Accessible presentations and public speaking
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 U.S. Disability Statistics at https://go.wisc.edu/z445uy.)
- 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 (https://go.wisc.edu/a922k0), 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 (https://go.wisc.edu/55qygq) supports an average of 2,200 students with the majority of needs for cognitive and learning disabilities.
Before your presentation
At a high-level, consider whether your presentation and digital materials:
- Are well-structured to enable screen reader access
- Are high contrast, which helps users with low vision, color blindness, and/or are in low contrast settings
- Ensure all visual content has a text equivalent that incorporates both explicit and implicit meaning
- Use plain language so that participants can understand complex ideas instead of deciphering specialized terminology
Learn more about how to structure the following document types for accessibility:
- PowerPoint presentation (https://go.wisc.edu/5lv63z)
- Google Slides presentation (https://go.wisc.edu/gh9733)
- Word document (https://go.wisc.edu/m83k2c)
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 have a hearing impairment such as deafness 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:
The McBurney Disability Resource Center (https://go.wisc.edu/y3d997) offers live captioning (CART) services, if the request is accommodation-related, and can refer university members to additional resources if needed
During your presentation
While you are presenting:
Use a microphone even if the space seems small, amplification is helpful for many participants
Speak at a slightly slower pace than you may use in natural conversation, during your presentation, to allow all users to follow the flow of the presentation and content
Describe information on each slide and 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 other visual information in the room, such as the number of participants that raise their hands in answer to a speaker prompt
For 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
Follow these easy tips for increasing the value of your content and being an available resource for your participants.
- 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.
For questions or assistance with accessibility or usability, contact the UW–Madison Center for Digital Accessibility & User Experience or check out these additional resources.