Accessible PowerPoints: The Critical Importance Of Inclusivity
Table of Contents
What Is An Accessible PowerPoint?
An accessible PowerPoint presentation is a series of slides containing information that can be easily accessed, used and interpreted by a range of audiences. They often take additional measures and steps such as using a descriptive title, table headers and high-contrast color schemes.
Today, information is shared at a much more rapid pace and with the help of technology, information has never been more accessible. Accessible information helps everyone and by making your presentations accessible, you’ll not only be making a better presentation but making a more inclusive environment for all.
Accessible PowerPoint Presentations Checklist
We use the following checklist to make sure each presentation is crafted with accessibility at the forefront. We hope this helps you in crafting your presentation because accessible information helps everyone:
When inserting text boxes on slides, make sure you use a font size of 18 points or larger, especially when creating slide titles. Slide titles should be no smaller than 24 points.
As for the font style, make sure you use sans-serif fonts that are simple and familiar. Avoid character complexity and ambiguity. Use a limited number of typefaces, fonts and font variations and always consider the spacing and weight of your font.
When selecting colors, use appropriate color contrast between your font and the slide background such as black and white. You may choose to have a dark font on a light background or light font on a dark background.
Always consider how your presentation will live beyond the presentation. If your slides will be printed off as a hand-out, use a matte, non-glossy finish to avoid glares.
Avoid cramming too much information onto a slide. Too much information on one slide can be confusing and difficult to read. It can also be overstimulating incorporating too many elements such as text, graphics, videos and audio.
Following a rule of three will guide you best. No more than three elements (text, imagery, video, audio, tables, etc) and no more than three sentences for text sections.
Slide Animations & Transitions
Avoid automatic slide transitions.
Everyone reads and absorbs information at a different pace and it can become frustrating when the slide changes mid-sentence. If your slide show presentations do contain animations, ensure they are brief and do not distract from the most important content on the slide.
When creating tables, make sure they are properly labeled with titles to avoid confusion and don’t forget to label rows and columns. Include a legend to assist with describing key elements. It might even be wise to include a sentence about what information the graph is presenting and why it’s important to the overall presentation.
Images & Alt Text
Images are great ways to communicate a lot of information in a compact way. Set the wrapping style of non-text elements as “In line with text”. Avoid too many text boxes and Word Art as they may be inaccessible to screen readers. Lastly, add alternative text to graphics and images whenever possible.
One of the most critical and important accessible elements of a presentation is alt text or alternative text. Alt text is important because it provides information for screen readers to dictate to screen reader users what is being presented.
You can add or edit alt text easily. First, choose a format picture or select the visual content you want to add alt text to. When the image is selected, select edit alt text and you will be prompted to add a description of what the image is about. This description won’t interfere with a live presentation, it only adds additional information for screen readers.
Hyperlinks are great to provide supplementary information for users when they want to learn more about a certain topic rather than typing out the full URL. Make sure the hyperlink has context and describes where the link will lead the user. Avoid using “Click Here” or “More Info” as the anchor text of a hyperlink as it does not provide any useful information.
Outline & Notes Panels
Make sure the slide layout is in a logical order in the Outline Panel. Avoid placing images or chart descriptions in the Notes Panel.
As for the information presented on the slide, make sure it is in proper reading order with a clear hierarchical structure. Title at the top, subheading below, followed by the main body text. It may be tempting to use an alternative format for purely decorative purposes, but you are not following traditional reading order.
Embedded Audio or Video
If you plan on having embedded audio or video elements as part of your presentation, make sure you have text transcripts or captions to be accessible for those with hearing loss. Closed captions have started to become standard on lots of videos – especially on TikTok. Most video editing software has the ability to auto-caption your videos.
The slide title you use should be descriptive and give an accurate sense of what information is going to be presented on the slide. You should have unique slide titles to ensure slides do not get confused with one another. Even by adding a unique indicator to the slide like “Part B” to the end of the root title, you are making sure there is a clear distinction.
Avoid having blank slides as well. Whether it is used as a cushion or prompt at the start or back of the presentation or in between sections, avoid having a blank slide.
Why Having An Accessible Presentation Is Important
PowerPoint accessibility has become a huge topic of discussion in recent years and has been accelerated due to the virtual work undergone due to COVID-19. It’s important to have an accessible presentation because you never know who will be needing to access your information in critical times. As accessibility laws begin to change around the world, people living with disabilities need to be able to access information easily.
Here are a few reasons why you should start building your presentations with accessibility in mind.
Screen Reader Users
With advancements in assistive technology, individuals who are visually impaired or have low vision can absorb information from a presentation slide deck. Those who are visually impaired use screen reading software which can quickly scan the slides and dictate titles, body text and alternative text which are added to images.
Presentations may live on for some time or forever after the presentation is given. Even if you believe you are presenting to an audience that requires no need for accessibility at the present time of your lecture, you never know when someone who does need an alternate format may review your slides.
By thinking about long-term needs, you are creating an inclusive environment for everyone. You can start by using an accessible template that can be repurposed for future presentations. Alternatively, Microsoft Office has started to incorporate built-in templates that allow you to create accessible presentations.
Better Presentations Overall
Surprisingly enough, a simple presentation is often the best presentation. By keeping your presentation simple and following the guiding principles of what makes a presentation accessible, you will start developing better presentations overall. By getting yourself in the habit of following best practice principles, you will find the slide content will become more succinct and to the point allowing your audience to retain information much better.
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