Virtual Presentation Accessibility Guidelines

What are these guidelines, and why are they important?

Thank you for taking the time to review the Virtual Presentation Accessibility Guidelines!

Creating accessible and inclusive spaces includes multiple layers. This may require the time and effort necessary in learning any new skill—in this case, learning accessible presentation practices. We encourage all virtual presenters to review the information below at your own pace.

These guidelines have been divided into questions that you may have, which are then answered with specific instructions you may follow while creating and preparing for your presentation. Feel free to jump from question to question using the interactive table of contents below. We have also developed additional resource pages with further details about how to create accessible PowerPointsWord documents, and PDFs.

AAA appreciates your partnership and support as we cultivate a cultural change to ensure that all virtual attendees, with and without disabilities, may fully participate in our virtual content!


To create an accessible and inclusive virtual space, all presenters are expected to follow accessibility guidelines. The Virtual Presentation Accessibility Guidelines was altered from the Presentation Guidelines for Success & Accessibility, which resulted from conversations with the Society of Medical Anthropology’s (SMA’s) Disability Research Interest Group (DRIG). AAA is grateful to DRIG for the initial creation and dissemination of these presentation guidelines.

Individual capacities for vision, hearing, and sustained interaction in online spaces vary between people, and change for each of us from hour to hour and over the course of our lives. Accessible spaces support that Disabled, Deaf, Autistic, Neurodivergent, Chronically Ill, Mentally Ill, Aging, and other disability-adjacent community members can participate in virtual spaces without necessitating an individual to disclose their status, condition, or identity. Additionally, maximizing the accessibility of our presentations further develops and exposes our professional work. It helps our work reach a wider academic audience, which furthers the core goals of scholarly exchange.

These guidelines provide presenters:

  1. A link to a page with terms necessary to discuss accessibility,
  2. Instructions for how to create accessible presentations,
  3. An explanation for why accessible presentations are important
  4. Additional resources for readers interested in learning more about accessible practices.

Common Terms Used

These presentation guidelines use many terms related to accessibility, accommodations, and the associated communities, which can be found on our Common Accessibility Terms page. Some answers to the questions below will include links to specific words on that page to help you navigate and understand the content on this page. If you have suggestions for any edits or additions, please reach out to us by using the AAA contact form and selecting “Accessibility”.

Creating Accessible Presentations

1. What access information should I include during the introduction of a virtual event?

  1. A reminder that visual descriptions will be provided
  2. Where to find closed captioning
  3. Where to find Chat and/or Q&A functions and how to use them
  4. Whether an ASL interpreter is present
  5. Whether a break will be provided during the event
    • Note: This may be as brief as two minutes!
  6. Dependent on event’s circumstances:
    1. Request audience members to turn off videos and microphones unless speaking or in breakouts
    2. Note how audience members may request to share questions and comments vocally (i.e., use the digital hand raise, comment in the chat “vocal question/comment”, etc.)
    3. A link and/or QR code to digital access copies – How do I create digital access copies?
    4. Where recordings and additional resources may be found following the event

Why is this important?

  1. Providing access information during the introduction establishes standards and expectations for all attendees as well as provides instructions for anyone who may need support to engage in the event.
  2. Audience members turning off videos and microphones minimizes access barriers presented by increased visual and audio noise.

2. How do I provide an accessible introduction?

When introducing yourself for your event, please share the following information about yourself and your presentation aloud with audience members, and feel welcome to include this information on a slide:

  1. Your name
  2. Your pronouns (as comfortable)
  3. Your visual description
    • Include race and/or skin-tone (detail and depth dependent on you), gender (i.e. woman, man, person, etc.), hair color/length/style (detail dependent on you), clothing (detail dependent on you), and background (detail dependent on you)
  4. Content warnings for sensitive material, including images and discussion
    • Examples: Violence (individual, institutional, systemic), sexual content, human remains (including teeth), drug and alcohol content, oppressive language, bodily trauma, self-harm, food and eating habits, blood and other bodily fluids, environmental disasters
  5. If applicable…
    • Your position and institution
    • The title of your presentation
    • A reminder of where to find digital access copies

Why is this important?

