Designing for Accessibility In Google Slides

Part of connecting with your audience is understanding what to communicate to them: choosing the data, images, or stories that will win them over to your side. But the how is just important. By considering accessibility when you create a presentation: you can make it easier for your entire audience to read and follow along with your presentation.

In our article about accessibility in PowerPoint, we said that accessible design is good design. That’s just as true when it comes to Google Slides.

In this blog, we’ll cover some best practices for making your presentation more readable to anyone in your audience, including those with disabilities.

Use captions when presenting

One of the most basic ways to make your content more accessible is to enable captions during presentations. When you enter presentation mode in Google Slides, you’ll see a small lozenge shape in the bottom left. Click the three-dot menu, then select toggle captions.

You don’t even need to manually enter your captions in advance! Slides will automatically convert your spoken dialogue into captions, though it does not include any punctuation.

Add structure with headings

One simple and straightforward way to improve your audience’s ability to engage with your presentation is to use headings. Headings help viewers to locate key information, and if properly set up, can be used to navigate your presentation with keyboard shortcuts.

Add multiple ways to navigate a presentation

Much like headings in the first point, “landmarks” are things like headers/footers or page numbers that help the audience orient themselves within your presentation. Screen readers will use landmarks to help convey information to users, making them a vital component of an accessible presentation.

Make text simple

If you’re concerned about accessibility, you should make your text as readable as possible. Some best practices include increasing font size, left-aligning text, adding enough space between lines, and avoiding unnecessary emphasis (for example, underlining text, which could be confused with links).

Add alt text

Alt text is a concise description of an image that screen readers use to describe their content. Without it, a screen reader might simply describe it as “image,” meaning the user might not know that your photo of your custom cupcake is included on the slide.

Unless there is another description of the image on the slide, like a title or caption, you should always include alt text. And since some images will automatically generate alt text, you should test your content to ensure that any alt text is correct.

To add or edit alt text, you can simply right click and select “Alt Text.” For keyboard users, press ⌘ + Option + y on Mac, or Ctrl + Alt + y on PC.

Put data in tables

While we love a well designed data visualization, it isn’t always the best way to make information accessible. Sometimes, a simple, classic table can make content easier to read, even if it lacks the visual punch of data viz.

When using tables, be sure to include rows/columns that describe the content you are including. You should also avoid making tables too dense to be easily readable on a single slide. To make fonts large enough to read, you may need to break up tables.

Collaborate with comments and suggestions

If you’re collaborating with others on a presentation, it’s a common practice to add notes in a text box directly on a slide. But this approach fails when it comes to considering accessibility, as the note can blend into the rest of the slide and be difficult to find, let alone read.

By using comments and suggestions, you allow users of screen readers to easily locate new comments with keyboard shortcuts, as well as receive notifications through email.

Improve readability with high color contrast

To make your presentation easier to read and view, you can use high color contrast. That means avoiding things like light gray text on light backgrounds. This is a bit technical, but luckily Google suggests a few sites you can check to test your contrast:

Make links descriptive

While people often get creative with the visible text above a link, accessibility guidelines say to have your link text be clear and descriptive of the content you are linking to. That’s because screen readers will scan for links, meaning descriptive text will help them understand the content without clicking.

Use lists, not line breaks

Sometimes design-minded presenters might opt for line breaks rather than bulleted lists. While we can appreciate the aesthetics of that choice, screen readers might not. To make sure that the audience can follow your carefully ordered content, it’s best to use a numbered or bulleted list for your content.

Accessibility is the right choice

The goal of any presentation is to convey information. But no matter how carefully you craft your story, it’s not going to get through if your audience members can’t read it.

So when you’re designing your next presentation in Google Slides, consider these accessibility best practices to ensure that everyone in your audience is considered.

For more information on these points and more, read Google’s tips on making a document or presentation more accessible.

Looking for more information about presentation software and beyond? Check out our resources for expert advice and tested strategies.


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