Presenter’s Toolkit for In-Person Presentations

This toolkit will provide you with guidance and resources for developing and providing an in-person presentation. For virtual presentations, a separate toolkit is coming soon.

Common Problems with Slide Decks

  1. Too much text on slide, making text too small and sometimes crammed together.
  2. Alt text missing or inadequate.
  3. Alt text too lengthy or interpretive.
  4. Alt text fails to capture how the items on the slide relate to each other, and thus does not provide equivalent access.
  5. Slides lack good contrast.

MS PowerPoint Accessibility

While there are a variety of tools for creating slide decks, MS PowerPoint offers more options for creating accessible slide decks than other tools. Here are the main considerations for creating an accessible slide presentation.

  • Choose slide design with good contrast.
  • Use unique headings for each slide.
  • Use 24-point fonts or greater. Avoid using thin or overly decorative fonts. Make sure as you add more text the font size isn't reduced and that text doesn't get compressed together. You may have to change the "AutoFit options" to "Stop Fitting Text to This Placeholder".
  • Choose the slide layout that best matches your content. Don't start with a blank slide and add text boxes.
  • Add alt text for all images.*
  • Provide text-based, meaningful links, instead of just pasting a URL or using wording such as "click here".*
  • Take care when using the "design ideas" feature as some designs may make content inaccessible.
  • Perform accessibility checks:
    • Make sure all of the text in your slides is visible in the “outline view.”*
    • Run the native accessibility checker in MS PowerPoint and correct errors.*

*More details on these items are provided below.

Alternative text is a text substitute for an image, chart, or other visual element. Without it, a person using a screen reader to access your digital content will just hear "graphic".
Alt text should:
  • Accurately and concisely describe the image.
  • Not be redundant to other text on the page.
  • Not include phrases like “image of” or “picture of”.

Text that is in an image should also be included in alt text. There is no need to add alt text if your image is purely decorative.

How to Add Alt TextA context menu with Edit Alt Text selected.

  • Right click on the image.
  • Choose Edit Alt Text.
  • Write the description in the box that appears to the right of the slide.
  • If the image is purely decorative, check the box that is labeled "Mark as decorative."

Adding Alt Text for More Complex Images

For charts and graphs, make sure to select the outside edge of the object when adding alt text. You can either place the full description of the chart in the alt text or include a brief description and summarize the data in the slide content. The second option is recommended. The screenshot below provides an example of how you might do this.

Pie chart of web accessibility assessment results. Data provided on slide.

You would still want to add alt text. Suggested alt text for the chart would be:
Pie chart of web accessibility assessment results. Data provided on slide.

Tip: Once a chart or graph is created, consider taking a screen shot of it and including that as your image. It is much easier to work with on your slide. And if you plan to convert the slide deck to PDF, the resulting PDF is more likely to be accessible.

Resources: Writing Alt Text

Creating text-based links instead of pasting URLs makes the link more accessible for everyone and more attractive as well. To create your link:Text is highlighted. Hyperlink is selected in context menu.

  • Write the text that describes where the link will take the user.
  • Be specific. Don't use vague text like "link" or "click here".
  • Highlight the text and right click on it.
  • Select Hyperlink or Link from the dropdown menu.
  • Paste in the URL into the address field.
  • Select OK.

These tips will help you determine how to share your links in your slide deck.

  • Do people need to access the link right away?
  • Will everyone likely use a digital handout to access the resources?
  • Will some people have the digital and some a print version?

Resources: Creating Meaningful Links

There are a couple of checks you can do to help determine if your slide deck is accessible: Checking the content in outline view and running the accessibility checker.

Checking Outline ViewOutline view selected.

  • Choose View, then Outline View.
  • Check to see if all of the text is there in the left-hand panel.
  • If many of those are blank, even though there is text on your slide, you will need to change your slide layout to more closely fit your slide content.
  • Of course this is only helpful if your slide presentation includes a lot of text. If it's image-heavy, the other check will be more helpful.

Using the Accessibility Checker

  • Select the Review Ribbon.
  • Select the Accessibility Checker.
  • A panel opens to the right and will show you the errors you need to check.
  • Work your way through the errors to improve accessibility.

