How to Make Your Presentations and Meetings Accessible to All

Do you remember a time when people around you broke out in laughter, but you didn’t hear the joke?
Be careful not to leave out information for some people in your audience. For example, if you say “you can read it on the slide”, you are probably excluding people who cannot see the slide.

Basics (for organizers & speakers)

Be open to diversity in your audience and any accessibility issues. Basically, be aware that some of your audience might not be able to:

  • see well or at all,
  • hear well or at all,
  • move well or at all,
  • speak well or at all, or
  • understand information presented in some ways well or at all.

Organizers and speakers should do things like:

  • ensure the facility is accessible
  • speak clearly into the microphone
  • describe pertinent visuals
  • and other considerations listed on this page

Respect participant’s needs and be open for other accessibility issues. People might have accessibility needs that you didn’t think of. For example: Someone might need to take breaks at set times for insulin injections. Someone with Tourette syndrome might randomly shout out during a session. Someone with a physical disability who cannot take notes might need to record the session.

Often speakers won’t know if participants have disabilities. For example, at a large conference where organizers didn’t ask registrants. In some cases, you might know the accessibility needs of participants ahead of time. Even then something could change. For example, a new participant could join the training at the last minute. Or someone could develop accessibility needs before the training.

Make your event and your presentations accessible so that you are prepared for such situations.

Benefits (organizers & speakers)

Sessions that are accessible to people with disabilities are also inclusive to many more audiences. For example, people with different learning styles and people who are not fluent in the language.

Accessible sessions also have additional benefits to organizations and individuals.

In this example situation, a live presentation with “slides” is recorded and later made available in an audio podcast:

  • The presenter describes the important visual information in the slides during the presentation. That provides the visual information during the presentation to people who are blind and to people who cannot see the slides well. Later, people listening to the podcast also get the visual information that was described, even though they don’t have video.
  • During the presentation, a professional captioner types what is being said as text. People who are deaf or hard of hearing read the captioning. It also helps people who understand written text better than spoken language. For example, people whose native language is different. Later, the live captioning output is used to develop a text transcript of the presentation.
  • That transcript is put online and it increases search engine optimization (SEO) for the presentation, the podcast, and the website.

If you want to learn about more benefits of accessible media, see Benefits to Organizations and Individuals, in Making Audio and Video Media Accessible and benefits of transcripts .

Planning the Event (organizers)

Ask speakers and participants if they have accessibility requirements (in-person, remote)

For example, include a question on registration forms for conferences, send an email to company-internal training participants, etc. Invite participants to include specific requests. For example, someone who is hard of hearing might request seating small discussion groups in a circle to make it easier to hear people talking. Or someone with low vision might ask to sit in the front row to see the screen better.

Ensure the facility and area is accessible to speakers and participants (in-person)

For example, ensure the building entrance, meeting room, presentation stage, and bathrooms are accessible. (There are checklists online to help ensure a facility is accessible, such as Accessibility Checklist for Existing Facilities .) Provide accessibility information, such as the accessible routes between meeting rooms. Let speakers and participants check out the rooms in advance to suggest optimum positioning of the speaker, screen, seating, etc.

Ensure the remote meeting platform is accessible (remote)

In the W3C resource Accessibility of Remote Meetings, see the section on selecting an accessible remote meeting platform.

Ensure adequate sound system, and arrange for microphones (in-person)

Often wireless lapel microphones are best so that speakers can move around. When the audience will be commenting or asking questions, provide microphones for them.

Arrange for good visibility of the speakers and interpreters (in-person, remote)

Have good lighting on their face and upper body. Avoid distracting backgrounds, such as bright sunlight or flashing light.

Arrange for assistive listening devices (ALD)(e.g., hearing loops), interpreters, and captioners, as needed (in-person, remote)

(Assistive listening devices (ALDs), interpreters, and (captioners) are explained in the Terminology section.)

Work with participants and service providers to ensure that important details are taken care of. For example, a remote captioner can hear the audio clearly, an in-person captioner has the connections they need, and a screen is provided for participants to read the captions. Or, microphones and the presenter’s computer sound output is connected to the ALD system.

Arrange for good Internet connection when needed (in-person)

Sometimes you might use the Internet for providing alternative formats of materials during the presentation. For example, allowing people using screen readers or other assistive technologies to follow along with an online version of your displayed material. For remote captioning, you will need a reliable connection that has enough bandwidth for transferring audio.

Consider accessibility when planning the schedule (in-person, remote)

Some people need more time to get from room to room. For example, because they move slowly, or because the accessible route is longer. Schedule sufficient breaks. People might need to take care of medical needs during breaks. Keep to the schedule as much as possible, and inform participants ahead of time of any changes.

Give speakers accessibility requirements and guidance (in-person, remote)

Tell speakers that you expect their material and presentations to be accessible to people with disabilities. Consider including accessibility requirements in any contracts. Consider including the link to this page (www.w3.org/WAI/training/accessible) in speaker guidelines, e-mails, web pages, etc.

Provide Accessible Material and Media (organizers & speakers)

Offer handouts, slides, and other material in accessible formats (in-person, remote)

Word processing formats are often the most flexible to meet different people’s needs. Participants might need material in alternative formats such as large print or braille. If they get the material in advance electronically, they may not need it in hard copy.

Ensure slides, handouts, and other electronic material for participants is accessible (in-person, remote)

For example, provide alternative text for images and mark up headings. HTML material, such as a conference website, should meet WCAG, at least Level AA. (Preparing Slides and Projected Material below has details for speakers. Some other resources are listed under For More Information below.)

Make media fully accessible — including audio and video used in sessions, and recordings of sessions provided afterwards (in-person, remote)

For example, provide captions (called “intralingual subtitles” in some areas) and/or transcripts for audio, and provide audio description of visual information in videos. For guidance on creating accessible media, see Making Audio and Video Media Accessible.