  1. Thorough introductions ensure your audience members know who is present, what topics are being discussed, and if they are in the right event.
  2. Visual descriptions ensure that people who may not physically be able to see the presenters have a chance to get a sense of who is present; they also support individuals who process information through auditory means instead of sight.

3. How do I support successful CART captioning and ASL interpreting?

The majority of AAA virtual events will include CART captioning provided by real-time captioners; some events may utilize automated captioning based on the chosen platform for the event.
AAA will notify you ahead of time if your event will be interpreted into ASL. An ASL interpreter may be automatically provided by AAA or be requested by a potential audience member as an accommodation.

Check out our brief video on supporting auditory accessibility!

  1. Prepare your presentation documents (PowerPoints, script, handouts, etc.) in advance.
    • Create a list of key technical words, acronyms, proper nouns, and names, as well as key words or phrases in spoken languages other than English.
      • If you plan to speak to the audience in another language in addition to English, list the language you will use and the translation of what you will say.
  2. Share your presentation documents and materials using the instructions provided for your virtual event. Sharing these materials may take place via email or via upload to a virtual platform.
  3. Avoid making changes between the creation of your documents and the presentation. If changes are absolutely necessary, provide those updates via an email or upload, based on your event.
  4. During your presentation, pause periodically to allow the CART captioner and, when applicable, ASL interpreter, to catch up, especially following names, place names, or jargon and words from other languages.
    1. It is better to say, “I’m just going to pause to allow the captioner and interpreter to catch up,” and wait for 10 seconds than to forge ahead, leaving captioners and interpreters to decide on the fly if they should skip sections of your talk.
    2. Specifically, for the most part, captioning keeps up with the pace of normal speech (but not speed reading!).

Why is this important?

  1. Providing your presentation documents and a list of important terminology ensures that captioners and interpreters can easily prepare to smoothly interpret your presentation.
  1. Captioners pre-program words that are not in the standard dictionary embedded in their software.
  2. CART ensures that audience members who may be D/deaf, hard-of-hearing, or do not process auditory information have equitable access to the same knowledge as hearing people.
  1. ASL has its own grammatical structure and nuances, which differ from spoken English. It may take more or less time to express an idea in ASL.
  2. When interpreting academic English, interpreters often spell out proper nouns or jargon terms letter-by-letter, which takes longer than speaking. The list you provide will help them spell names, technical language, and words from other languages.
  3. The presence of ASL interpreters ensures that Deaf people and other ASL users have equitable access to the same knowledge as hearing people.

4. What do I do if I am using PowerPoint (or Google Slides)?

We encourage you to review our more detailed page on How to Create and Confirm an Accessible PowerPoint – Accessible PowerPoint Tips in addition to the highlights below. We also welcome you to review WebAim’s PowerPoint Accessibility Page.

  1. Use high contrast text against solid backgrounds.
    1. Example 1: White text on a dark background.
    2. Example 2: Black text on a light background.
  2. Use a sans-serif font, such as Arial, Calibri, Verdana, Helvetica, etc.
  3. Use 18+ point fonts at a minimum.
  4. Use five bullet points at most per slide.
  5. Keep each bullet point to one line.
  6. Read all text directly as presented on the slides before explaining more information about the slide.
  7. Describe all visual representations, such as:
    1. Images
    2. Graphs
    3. Maps
    4. Charts
    5. Videos
    6. When describing visual material, consider including:
      1. Content
      2. Aesthetics and style
      3. Connection to talk
    7. Compose visual descriptions ahead of time.
      1. If you read from a written script, incorporate visual descriptions into the text to avoid getting distracted or losing your place, and to accurately estimate the time it takes to describe the visual information as part of your presentation.
      2. For more information about visual descriptions, please review the Guidelines for Creating Image Descriptions.
  8. Complete a “Check Accessibility” run on your PowerPoint. Checking accessibility will review…
    1. Contrast levels
    2. Slide reading order
    3. Alt text
    4. Table readability

A note about presentation programs that are not PowerPoint or Google Slides:

  • If you choose an alternative program, make sure that the presentation can be downloaded in a .ppt version. Presentation programs that do not provide this option may be inaccessible to people using screen readers. In general, it is better to use a popular program like PowerPoint instead of running the risk of an inaccessible presentation.
    • Example: While engaging, Prezi is inaccessible.