Review ribbon with the Accessibility Checker icon selected

A Warning About Reading Order

  • Incorrect reading order is a common error.
  • It requires a manual check using selection panel.
  • In older versions of MS PowerPoint, reading order on the selection panel goes from bottom to top! Don't move your content from top to bottom until you check to see if that is the case for your version. Otherwise, your slides will read backwards.

Sharing handouts in MS Word can be simple and effective. In fact, if your slide deck is mostly text, it might be better to create an outline from your slide deck and share it in MS Word. It is more accessible and if folks want to print it to take notes, it is more printer friendly. As you share your handouts, though, make sure you are taking accessibility into account.

Creating Accessible MS Word Documents

Be sure do the following:Word document showing title of document with Heading 1 selected

  1. Use true headings to structure the document. Rather than just applying color, size and boldness to headings, use the styles formatting tool to apply headings. (See tutorials below to learn the proper way to apply and modify headings.)
  2. Add alternative text to images. This is done in the same way in MS Word as it is in MS PowerPoint. (See above or refer to tutorials below.)
  3. Create links by using meaningful text descriptions. This is done in the same way in MS Word as it is in MS PowerPoint. (See above or refer to tutorials below.)
  4. Avoid the use of SmartArt.
  5. Avoid adding text boxes.
  6. Avoid putting important information in headers or footers.
  7. Make sure your tables are accessible.
  8. Run the accessibility checker to check the document.

The tutorials provided below will take you through the process of implementing these suggestions.

Creating Accessible PDF Documents

PDFs can provide an accessible way to provide content. If not created correctly, though, they can be totally inaccessible to people who use screen readers.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Start with an accessible source document. By following the previous suggestions for creating an accessible MS Word document and MS PowerPoint, you are on your way to creating an accessible PDF.
  2. Save the MS Word document to PDF by choosing, Save as PDF rather than printing to PDF.
  3. Simple documents should convert pretty well from MS Word to PDF. More complex documents may need to be checked for accessibility and even remediated for accessibility.
  4. If you have a Professional version of Adobe Acrobat, you can run an accessibility check.

If you are using PDFs that were created by someone else, check to make sure they are accessible.

  1. Can you highlight the text on the page? If not, it may be an image of the text instead of real text.
  2. Older PDFs created by scanning an article are often purely an image.

Video content can be much more engaging than more static content, making your presentation more engaging. At the same time, if access is not considered, video content can present barriers for many participants. So what needs to be considered to make sure video content is accessible?

  1. The video will need to be captioned.
  2. The visual content will need to be described.

Using Captioned Videos

When choosing a video that has been created by someone else, make sure it is captioned. Automatic captions do not provide equal access. You can learn more about why this is the case by reading Automation Is Not Equal Access. See the next section for more details on choosing captioned videos and captioning your own videos.

Audio Description

Audio description refers to providing information about the visual aspects of a video to someone who is blind or who has low vision. Audio description can be provided as part of the general narration or can be added after the fact. If the video is simply a recording of a single person talking, then there would be little need for audio description. If there is visual content, though, you'll want to describe what is in the slides. See more details about creating audio descriptions in Sharing Accessible Videos - Audio Description.

Choosing Captioned Videos

When choosing a video that has been created by someone else, make sure it is captioned. As mentioned above, automatic captions do not provide equal access. Transcription created by artificial intelligence often has many inaccuracies. Even when it is fairly accurate, it usually lacks accurate punctuation and capitalization, making it very difficult to follow. Below are some suggestions for determining if videos are truly captioned and searching for videos that are.

Checking a Video for Captions

To check to see if a YouTube video is truly captioned, click on the “CC” button at the bottom of the video. Immediately you will see this information displayed in the top left corner of the video.

In this first image, we see the text that displays when only an auto-generated transcript is available in the top left corner.

Video of woman standing with the text English (auto-generated) click for settings in top left hand corner

In this second image, the text that appears when a video has actual captions is shown. Even when you see this, it is a good idea to check for accuracy before sharing the video.

video of woman signing with the text English captions click for settings in top left corner

Finding Captioned Videos

If you are searching for video content to share with your students, you can narrow your YouTube search to just those videos that are captioned. Simply go to and enter the topic you want to search for. After you select the search button, you will see a button appear labeled Filter. Select that button and open up the options. Then, under Features select Subtitles/CC. This will bring up only those videos that have a caption file uploaded.

Again, make sure to check for accuracy before sharing the video.

