1. Preparing for the Fall Semester: What Do You Want to Share?
  2. Instructional and Assessment Technology to Prepare for Your Fall Semester
  3. Preparing Teachers for Standards-Based Lesson Planning
  4. Preparing for the Fall Semester: Aligning Instruction to Standards
  5. Technology in Coaching to Decrease Pre-service Educator Stress
  6. Boom-ing into Data Collection
  7. Accessibility Checker for Slides
  8. Technology to Support Executive Function Skills
A professional works on a slide deck at a desktop computer. He is in an office with other professionals that are working together.

Accessibility Checker for Slides

Author: Nicholas Hoekstra, Samantha Goldman; info@ciddl.org

As professors are preparing for the fall semester, accessibility for all students should be at the forefront of their minds. It’s easy to get caught up in the look of slides, making sure the colors coordinate and the fonts are appealing. It is important to think of the impact this has on students who utilize screen readers to access the content. As referenced in a previous blog, most Learning Management Systems have built-in accessibility. But, what about slides?

The Importance of Accessible Slides

Ensuring that educational materials are accessible is important for a number of reasons. In the 2019-20 school year, an estimated 14.4% of students were classified as having a disability as defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These students require that materials be provided in an accessible format, and accessible formats have the potential to benefit all students regardless of disability status. Accessible slides can be distributed to all students to:

  • Provide a template for taking notes,
  • Help students follow along in class, and
  • Serve as a study resource when preparing for tests/reports.

Beyond the Aesthetics

There are a plethora of ways to make slideshows more aesthetically pleasing, from using different fonts and sizing to including decorative images. It’s tempting to create slides in other more customizable programs and import them as images into Google’s platform. There’s a problem with this, though. Once you flatten the text onto the background, screen readers no longer will pick up the text, making the presentation inaccessible. So now what? How do professors create presentations that are not only visually pleasing but able to be accessed by all students?

How Screen Readers Work

Screen readers work by converting text displayed on a screen into another usable format, such as by reading information aloud or transforming it into Braille. People process information presented on slides differently than the technology. Sighted users can infer the title based on font size, understand the order of text based on the way in which it appears on the screen, and use images to add additional meaning to the slide. 

Screen reader users, on the other hand, must use keyboard commands and other shortcuts to gather the same information. Screen readers use the structure of how the slide was built to read the content. If bullet points are each created in separate text boxes and then reordered, for example, the screen reader will read them in the original order. However, if an image of a chart or graph is used to communicate data, a screen reader will not have access to that text unless there is an accompanying image description or alt-text. This can make otherwise beautiful slides confusing to the screen reader user. So, what can professors do to make their slides accessible?

An Add-On Makes Creating Accessible Slides Easy

Grackledocs runs on top of Google Slides as an add-on and provides users with an accessibility checker. The add-on checks for extra blank textboxes, missing alt. text, and poor color contrast, to name a few.

Making Sense of Screen Reading

Another feature of Grackledocs is the Slide Structure tab. When screen readers read slides, they go in a particular order. If the textboxes and images on a slide are not structured correctly, it makes it difficult for users of screen readers to understand. Using the Slide Structure tab, professors can reorder slides so that they are able to be understood with a screen reader. Another way to check the structure is to use a free screen reader and test it out for yourself.

Continue the Conversation

The more we dive into accessibility, the more there is to learn. Check out the Center on Technology and Disability’s Resources and Toolkits to learn more! Jump into our community and share your resources and ask your questions about creating accessible slides!