Planning Your Session (speakers)

Provide material ahead of time (in-person, remote)

Provide slides, handouts, and other material to participants, interpreters, and captioners, as needed. Make it accessible. (More about providing accessible material is above.)

For remote sessions, note that content in screen sharing is often not accessible. You usually need to provide the material so participants can access it directly, not through the screen sharing.

Work with interpreters and captioners (in-person, remote)

Give them material in advance. Explain acronyms, terms, names, etc. that you will use. Be available to answer questions.

Caption audio, or otherwise make it available (in-person, remote)

Ideally, any audio you use is also available in text, for example, videos are captioned. However, if captioning is provided for your presentation, that can provide text of the audio.

Consider activities (in-person, remote)

Remember potential accessibility issues with any participant activities. For example, responding to questions, arranging sticky notes, small group projects, etc.

Use multiple communication methods for different learning styles (in-person, remote)

Some people can better understand verbal information. Other people can better understand pictures and diagrams. And others better understand text.

Preparing Slides and Projected Material (speakers)

Limit the amount of text on each slide (in-person, remote)

It is difficult for many people to read text and listen to the speaker at the same time. Avoid putting lots of text or other content on slides. (If you want to provide additional information, you could put it in a handout or in slides with notes separate from the presentation.) Use simple language.

Make text and important visuals big enough to be read even from the back of the room (in-person, remote)

This includes graphics on slides, videos, posters, and other non-electronic material.

Use an easy-to-read font face (in-person, remote)

Simple fonts with consistent thickness are often easier to read from a distance. Fonts where parts of the letters are thin are harder to read. Avoid fancy fonts that are difficult to read.

Use sufficient contrast between colors (“luminance contrast”) (in-person, remote)

This includes contrast between text and background colors, and between colors in graphs. There are guidelines for web pages that you can use to help determine sufficient contrast — even though the medium is different. See Understanding contrast guidance and contrast evaluation tools. Use appropriate background and text colors. Some suggest when presenting in a light room, to display dark text on a light background. And when presenting in a darkened room, to display light text on a dark background. Ensure that the weight of text is sufficient (for example, bold).

Consider how to use motion or animations (in-person, remote)

This includes text or images flying in from the side. Will the motion make the information easier to understand, or is it unnecessary? Certain types of motion can be particularly distracting for some people, and can make some people ill. Avoid blinking or flashing that could cause seizures. See Understanding Guideline 2.3: Seizures and Physical Reactions.

Make provided material accessible (in-person, remote)

If you are giving participants material, make it accessible. See provide accessible material above. An example of presentation material provided in both presentation format and web format (HTML and CSS) is linked from the top of the page after “The Benefits of WCAG 2 presentation is available in 3 formats:”.

During the Presentation or Meeting (speakers)

Speak clearly (in-person, remote)

And avoid speaking too fast, so participants and interpreters can better understand you and keep up.

Use simple language (in-person, remote)

Avoid or explain jargon, acronyms, and idioms. For example, expressions such as “raising the bar” can be interpreted literally by some people with cognitive disabilities and can be confusing.

Give people time to process information (in-person, remote)

Pause between topics. When you ask if anyone has questions, some people with cognitive disabilities will need extra time to form their thoughts into words.

Be visible (in-person, remote)

Be visible and in good light when you talk, so participants can see your face. This helps some people hear and understand better. Be careful not to face away from the audience to read projected material, particularly if you don’t have a microphone.

Use a microphone (in-person)

Some people might need the audio electronically, even in a small room. This includes people using ALDs and remote captioners. Note that if you ask “Can everyone hear me OK?” some people might be uncomfortable saying that they cannot.

Ensure that all relevant sound is audible through the sound system (in-person, remote)

For example, if the audience doesn’t have a microphone, repeat their questions and comments into your microphone before replying.

Cover all displayed text (in-person, remote)

Say all of the information that is on each slide. (This does not mean that you have to read the slide exactly as it is. It just means that you cover the visual information in what you say.)

Describe pertinent parts of graphics, videos, and other visuals (in-person, remote)

Describe them to the extent needed to understand the presentation. (You usually do not need to describe decorative images.)

Describe other visual information (in-person, remote)

For example, a speaker asks people to raise their hands if they make their websites fully accessible. The speaker should then describe the visual response: “About half raised their hand”.

For More Information (speakers & organizers)

This resource primarily addresses in-person presentations and overlapping issues with remote meetings. There are additional considerations for remote and hybrid sessions. See also:

Details on how to make material that you give to participants accessible is beyond the scope of this document.

There are resources online that provide related guidance, such as:

Information on web accessibility:

Terminology (appendix)

assistive technologies
Assistive technologies are software or equipment that people with disabilities use to improve interaction with the web, such as screen readers that read aloud web pages for people who cannot read text, screen magnifiers for people with some types of low vision, and voice recognition software and selection switches for people who cannot use a keyboard or mouse.
ALDs, hearing loops, induction loops
Assistive listening devices (ALDs), hearing loops, and induction loops amplify sound from the speaker’s microphone for people who are hard of hearing.
captions, captioner
Captions (called “intralingual subtitles” in some areas) are a text version of speech and important non-speech audio. Live captioning in different areas is called different things, such as CART (Computer Aided Real–Time Captioning or Communication Access Realtime Translation), or real-time intralingual subtitling.
A captioner (or “live subtitler”) is a professional who provides what is being said verbatim so that people can read the text output.
More information is in Captions/Subtitles, in Making Audio and Video Media Accessible.
interpreters
In this resource, “interpreters” includes sign language interpreters, cued speech transliterators, and others. Note that sign languages are different from spoken languages and there is not a one-to-one translation.
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