Creating Accessible Presentations

WPI has a new Director of Disability Services starting on Monday, May 2nd and in honor of our new colleague, I thought I would do a post on designing accessible presentations. First, let’s introduce and warmly welcome Aaron Ferguson!  Aaron comes to WPI from Springfield College where he served as the First-Year Success Coordinator.   You may recognize the name since Aaron’s brother Bryan works in the CCC as well.   I have come to know Aaron through my work and undergraduate career at UConn, and also through his brother.

When designing a presentation using a presentation tool like PowerPoint, you want to consider how people with different vision impairments might see your presentation.   For example, if you have a chart with lots of data in your slide, colorblind individuals may not be able to differentiate between the colors, or the brightness of colors, used in the chart.   

Font styles can also be difficult to read for certain individuals as well.   You want to stick with sans-serif fonts (fonts without the serif hats, such as Arial) because they are easier to read.  Granted, they’re not as fancy as their serif counterparts (e.g. Times New Roman or Cambria), but they’re much easier on the eyes, especially for individuals with dyslexia.    Use font sizes 14 or larger, and avoid unnecessary use of capital letters.   Additionally, avoid where possible the overuse of italicized text, which can appear blurry to the dyslexic viewer.    Of course, a good practice for any presentation is never to use long paragraph-style bullets.   

There are plenty of web-based resources out there that will allow you to check your presentation for accessibility.  A few that I recommend are listed below.

  • Visicheck:  a visual colorblindness simulator.   Convert a PPT slide or chart to an image by using the “save-as” function and upload your image to simulate how it would look to individuals with varying colorblind impairments.
  • WebAim:  Web-accessibility.  The simulations at the bottom of this page may be helpful as you are designing presentations for individuals with visual impairments, dyslexia, and for general distractibility.   
  • Web Accessibility Iniative:  How to Make Presentations Accessible to all
  • Creating PPT Presentations that are Section 508 Compliant