University of Wisconsin–Madison
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Accessible online and in-person presentations

5 minutes to read | Last updated November January 7, 2021

Use this guide to learn what to do before, during, and after your presentation to optimize inclusion and access for all participants.

Why should I consider accessibility?

The time, effort, and commitment to create accessible, usable presentations and materials is even more vital today than ever before. (Learn more at U.S. Disability Statistics).

  • In 2010, 57 million people in the United States population had a disability and of that number 25% were between 15 and 21 years of age.
  • According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 11% of undergraduate college students reported having a disability in 2011 and 19% reported having a disability in 2015. This upward trend is increasing.
  • Each year, the University of Wisconsin–Madison McBurney Disability Resource Center supports an average of 2,200 students with the majority of needs for cognitive and learning disabilities.

Anticipate and advocate for the needs of your audience

Some users may be non-native English speakers or English Language Learners (ELL), and some users may be Deaf or hard of hearing. Advocate for accessibility and usability as a right of all participants and ensure that the facilitators of the event are aware that, as a condition of participation, accessibility be considered to ensure a barrier-free experience for participants. Some services that may be helpful for campus events include:

During your presentation

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Use a microphone

Even if the space seems small, amplification is helpful for many participants.

Speak at a slower pace

Speaking more slowly than you would in natural conversation during your presentation will allow all users to follow the flow of the presentation and content.

Describe the information on each slide

Include both text and visual content. You don’t have to read the slide exactly as it is; just make sure that you cover the visual information in what you say. 

Describe visual information in the room

Describe any visual information in the room, such as the number of participants that raise their hands in answer to a speaker prompt.

Avoid using virtual backgrounds

If presenting online, avoid using virtual backgrounds during a web conferencing event as the effects are visually less accessible to users. This effect can also cause high CPU workload and WiFi bandwidth delays.

Have an accessible Q&A

  • Remind the audience to use a microphone when they speak

  • Remind participants to state their name when they speak so others track who is speaking

  • Repeat the questions participants ask again and make sure your audience understands the question before answering it

After your presentation

  • Increase the impact of and accessibility of your presentation materials and content by including contextual information via speaker notes, for example, so that users understand the context of the material, whether or not they attended the event.
  • Make your content available:
    • Have a shared resource space where participants can return to your updated content for more information and find your contact information to follow-up.

    • Give users a way to provide feedback or request assistance with accessibility.