Co-Creating a Culture of Access: A Primer

Accessibility is never quite finished-- it’s an ongoing project that is most powerful when a community cultivates it collectively and actively. In this section, we offer advice about practices that everyone can adopt to co-create access at our conference.

Many thanks to the National CCCC for permission to borrow and adapt their guidelines. Please check back as we plan to update this part of the site with more specific information as the conference gets closer.

For additional information on making presentations accessible please see: Web Accessibility Initiative - Presentations.

If you require ASL Interpretation...

Please email the organizers at Please note that we will need at least three weeks advance notice to arrange ASL interpretation.

Captioning will be provided for all sessions.

Creating Accessible Presentation Slides and Planning for Access

There are many strategies to consider when we think about accessibility for the conference sessions we are facilitating and participating in. Below are a few to consider as you begin to draft your presentation slides and materials.

Building Accessible Presentation Slides: General Strategies

  • Prepare and provide copies of your presentation, slides, and any session materials. Upload these materials so that attendees have access to them.
  • Share the link to your presentation on the first slide so attendees can access the presentation on their devices.
  • Use a large font size (22 point minimum).
  • Use a sans serif font style such as Arial or Helvetica; avoid the use of Times New Roman, Georgia, or Garamond.
  • Avoid relying on color alone to convey information.
  • Use capitalization and lower-case in titles and text.
  • Use a minimum of 5:1 contrast (black and white is a 21:1, for reference).
  • Use unique titles for individual slides to make it easier to reference particular slides.
  • Include alt-text for all images. Alt-text, or alternative text, is a brief description of the image meant to convey the meaning of the image for screen reader users. Alt-text is embedded in the image file itself.
    • Here’s a resource for including alt-text through the edit function in Microsoft. (Helpful for PowerPoint users!)
    • Here’s a resource for including alt-text in Google suite tools, including Google Slides.
  • Develop and use accurate captioning on videos, or include a transcript on the same slide.
    • Uploading a video to YouTube makes it possible to use YouTube’s captioning editor. Here’s a great how-to video from Rooted in Rights.
  • You may wish to coordinate with your panel to link all materials from one URL.
    • Keep the presentation in its original form when distributing electronically - switching between software (e.g., Powerpoint to PDF) does not guarantee that accessibility features will follow.

Specific Google Slide Strategies

  • Turn on the accessibility settings [Tools > Accessibility Settings > Turn On].
  • Use default layouts instead of manually creating text boxes whenever possible.
  • Use the “reading order” tab to check for accuracy of structural design.

Specific PowerPoint Strategies

  • Use default themes to maintain heading structure layout and reading order. However, check the contrast rating; not all themes use an accessible contrast.
  • Include an individualized title on every slide to make it easier to reference particular slides.
  • Use the Accessibility Checker in PowerPoint to check for accessibility.

Practicing your Presentation

  • Practice integrating image descriptions into your verbal presentation. Image descriptions articulate purely visual information that contributes meaning to your presentation.
    • Make plans to describe the basic layout of a slide, in order to note visual components.
    • Prepare descriptions of any images. (Alt-text embeds an abbreviated image description in the image file; image descriptions incorporate description in the presentation itself.) Image descriptions need not be exhaustive, but should at least articulate the visual elements that produce meaning for your slide and/or point. For a slide reminding people to use a microphone, it might suffice to note, “to the left, there is a clip art image of a microphone.” For a slide about technological anachronism, it might be more appropriate to say, “to the left, there is an iPhone icon in the shape of a 1940s radio microphone. The icon is stylized, a white microphone on a neon green background.”
  • Practice the pacing of your presentation in order to ensure that you can speak at a moderate pace in the time allotted.

Session Materials: Access Copies

  • As noted above, we strongly encourage you to providing electronic access copies of your talk by uploading them to the conference site. Providing access copies increases engagement and comprehension of your materials and make it possible for people to read along.
  • If you wish to limit the circulation of your talk, write “do not circulate or cite” on the copy and inform participants of this as you begin.
  • Even if you are not talking from a script, access copies of your notes or an outline will improve access. In particular, typing up any quotations you will reference is helpful.

If you are concerned about providing something when it’s rough or having the time to create access copies, please see Stephanie Kerschbaum’s wonderful explanation of why and how access copies remove barriers to full participation, from the Composing Access website.

More Resources for Building and Testing Your Presentation

During the Session: Access Checks, Presenting, and Q&A

Conference presentations involve complex social and rhetorical interactions; framing the presentation around access helps all who attend your talk engage with you and your work. Here are some best practices to consider as you deliver your presentation.

Access Invitations/ Access Checks

Inviting participants to access the space of the conference presentation in accordance with their needs encourages participants to co-create access in that space. Often, access invitations take the form of a short announcement at the beginning of a session, like the following:

“We want you to use this space as you need to for your own access. We invite you to engage and participate in the ways that are best for you. We also want to make sure that everyone can engage, so do not hesitate to interrupt and let us know if we need to repeat something or speak less quickly. Is there anything we should adjust before we start?”

