Guidelines for Accessible and Inclusive Presentation

In general terms, the elements that are favorable towards accessibility are also considered to be good design practices in the wider sense. While there is not a one-size-fits-all solution, if your presentation is well designed, it should already be accessible to most people. That means when you follow this guide, your presentation will be awesome for everyone.

General Considerations
  • Do not use imagery that contains sex, violence, or might hurt the sensibility of your large multi-cultural audience.
  • Keep slides clear, simple and uncrowded.
  • Cover one subject per slide, ideally using no more than six bullet points.
  • Ensure every bullet point or item in a list ends with punctuation (e.g. a full stop, semicolon or comma).
  • Make the presentation as multi-sensory as possible; use audio-visual elements to reinforce information.
  • Use bold for emphasis, rather than highlighting, underlining or italicizing.
  • Align text to the left or centrally; do not justify both sides.
  • Avoid text which is angled or uses special effects, such as shadows.
  • Avoid white writing on a dark background.
  • Dark text on a pastel background works best; dark blue text on cream suits.
Preparing your Slides for Oral Presentations
  • You shouldn’t rely on color alone to convey a message; for example, certain types of color blindness might make it difficult or even impossible to see a common red error message. One approach is to use both colors and symbols where people’ attention is required.
  • Limit the color palette you use for your presentation; the fewer colors you use in your design, the fewer instances there will be for confusion.
  • Use patterns and textures to show contrast: Try to use different textures, as opposed to multiple colors, for elements that require emphasis. For example, it might be difficult for color blind people to interpret graphs and charts. In this case, it is better to use contrasting patterns and, where possible, place text instead. Always include a legend in your graphs.
  • Avoid bad color combinations, they’re a potential nightmare to color blind people: green & red, green & brown, blue & purple, green & blue, light green & yellow, blue & grey, green & grey, green & black.
  • Avoid the use of complex visual effects: moving, flashing or dissolving images and graphics are distracting and cause visual distortion. Keep slide transitions consistent and simple.
  • Use the right font: (22-226pt), sans serif fonts, and sufficient white space. Also, be consistent in your use of font, color and background, and avoid too much variation in font style and size.
    • For people who have dyslexia or have low vision, it reduces the reading load. For example, they may benefit from familiar sans serif fonts, such as Arial or Calibri.
    • Include ample white space between sentences and paragraphs.
    • People who have dyslexia describe seeing text “swim together” on a page (the compressing of one line of text into the line below). They often see text merge or distort.
  • Include alternative text with all visuals and tables. Alt text helps people who can’t see the screen to understand what is important in images and other visuals. Visual content includes pictures, clip art, SmartArt graphics, shapes, groups, charts, embedded objects, ink, and videos. Avoid using text in images as the sole method of conveying important information. If you must use an image with text in it, repeat that text in the document. In the alt text, briefly describe the image and mention the existence of the text and its intent.
  • Make sure slide contents can be read in the order that you intend. When someone who can see reads a slide, they usually read things, such as text or a picture, in the order the elements appear on the slide. In contrast, a screen reader reads the elements of a slide in the order they were added to the slide, which might be very different from the order in which things appear. When making slides available, please take this into consideration.
  • Add meaningful hyperlink text and screen tips. People who use screen readers sometimes scan a list of links. Links should convey clear and accurate information about the destination. For example, instead of linking to the text Click here, include the full title of the destination page.
  • Accessibility of videos: If you have videos on your presentation, make sure they are accessible to visually impaired and hearing-impaired people. Closed captions typically contain a transcription (or translation) of the dialogue, as well as describe audio cues such as music or sound effects that occur off-screen.
Presenting: Oral & Poster Presentations
  • Be specific when talking about visual elements in your slides: try not to refer to ‘the red box’. Refer instead to ‘the rounded red box in the top-right of the screen’.
  • Please don’t use red laser pointers: The red light is not easily distinguishable on bright screens. Use a green laser pointer instead. Not only are green laser pointers generally more powerful, and therefore brighter, but they are also easier to see.
Inclusive Language in Presentation and Documents

Regarding all presentations and documents (papers, posters, slides, etc.):

  • When welcoming, referring to or interacting with your audience:
    • Do not use: ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, men and women of the audience, brothers and sisters, her or she, sir madam
    • Instead, use: Esteemed guests, that person, friends and colleagues, students, siblings, everyone, the participants, faculty members.
  • When presenting, you might have to talk to or about people in the LGBTQ+ community. Avoid outdated terms when referring to them. Some terms might be offensive because they could imply criminalization or pathologization or they could simply be misnomers:
    Outdated Terminology Alternative Terminology
    “lifestyle” or “preference” “orientation” or “identity”
    “transsexual” “transgender” (to mean a broader umbrella category)
    “biological man” or “biological woman” “cisgender man” or “cisgender woman” or perhaps “non-transgender man” or “non-transgender woman”
    feminine/female pronouns, masculine/male pronouns she/her pronouns or he/him pronouns
    preferred gender pronouns personal pronouns
    “transvestite” “cross dresser”
    “hermaphrodite” “intersex”
    “homosexual” “gay” or “lesbian”
  • Avoid inherently sexist words: avoid using different words for men and women who perform the same job, and avoid using a masculine noun to encompass both; instead, use a non-gender specific title.
    Do not use Alternative
    “mankind”, “man” (general) “people”, “human beings”, “humanity”
    “mailman”, “policeman” “letter carrier”, “police officer”
    “chairman” “chair person”
  • In your presentation, make sure not all the subjects are of the same gender. Even better, don’t assume a gender, unless it is necessary.
    Do not use Alternative
    “When a student writes a paper, he must proofread carefully” Refer to the subject in plural: “When students write their papers, they should use the spell checkers on their computers.”
    “Ask him to define the thesis” Substitute a noun subject instead of a pronoun: “ask the writer to define the thesis”
    “Who dropped his ticket?” Drop the pronoun altogether and substitute a non-descriptive article: “Who dropped a ticket?”
    “Somebody left his sweater” Instead, use the singular they: “Somebody left their sweater”
Inclusive Language when Presenting Findings

Regarding oral and poster presentations:

  • If your work studies a subject (or includes data) that is related to age, disability, ethnicity, gender, national origin, race, religion, or sexual orientation, we strongly suggest you review this work with people whom might be represented in your data, and/or colleagues from sociology, gender studies or queer studies departments, even before publishing.
  • The use of generalization from the data to characterize or stereotype any of the groups mentioned above is not recommended. Be specific, stay fact based and use inclusive language when talking about them.
  • Using generic masculine words or titles to refer to all persons, or to refer to an abstract “person” whom gender is not known is not a good idea.
  • Using terms or expressions that reinforce inappropriate, outdated, or demeaning attitudes or assumptions about persons or groups based on age, disability, ethnicity, gender, national origin, race, religion, or sexual orientation.

Most of the ideas summarized here come from resources from different private and public institutions. Please refer directly to the links shown below if you want to learn more:

The recommendations collected in this document aim to include:

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