/   Library   /   About   /   Librarians & staff   /   Forum   /   Speaker Resources

Library Research Forum Speaker Resources

Creating and delivering accessible presentations and posters

We strive to make our Research Forum as inclusive and accessible as possible. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when preparing your presentation or poster.

Back to top

Designing presentation slides and posters

Use high contrast colours.

Use more than just colour to convey information.

Keep text brief and graphics simple.

Use large, sans serif fonts.

Use white space wisely. Avoid overcrowding visuals.

Caption or title all images and graphics if they present content.

Provide descriptive alternative text in your file for all images and graphics.

Back to top

Presenter set-up: Oral presentations

Speak all content on your slides.

Verbally describe images and graphics.

Display captions for any videos that you show.

Use a headset for higher-quality audio.

Avoid jargon and provide definitions of terminology when necessary.

Provide an introduction to your topic to allow listeners to understand your context.

Arrange your lighting so that your face is well-lit.

If you use a Zoom background, choose one that is solid and non-moving.

Repeat questions/information from audience so everyone can participate.

Ensure that your face is in full view during the presentation so that participants can read lips.

Avoid flashing content and excessive animations.

Note that we may contact you regarding the automated captioning of your presentation recording.

Back to top

Presenter set-up: Posters

Consider preparing a list of conversation starters (e.g., "Ask me about …") for the poster or to post in the Zoom chat box.

Consider providing a text-only version of the poster (for example, in a Word document) in addition to the visually formatted version.

Back to top

PowerPoint: Creating accessible layout structure

The easiest way to create accessible content in PowerPoint is to stick to the templates and features provided by Microsoft. Slide titles are essential to accessible PowerPoints because it tells the screen reader when to tell the viewer that they are starting a new slide and what that slide is about. Imagine listening to an audiobook, and instead of the reader pausing when they read the next chapter title, they just went straight from the end of the previous chapter to the chapter title to the chapter text, all in one breath. Well, that’s what it is like when a person using a screen reader doesn’t have title structure in the PowerPoints they need to read.

Luckily, titles are defined on pre-defined layouts of MS PowerPoint. Note: That doesn’t mean your slideshows have to be boring white slides with black text and nothing else. It simply means that you should start there and use the Layout function of PowerPoint to decide on what all you will have on the page and how it will be laid out.

  1. Create a new slideshow in MS PowerPoint and fill in your content. Keep the basic layout for now—you’ll modify the style without losing accessibility later. As you create new slides, you can choose from a variety of default slide layouts. Click the arrow under "New Slide" on the home tab to see your options. Choose the layout that you need for each slide, but keep in mind that for accessibility reasons, you almost never want to use a Blank slide, and you should never delete the slide title box that each layout provides.
    selecting a new slide in PowerPoint
  2. Once you've got some content in the slideshow, you might be thinking it looks very boring. Your first instinct might be to delete boxes, move things around on the slide, add images on top of the layout, etc. Resist the urge to just plop things on the slide—there is a better way to make your slideshows more exciting without sacrificing accessibility. Click on the "Design" tab, then click "Design Ideas."
    using design ideas in PowerPoint
  3. MS PowerPoint has an artificial intelligence feature that takes the text on your slide and helps you with design suggestions while maintaining the accessibility structure. So instead of moving your things around on the slide manually to create a presentation and then having to go back and re-do it for accessibility, use the "Design Ideas" feature!
    design ideas feature showing options

Back to top

PowerPoint: Using the accessibility checker

PowerPoint offers an “Accessibility Checker” to review your document against a set of possible issues that users with disabilities may experience in your file.

The "Accessibility Checker" classifies issues as:

  • Error – content that makes a file very difficult or impossible for people with disabilities to understand
  • Warning – content that in most, but not all, cases makes a file difficult for people with disabilities to understand
  • Tip – content that people with disabilities can understand, but that might be better organized or presented in a way that would maximize their experience

To use the Accessibility Checker:

  1. Go to menu item: File
  2. Select Info in the left window pane
  3. Under Prepare for Sharing, an alert will appear if a potential accessibility issue has been detected
    Prepare for sharing, check for issues button
  4. To view and repair the issues, select Check for Issues and then Check Accessibility
    Check the document for content that people with disabilities might find difficult to read
  5. An Accessibility Checker task pane will open, showing the inspection results
    The accessibility checker task pane shows a list of errors, warnings and tips
  6. Select a specific issue to see Additional Information
  7. Follow the steps provided to fix or revise the content
    Open the list to see which picture is missing alt text and why and how to fix it.

Back to top

PowerPoint: Exporting as a PDF

If you wish to export your file as a PDF, keep in mind that PDF documents are not always accessible. Accessible PDF documents are often called "Tagged PDF" because they include "tags" that encode structural information required for accessibility. To export a PDF from PowerPoint:

  1. Go to menu item: File
  2. Select Save As
  3. In the File name box, type a name for the file
  4. In the Save as type list, select PDF or XPS Document
  5. Select the Options button
  6. Under Include non-printing information in the Options dialog, ensure that the Document structure tags for accessibility check box is selected
  7. Select OK and Save
    Saving PowerPoint slides as a PDF

Back to top

PowerPoint: Evaluating PDF accessibility in Adobe Acrobat Professional

Go to menu item: Advanced > Accessibility > Full Check…

In the Full Check dialog, select all the checking options

Select the Start Checking button

For more details, consult Authoring Techniques for Accessible Office Documents: Presentation Applications.

Back to top

Using Other Formats

Please consult the open textbook Understanding Document Accessibility: A Reference for Creating Accessible Office Documents if you are using:

  • Google Slides
  • Keynote
  • Adobe Acrobat
  • Adobe InDesign
If you are using another application, consult the application's help files, such as in Microsoft Sway or Prezi.

Back to top

Soliciting participation

Speak and communicate clearly. Use a microphone, if possible.

Offer different ways to participate besides speaking (such as using the chat or Q&A function, texting or emailing comments, listening, note taking, etc.)

Be open to trying different ways of facilitating (including small groups, hands-on activities, etc.)

Invite people to participate who may be trying to speak but are having difficulty entering the conversation.

Model expectations for group activities and / or involvement. For example, if you ask the group to do a “check-in,” demonstrate what you mean by that.

Explain choices and motivation behind activities as much as possible.

These recommendations are from the Centre for Community Organization (COCo), the Equity Office, and the Access Centre for Students with Disabilities

Sources used to develop this guide

Speaker Resources is an adaptation of the following:

Back to top arrow up, go to top of page