Captioning Videos You Do Not Own

If there is a video you want to use that you do not own and discover it is not captioned (or not captioned well), one option is to use the 3Play Media Plugin. This plugin allows you to select a YouTube video, add the captions, and then share a link to the video that has the captions overlaid over the original video.

Captioning Your Own Videos

If you have created your own video, you will need to caption it or have it captioned.  If funds are available, there are companies that you can contact to outsource this.

If you plan to add your own, assuming your video is housed on YouTube, you can approach this a few different ways.

  1. Create a transcript of all of the video content, upload that to YouTube and allow YouTube to sync the transcript with the video.
  2. Upload your video to YouTube and allow it to create an automatic transcript for you, then go in and edit the transcript by making corrections and adding capitalization, punctuation, and identifying speakers.
  3. Create a transcript and use a tool that allows you to add timings to your transcript. Upload the caption file to YouTube.

The resources below provide you with guidance for captioning your videos. Online captioning tools are also provided.

As stated in a previous section, the term audio description refers to providing information about the visual aspects of a video to someone who is blind or who has low vision. Videos vary in terms of how much visual information they provide and how much description is needed. The following will help you consider what aspects of a video need additional audio description.

  • Are there sections of the video that provide content in text only (i.e. credits, section titles, statistics, etc.)?
  • Are the names and/or titles of speakers listed under the speaker?
  • Are there presentation slides that are being shared that are not spoken by the narrator?
  • Are there other visuals that add to the content of the video?
  • Is something being demonstrated in the video?

All such content will need to be described in order for the video to be accessible. Good audio descriptions simply state in words what a blind person would miss visually.  If you are unable to create an audio described version of the video, you can provide the descriptions during your presentation. The resources below will assist you in creating good audio descriptions.

It is ideal to share a digital copy of materials in advance. Since not all people will have access to the slides you show or print materials you pass out, sharing your materials in advance allows those participants equal access to these materials. There are a variety of ways you can share your materials.

  • The conference organizers may provide a web page with presenter materials.
  • You can put materials in a cloud-based storage or on a web page and send the link to participants in advance.
  • If you do not have access to the list of attendees in advance, you can start your presentation by providing the link and a QR code so attendees can download your files to their devices. Make sure the link is concise. Creating a shortened URL may help. Be sure to read it out loud.

It is also helpful to provide materials in advance to access providers such as interpreters and captioners to help them prep for the session. Some conference organizers may do this for you. If you are presenting for a conference where the organizers are not experienced with access, you may want to ask them if there will be ASL interpreters or captioners and how you might share your materials with them (and participants for that matter).

Setting the Stage

Spend a few minutes at the beginning of the session making sure that communication access is effective for everyone. Check that sight lines are good for anyone using CART or sign language interpreters. Ensure that you and/or the interpreters can be heard.

Use of Slides

Give participants time to view content on a slide before you begin speaking about it. Make sure that all of the content is accessible to attendees who are not able to see the slides. Explain the content and describe images, charts and graphs. Slides should augment your talk, not be a substitute for it. Don’t assume that everyone in your audience can see or read your slides.


Amplifications helps participants attend better and avoid fatigue. In some instances, the amplification system may be connected to an FM loop system and people with hearing aids may rely on sound coming through that system. If there is a microphone available, make sure to use it. Avoid asking the audience if you need to use it or not. This puts those who are hard of hearing in an awkward situation as the majority may say that it is not needed. Make sure that sound coming through the computer or speakers is also routed though the sound system by placing the mic near the speakers. If someone in the audience provides you with a personal assistive listening device (ALD), make sure to use it with care. Be careful not to bump it or take it on and off while the mic is turned on. If you leave the room during a break, turn the mic/transmitter off.

Questions from the Audience

Summarize audience questions and comments using the microphone. When audience members have long questions or comments, encourage them to use the microphone. People often say they don’t need the mic. Be prepared to remind them that they need to use it for access purposes.

Other Access Considerations

  1. If you ask for a show of hands, provide information about how many people raise their hands. For example, "Okay, that's about half of you" or "Only a handful of you."
  2. Encourage participants to state their name (and possibly affiliation) before they ask a question.
  3. Develop habits that ensure access to both visual and auditory information.


Our thanks to Increasing Capabilities Access Network (iCAN), a program of Arkansas Rehabilitation Services, for providing funding for this toolkit.