A presenter stands in front of a large audience.

Accessibility in Conferencing: Considerations for Higher Education

Author: Samantha Goldman; info@ciddl.org

As higher education faculty preparing pre-service teachers and related service providers, it is our responsibility to model best practices and ensure access to resources for all. This webinar focused on creating accessible content, materials, and presentations for conferences. CIDDL’s Christine Parsons’ moderated our webinar and was joined by our panelists Nicholas (Nick) Hoekstra (University of Kansas and Inclusive Development Partners), Kristeena LaRoue (University of Central Florida),  Auston Stamm (Stanford University), and Cindy Camp (The Described and Captioned Media Program). Key takeaways included: (1) Understanding accessibility needs, (2) accessible presentation materials, (3) inclusive presentation techniques, (4) poster accessibility, and (5) technology and tools.

Supporting Individuals who are Blind or Visually Impaired

Nicholas Hoekstra shared considerations for people who are blind or visually impaired, individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, and supporting second languages. He shared several resources to support each including: (1) Access to Information Remote Assistance (AIRA), Indoor navigation maps, and Right Here to support those who are blind or visually impaired, (2) Ava, Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART), and live captioning through Zoom or Teams for supporting those who are deaf or hard of hearing, and (3) using subtitles in zoom or youtube to support second language needs.

Considerations Prior to the Conference

Just like we talk about designing with UDL lens, we must design our conferences with accessibility in mind from the onset. Kristeena LaRoue suggested that we consider how our attendees and presenters access and navigate the location, our signage (large font, easy to read fonts, accessible restrooms), and accessible parking. Auston added that we should (1) send accommodation request forms to participants with registration, (2) provide accessible materials in advance,  (3) use a dedicated microphone, and (4) silence all notifications and phones (which is important for both the participants and the presenter).

Making Powerpoint Accessible

Cindy Camp shared considerations to ensure presentations are accessible. These include (1) using a simple, non-cluttered design template, (2) limiting the number of bullet points on each slide to 5-7 with 10 words per bullet, (3) ensuring font type and size are easily read, (4) check for color contrast,  (5) caption, describe, and provide a transcript for all videos, and (6) use templates for slides. Additionally, Auston recommends (1) avoiding animation and/or repeating GIFs and (2) limiting flashing of text and images.  

Considerations while Presenting

Auston shared the importance of ensuring that you are presenting in an accessible manner. When starting your presentation, highlight the accessibility features, such as captioning, and explain the structure of the presentation (consider sharing when participants can ask questions and including an agenda slide). Additional recommendations include: (1) using a dedicated microphone, (2) making sure you use a large enough font and images of high enough quality so that everyone can see them, (3) creating accessible charts through labeling and separating out slices, and (4) describing visuals in the presentation. Finally, if presenting via a webinar, remind all to mute themselves if they are not speaking.

Making Handouts Accessible

Cindy shared that when creating handouts, it is important to offer them in a variety of formats including electronic, print, and text only. Some specific recommendations for handouts include: (1) use alt. text, (2) use structural markup and headings when creating, (3) create a text-only version of the slides, and (4) spell out hyperlinks in the print version. 

Making Posters Accessible

Kristeena shared tips to creating accessible posters including: (1) having clear layouts, (2) using large fonts, (3) having good color contrast, (4) not using color to convey meaning, (5) spelling out acronyms, (6) adding captions to images, (7) ensuring material accessed via QR code is digitally accessible, and (8) making sure handouts are accessible. When making digital posters, presenters should consider using: (1) accessible templates, (2) heading structure, (3) good color contrast, (4) alt text for images, and (5) captioning videos. Finally, it is important that when you turn a document into a PDF, you use the save to PDF feature rather than printing to a PDF.

Join the Conversation

This was an information-packed hour loaded with useful information. You can watch the entire webinar by visiting CIDDL’s Youtube and access the handout referenced. Do you have questions about how to make your presentations more accessible? Join the conversation in our community!