This invitation makes it infinitely easier for attendees to break the social norms of academic/professional conference spaces in order to advocate for access needs.

You may consider this a moment to also describe any departures from standard presentations that you have planned, so participants can think through particular access needs that might arise. These “departures” might include movement, small group discussion, or writing activities that you have planned for your presentation.

Renewing the Invitation: Access Checks

Access Checks work with access invitations to open specific feedback loops for setting up access throughout a conference session. Do a quick access check with each transition to a new speaker and/or activity.

As you transition to a new speaker,

  • Ask whether the technology is working.
  • Remind attendees to stay muted.
  • Take some time to announce alternate formats, like a link to electronic copies of materials, and give people time to access the link.
  • Before diving in, do a quick, general access check (“Is there anything we should adjust before I start?”)

Likewise, as you transition into a new activity, give instructions and take a moment to ask if there are any access requests: “Do we need to make any adjustments before we get started?”

  • Example: For group work, CART providers will need to be within earshot of whichever small group CART users want to participate in, so that they can provide captions of what’s going on in that group. If you are doing groups around particular topics and letting participants choose, that may mean stipulating that the group the CART user wants to participate in will meet near the CART provider. We first want to acknowledge the privilege related to being able to choose your presentation environment. While not everyone can do this, we encourage those able to do so to consider how staging can enhance the accessibility of your presentation.

Best Practices for Presenting

Presenting: Environmental Considerations

  • Consider the space from which you will be speaking, particularly if you are sharing your camera. Good lighting is important in helping the attendees see your face, which will allow participants to recognize facial cues and read lips.
  • You should create some contrast between your background and yourself by adjusting one or the other. Your background should not interfere with your presence. For example, make sure that the leaves of plants or other protruding objects don’t obscure any part of you.
  • If you are not sharing your camera, consider uploading and image of yourself.
  • Speak from a space with limited background noise. Using a headset can help with this because even if there is noise it will not transmit through the presentation.
  • Use a microphone to enhance the quality of your voice, which will help the attendees, as well as closed-captioning software or interpreters, better understand what you are saying.

Presenting: Moving through your Slides

  • Using a headset with a built-in microphone will make it easier for others to hear what you are saying and to create captions. A headset also filters out any background noise.
  • Remind participants to stay on mute, which will also make it easier for people to follow you.
  • Face the camera (if sharing one) when speaking, and be aware of whether you’re covering your mouth with your hands.
  • Speak at a reasonable pace so that interpreters and CART can keep up. This may take practice, especially since we often speak more quickly than usual when we are presenting.
  • To facilitate ASL and CART, spell out links to websites and proper nouns verbally when you introduce them (“According to Yergeau, Y-E-R-G-E-A-U,”).

Presenting: Participant Engagement

  • All presentations at the conference are meant to be interactive. While attendees should be expected to stay muted if they are not talking, they will need to know your particular expectations regarding engagement. Make it clear how you would like them to participate, whether by raising a virtual hand, their actual hand, by typing in the chat, by simply unmuting their mics and participating, etc.
  • If attendees are using the chat, check the chat regularly and summarize what is being said or asked these since not all attendees will be able to follow the chat.
  • Do not require attendees to turn on their cameras or microphones. This is a matter of respect.
  • Consider options for engagement in any activities you have planned. Not all attendees will be able to participate in all ways so develop a range of ways of participating.
  • If you ask attendees to participate in an activity or move to breakout rooms give directions for doing so in several ways, such as on the screen, in the chat, and orally.

Q&A: Consider alternate modes of participation

Expand options for participation and give space for reflection

Facilitating question and answer sessions with access in mind can encourage more engagement with your ideas at the end of your presentation and more equitable participation. Let attendees know the various options for asking a question or making a comment. Here are a few practices to consider.

  • Create electronic modes of question asking to give more access to people for whom the usual format of Q&A is not accessible or comfortable. Consider building in practices that offer a non-verbal way to ask questions, including posting questions in the chat or using the “raise hand” feature. Again, let attendees know about the various options.
  • Attendees might also text questions to presenters if presenters are willing to share their contact information.

Make space for reflection and give attendees multiple options for participating--some of the alternate modes listed below may not work well for everyone, so this is not about requiring particular modes for engagement.

Here are a few practices to consider:

  • Invite a moment of writing and reflection at the end of your presentation. Discussion methods that we use as writing teachers can help attendees pause and develop a response. Taking a moment for participants to free-write and/or discuss their reflections on the presentation gives attendees time to process what you have presented.
    • You might say, “We’re going to take some time to let everyone gather their thoughts. During this time, feel free to sit and think a bit, jot down some notes.”
  • Consider using breakout rooms so that attendees can take some time in small groups to review and reflect on the presentation before coming back to the larger group to share responses and questions.