Give an Accessible Presentation
Do not limit yourself to creating online articles or resources. Take opportunities to present online, at conferences or meetups, or within your organization. As you prepare for your presentation, there are several things for you to keep in mind. Do not worry if you cannot keep track of all these tips at the start. Like many other principles of effective presentations, they will become more natural with practice.
Before You Present
If you are using a webinar platform, make sure it has the accessibility features and support you will need.
If you are broadcasting the event, make sure it is captioned.
- Schedule a captioner in advance.
- Give the captioner your slides and materials a few days in advance, so they can caption the terms within your presentation correctly.
- Take time to do a test at least a day or two before the webinar or event. Use the same room, microphones, software, etc. if possible.
If you are archiving the event, the captions will need to be cleaned up before posting. Most captioners can provide this for an additional cost, or you may choose to do this yourself.
Make sure your slides are accessible.
- Use clear fonts and plenty of contrast, and do not put too much information on a single slide. Can you easily read your slide in the back of the room or when it is half-size on your screen (which is how it might appear during a webinar)?
- If you are providing your slides, make sure the content is accessible.
- Be mindful of animations and transitions. They can add visual interest if used carefully, but they can distract when overused. Animations should not repeat indefinitely.
In general, it is a good idea to make your slides and other materials available before the presentation, or at least at the start of the presentation. Some people have a much easier time following along if they can use the slides as a resource.
Give the Presentation
- Do your best to use inclusive language.
- There is considerable debate about whether it is better to use person-first language when referring to people or groups of people by disability. The National Federation of the Blind typically uses “blind people” and the National Association of the Deaf uses “deaf people” (or “Deaf”, capitalized, when referring to the community or culture). “People with disabilities” is usually preferred in the United States, but this may be different in other countries or cultures. If in doubt, use person-first language (e.g., “employee with a disability”).
- When speaking about a person or group of people in general, avoid gender-specific language. For most audiences “they” is more appropriate than “he or she”, even when speaking about a single person.
- Do not assume that someone does or does not have a disability based on appearance, and do not ask participants to identify that they have a disability. Expect that at least one person in your audience needs you to present things in more accessible ways.
- Repeat questions and comments, unless everyone is using a microphone. In webinars, this often means repeating questions presented in the chat window.
- Do your best to speak clearly, especially if there is a captioner or sign language interpreter.
- Talk through all important content in your slides. This does not mean that you need to read your slides verbatim, but you do need to present all the important information.
- Quotes should be read verbatim.
- If you feel like you are taking too long summarizing the content in a slide, it probably means there is too much content on that slide.
- Describe or summarize any visual information you use. This includes tables and charts as well as funny pictures.
- Avoid spatial language or uninformative language that requires sight. This skill is important, and it can be a difficult habit to break.
- For example, say “I am going to open the ‘Home’ tab and select ‘bullets’” instead of “Click here to make a bulleted list.”
- If demonstrating a task, make sure the instructions are accessible for someone using a keyboard, or mention a keyboard-accessible alternative.
- It is usually fine to use the word “click,” as long as you can also complete the action with a keyboard.
- If you will be sharing your screen, make things larger. Zoom your browser window if you are showing a webpage. If you are demonstrating software, try lowering the resolution or increasing the text size within your operating system settings.