Why is this important?

  1. Creating accessible slides will ensure that more audience members can connect with the material you are presenting.
  2. High contrast presentations will make sure that information will not be lost due to illegible designs.
  3. Large font presentations will make sure text is easily legible, regardless of an audience member’s choice of digital voice.
  4. Less text will make sure that the content available will be understandable as the audience members skim the presentation.
  5. Reading your slides directly and providing visual descriptions will make that people who may not physically be able to see the slides have a chance to engage with the visuals you share.
  6. When using presentation programs other than PowerPoint, audience members using screen readers will not be able to engage with digital access copies provided of your presentation.

Inaccessible presentations mean that audience members who need additional ways to engage with your material will be unable to do so.

5. How do I create a “list of terminology”?

  1. Review your entire presentation.
  2. Identify the following:
    1. Key technical words
    2. Acronyms
    3. Proper Nouns
    4. Names
    5. Key words and phrases in spoken languages other than English
    6. Languages besides English used during presentation
  3. Create a document listing each of these terms.
  4. Provide this list of terms to AAA using the instructions provided for your virtual event, whether via email or upload.

Why is this important?

  1. A list of terminology supports ASL interpreters and CART captioners who may be interpreting and captioning your session for audience members. This list ensures that captioners and interpreters have the correct spellings and meanings of words, whether for finger spelling or sign determination, or for typing text, as well provide information about any languages that will be incorporated into your presentation.
  2. Following the template provided also provides an easy-to-follow breakdown of your presentation for audience members in general, who may benefit from having visuals of the terms you are using or who may not be as familiar with your content, though still interested in the subject.

6. How do I confirm the accessibility of the Word document or PDF file I am providing?

  1. To develop an accessible Word document, review our more detailed page on How to Create and Confirm an Accessible Word Document – Accessible Word Tips.
  2. To develop an accessible PDF, review our more detailed page on How to Create and Confirm an Accessible PDF Document – Accessible PDF Tips

7. What do I do if I am presenting a video?

  1. Make sure that open or closed captions are automatically available in the video.
  2. Take the time to review the captions for accuracy.
    • Note: YouTube captions are notoriously inaccurate and can be distracting because of the errors as well as the incorrect grammar.
  3. If there are no captions, find and provide a transcript of the video.
  4. If there is no transcript, create one.
  5. If this is not an option, find a video with captions.
  6. Use a video that provides Audio Description.
  7. If there is no Audio Description, take the time to review major changes between scenes and practice describing those scenes either as or before the video plays.
    • Example: A person is sitting at a desk. [Pause.] The person is now walking outside on a pathway in a park. [Pause.] Another person is sitting at a desk.

Why is this important?

  1. Using videos with captions ensure that all audience members, including D/deaf, hard-of-hearing, and those with auditory processing disorders, can engage with the content shared through the video.
  2. It is not the job of CART captioners and ASL interpreters to provide captioning or interpreting for videos.
  3. Using videos with audio descriptions or providing an audio description yourself ensures that all audience members, including blind, low-vision, colorblind, and those with visual processing disorders, can engage with the content shared through the video.

8. How do I caption or transcribe my own video or audio recording?

Transcripts should be provided for all video and audio recordings. Captions, whether open or closed, should also be embedded into your videos. There are many options to caption or transcribe your video or audio recording. When developing captions and transcriptions, make sure to name the speaker when there is a change in speaker (i.e. ED: Good morning, everyone! NATE: We are glad you have joined us today!)

a. Use YouTube

YouTube is a free platform that will allow you to privately or publicly share your video while work