Everyone: Understanding the Basics
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 ensure the remote platform and the in-person venue is accessible
- speakers describe pertinent visual information
- participants speak clearly into a good quality microphone
- and other considerations listed on this page
- For meetings and presentations, start with an overview and end with a review of the most important points
- Use consistent design in slide presentations to limit cognitive load
- Use clear and understandable content
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.
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.
Providing Accessible Material and Media
Format - Offer handouts, slides, and other material in accessible formats
Use formats that allow users to adapt the presentation to meet their needs, such as word processing, HTML, or EPUB. (Most users are more skilled at adapting word processing formats.) Avoid providing material only in formats that users cannot adapt, including PDF and protected Word documents. Even tagged PDF is not accessible to users with low vision and cognitive disabilities who need to change font size, line spacing, colors, zoom, reflow, and print; and has significant exceptions for screen reader users. (references)
Some participants will need print material in alternative formats such as large print and braille. If you give participants accessible digital material in advance, then you usually don’t need to provide these alternative print formats.
Materials - Ensure slides, handouts, and other electronic material for participants is accessible
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.)
Multimedia - Make media fully accessible, including audio and video used in sessions and recordings of sessions provided afterwards
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.
Organizers: Planning the Event
Initial Event Planning
Ensure the venue 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)
This includes providing multiple connection options. In the W3C resource Accessibility of Remote Meetings, see the section on selecting an accessible remote meeting platform .
Arrange for assistive listening devices (ALD)(e.g., hearing loops), interpreters, and captioners, as needed
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.
Ask speakers and participants about their accessibility requirements
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.
Ensure adequate sound system, and arrange for microphones
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
Have good lighting on their face and upper body. Avoid distracting backgrounds, such as bright sunlight or flashing light.
Arrange for good Internet connections
In-person: Participants might need Internet access to follow along with an online version of displayed material. If using remote captioning, you will need a reliable connection that has enough bandwidth for transferring audio.
Remote: Strong, stable connections help speakers come through clearly.
Consider accessibility when planning the schedule
Some people need breaks to take care of medical needs. For in-person, it may take more time to get from room to room.
Keep to the schedule as much as possible, and inform participants ahead of time of any changes.
Plan to limit distractions
Avoid distractions such as catering setup during a meeting or presentation. Consider not having background music in the halls or conference rooms, including during breaks. Or, keep the volume low. Background noise is difficult for people who are hard of hearing and for captioners.
Give speakers accessibility requirements and guidance
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.
Coordinate getting material to participants, interpreters, and captioners
Work with speakers to get material to participants with accesibility needs, to interpreters, and to captioners before the event.
Speakers: Planning Your Session
Initial Session Planning
Provide material ahead of time
Remote: 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
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
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.
Remember potential accessibility issues with participant activities. For example, it may be difficult or impossible for some people to use an online polling feature, arranging sticky notes on a virtual or physical board, or respond quickly to questions.
Use multiple communication methods for different learning styles
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
Limit the amount of text on each slide
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
This includes graphics on slides, videos, posters, and other non-electronic material.
Use an easy-to-read font face
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”)
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
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
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:”.
Participants and Speakers: During the Meeting or Presentation
Describe all relevant visual information
Say all of the information that is on each slide, including text and graphics. (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 visual information in the environment. 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”.
And avoid speaking too fast, so participants and interpreters can better understand you and keep up.
Use simple language
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
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 and in good light when you talk, so participants can see your face. This helps some people hear and understand better, including many who are hard of hearing or have difficulty understanding accents. Be careful not to face away from your webcam or the audience to read projected material.
Use a good quality microphone
Ensure the microphone is positioned so it picks up your voice well. 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
For example, if someone puts a question in remote chat or someone in-person doesn’t have a microphone, repeat their questions and comments into your microphone before replying.
For example, ask participants to turn off mobile phone notifications, and presenters to turn off system notifications. Discourage side conversations during meetings and presentations.
For More Information
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:
- ADOD Project links to Authoring Techniques for Accessible Office Documents, including for word processing and presentation applications
- Planning an Accessible Conference , Accessible Virtual Conferences
- Interacting with People with Disabilities
Related information from W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI):
- Accessibility of Remote Meetings for details on meeting platform accessibility, hybrid meetings, and more.
- Making Audio and Video Media Accessible for detailed guidance on making multimedia accessible.
- Introduction to Web Accessibility - briefly introduces web accessibility and links to more resources.
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Overview - introduces guidelines for making web content accessible. This includes presentation material, online learning, and other material provided in web formats.
- Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) home page - links to guidelines/standards and a wide range of support material.
- 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 (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.
- 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.