or underlines. If you are producing handouts, also make these available ahead of time, in a variety of formats. Learn how to use Styles in Word if anyone is using a screenreader (learn how to use them anyway, they're really helpful).

If you're using videos, make sure they have subtitles (closed captions) and are audio described. Don't be the guy from that very large tech company you've heard of, who came to present at our tech conference with a video which was mostly a montage of images, written text and background music, barely any spoken audio. To be fair to him, I think it was corporately prescribed judging by his wince before he showed it he knew it was inappropriate for the audience. But it went down like a lead balloon, as you'd expect.

Make sure there is adequate seating and lighting so that people who are lipreading can position themselves where they can see you. Consider communication support (signers and lipspeakers) if you can.

If you have break out sessions, networking times, mingling and so on, have some people around to help guide people to where they need to be and get orientated.

Other things to think about - lighting, ambient noise, toilet facilities, adequate breaks, refreshments, quiet areas, where can service dogs go to the loo nearby?
posted by Helga-woo at 2:11 PM on October 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

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