The first rule of PowerPoint is to “think about your audience.” But if you aren’t taking accessibility seriously when designing your presentations, you’re not only leaving out key members of your audience, you are actively working against them.
And while not every presentation needs to incorporate each of the best practices, there’s still a lot that you can learn from beginning to think and design with accessibility in mind.
Making your presentation more accessible to all doesn’t have to mean sacrificing the quality of your content or the sharpness of your designs. In fact, many of the accessibility guidelines actually mirror our design best practices, meaning you’ll not only open up your content to more people, you’ll probably improve your presentations as well.
There’s more: one hidden benefit of designing accessible presentations is that the process forces you to slow down and think about exactly what is on each slide, if the colors work, if the text is readable, etc.
In other words, the right way to think about your presentation.
Here are a few of the general guidelines you should keep in mind when thinking about accessibility and PowerPoint.
Use the Accessibility Checker
If this is new to you, the first place to start is with PowerPoint’s built-in Accessibility Checker. This incredibly useful tool will automatically check your presentation for any areas that don’t meet basic accessibility standards.
This could include text size, color choices, labeling of elements and more. If the tool identifies any problem areas, and offers simple solutions to fix the issues.
Start with accessible templates
The easiest way to ensure accessibility is to start with a template designed for that purpose. While you can use PowerPoint’s built-in slide designs, these have their own problems.
A presentation design partner can help you create custom templates that showcase your brand while also ensuring your presentations meet accessibility standards.
With a template built for your brand, you can be confident that color choices, font sizes, order of elements and other accessibility issues are addressed before your team even starts building presentations.
Don’t get too clever with color
Color can be a powerful tool for conveying information. But when you rely solely on color to make a key point, you risk that certain audience members might miss the point entirely. That’s because not everyone sees colors in the same way, if they see them at all.
This could mean that links that change color are no longer visible after being clicked, or that text over a similar color is simply unreadable.
An easy fix is to turn to more than one method for conveying meaning. Font size, emphasis, and position on the slide are just a few of the alternate ways you can highlight your content without relying solely on color.
Simplify (or remove) motion
The more complex an animation is, the harder it can be for some users to read, or it can simply distract from the content. And for many users who rely on screen readers, motion graphics can cause the content to be read out of order, making it difficult to get the correct information from a slide.
In almost all cases, slide transitions and animations are a useful (but non-essential) tool. So when designing for accessibility, the best practice is to minimize or simply remove any transitions or animations that you can.
Write better headlines
Often, people will reuse the same headline for multiple slides: for example, they might include three slides in a row titled “Product Features.” Don’t do this.
The reason is that reusing headlines in this way violates both accessibility and information design best practices.
But your presentation will be better for everyone in your audience if you just write better slide headlines from the start. When you write to tell a story, it becomes easier for the audience to remember the things you are presenting.
Accessible design is good design. This isn’t an alternate way to design for some people, it’s an approach to better design for all.
And it starts with three words: consider your audience.
For more information, read this article: Make your PowerPoint presentations accessible to people with disabilities.