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Digital Accessibility-PowerPoint

Most presentations given at University are based around a PowerPoint presentation. 

1. Access prior to a lecture 

This does not require any adjustments at all to the PowerPoint presentation - just to make it available on UniLearn a week before the lecture. This means that students can access it and look up any difficult words or ideas, in order to prepare themselves for the lecture. In order for students to be able to download the PowerPoint before a lecture, it is essential that they can locate it easily. Think carefully about your structure in BrightSpace. There are two logical solutions: 

a) you have a folder for all your PowerPoints and they are in there in Week order, using the date of the presentation in the file name
(eg Week 7_26Nov18_Poverty and children) 

b) you have a folder for each week with all the materials for that week and the PowerPoint is located in that folder, also with a filename that states clearly what it is. 

Imagine that you had to listen to the filename rather than read it - does it make sense to you?  

2. Presentation colours 

PowerPoint is primarily a visual piece of software. This makes our choices of colours very important for our users. PowerPoint has its own selection of specially chosen accessible backgrounds. Watch this video on colour choices before reading the guidance below. 

  • Do not use white as a background colour (sorry it is here, but the web software won't allow me to change it!). To change the background colour in a your PowerPoint presentation, go to Design. You can choose a design from the main selection, but you can also 'format background', so you can change the main background colour. Choose cream or a pastel colour to make the PowerPoint presentations more readable. 

  • Use good contrasts. This means avoiding colours where people may have colour-blindness issues (blue/yellow or red/green) and using dark colours on a light background and light colours on a dark background 

  • Try the WebAIM Color Contrast Check to experiment with colours. Click on the block of colour for the foreground and the background and then look for four 'passes' - this will tell you that you have made a good choice. 

  • Do not rely on colour alone to convey a message. For example, do not ask someone to 'Look at the examples in red'. It is estimated that 1 in 8 people may have colour impairment, so it is better to find other ways to communicate. 

3. Outline View & Reading Order 

You may never have heard of Outline View, but it is something that some users rely on to access their PowerPoint presentations. If you can check that all your presentation shows in Outline View, then you have made your PowerPoint accessible. 

The easiest way to explain this is in a video. Making accessible PowerPoint presentations (5mins) 

Reading order: As a slide can be made up of several different elements, it is important to add them in an appropriate way, so that there is a logical reading order. Watch the video on slide reading order to understand how this works and how you can change it. 

The most important thing is: when you add a New Slide, use PowerPoint templates - do NOT use text boxes. You can then check your PowerPoint by going to View>Outline to see all the text from your slides; if you don't see your text there, nor does a student who is using a screenreader. 

4. Amount of text on a screen 

A PowerPoint presentation is a prompt, not an exercise in reading from the screen. The amount of content on a screen should be kept to a minimum and should be used to prompt the speaker. If the students need more detail to read, this can be given in an accompanying document (electronic, not a handout in class). 

  • Can you see your PowerPoint writing from the back of the lecture theatre/room where you present? 
  • Present one idea per slide 
  • Use images - but be ready to describe and explain the image for anyone who can't see or interpret it 

Look at the following PowerPoint slides. The first one has a lot more information, but in a lecture, would the student be able to read and listen to the lecturer? The second image (on a pale background) keeps the points brief, but a tutor could point to these and then expand on them. 

5. Font size and style 

The style of font and size that you use can make a big difference to how legible your PowerPoint is. Users cannot change it in a lecture, which is another reason why some may want to download it first, so that they can adjust the font, colours and size to their needs on their laptop or tablet. 

  • Use a 'sans-serif' font, such as Calibri, Arial, Helvetica or Comic Sans  
  • Use a size which is visible at the back of the lecture theatre, hall or classroom 

6. Images, charts and diagrams 

(Video on improving images, charts and diagrams

We have all heard the phrase that a picture tells a thousand words, but some people cannot see the picture and would not understand what it is illustrating. The same applies to charts and diagrams, so it is really important that we enhance pictures, charts and diagrams with text. This can be done in two ways: 

6a) Adding ALT Text - this is text that is read out for anyone using a screenreader. It does not need to be detailed: 

  • An image: eg Map of Africa, highlighting location of Uganda in central area
  • A chart: Growth of female employment in Westernized countries over the last centure
  • A diagram: Mayer's theory of multimedia showing different inputs and the way information is processed in the brain 

6b) Adding some description after the image, chart or diagram, explaining what it shows - this is text that can be much more detailed and descriptive. Even when a user can see these visual cues, it is a great enhancement for many users. Learning to understand charts and diagrams is a skill in itself and having some explanation of them in words can help a user to understand what they are seeing. 

7. Tables 

Tables are often a great way to present data or information, but they can be completely inaccessible, unless they are presented properly. In PowerPoint, it can be very difficult for an audience to see the detail of a table. If you have to use them in a presentation, consider the following: 

Video on using tables - this highlights the need for ALT text to explain what the table is for, and how you can designate the top row as a header row. This will help the user to understand the contents of the table. 

Video showing how a screen-reader reads a table - this is an example taken from the Internet, but the principle is the same. Once you see what it sounds like for a user, you will think twice about merging cells and writing 'Weeks 1-3'. 

8. Spell check and proof-reading 

This is common sense really. You want to convey yourself, your department and your University as a professional institution and you want your students to produce accurate, well-presented work themselves. So, it is essential that you set the example in the work that you produce. The Review tab in Word has a Spell-checker on the left-hand side. Work should not be published or shared without having a spell-check. But even with a spell check, there are still errors that can slip through the net. Read this article on words that may be correct on spell check but which completely change the meaning of your article. The only way to avoid this is by proof-reading. 

Proof-reading: Your best option here is a really picky colleague. You know -the one who has the mug that says 'I am silently correcting your grammar'. They are your greatest asset in producing a good-quality piece of work. But, what happens if they are too busy or away and you need to publish? The University has a piece of software called 'Read&Write' which will read your work out loud to you. It is often easier to hear rather than see our mistakes. Watch this proofreading video, by Sean Douglas, who explains how he makes proof-reading with Read&Write even easier to use. 

9. Accessibility check 

You probably don't know this exists, but it is probably the most important button to press before publishing your PowerPoint presentation. If you have followed all the steps above, it shouldn't find anything as an accessibility issue. But, if you have forgotten anything, it will highlight it before you release your PowerPoint to your students. This accessibility check video shows you how to run an accessibility check in Word and if there are any issues, they will show in a column on the right of the screen, with information about how to solve them. This is your 'safety-belt' for knowing that you have created a 'born-accessible' presentation . 

10. General advice: This video shows much of what has been said above, but with a particular emphasis on dyslexic students. It is a useful summary. Design slides for dyslexic people