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  • Writer's pictureKathryn Laster

Crafting Inclusive Presentations: Quick Tips for Design and Delivery

Crafting Inclusive Presentations: Quick Tips for Design and Delivery

Some of the most valuable feedback I've ever received on my presentations came during one of our first “emergency remote webinars” during that tumultuous year we shall not name. During our webinars, our organization's Instructional Designers served as co-hosts, and one of my teammates pointed out that the text color on my slides was not accessible. I wasn't aware of color contrast issues at the time, but she quickly showed me how to address the problem. Since then, I've been paying it forward by gently offering this feedback to others.

In 2022, during one of my workshops, I reiterated the importance of color contrast and shared a digital tool for checking it. A participant expressed gratitude and said, “Thank you so much for highlighting color contrast! My husband and child have vision impairments, and you're the first person I've heard mention the importance of text and background color.”

I've also embraced the UDL (Universal Design for Learning) Guideline of Representation. While participants may not have a diagnosed vision impairment, factors like watching my webinar on a tiny screen in a bright room highlight the importance of contrasting text colors for readability on slides.

Recognizing that good design takes time, I've made it a priority to ensure that my work is accessible and inclusive. The ideas I'm sharing today are relatively quick to implement and have become integral to my presentation practice. As my Instructional Designer friends often say, “Design with accessibility in mind.” I've learned firsthand that considering these aspects during the design phase is more effective than retrofitting digital resources later. These tips encompass both designing inclusive presentations and delivering them.

Design with accessibility and inclusivity in mind

Designing Inclusive Presentations

Color Contrast

My valuable lesson, as described above, revolves around ensuring that the text color and background color of your digital resources offer sufficient contrast for easy readability. While font size also plays a role, my focus here is solely on the colors used in presentations.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) outline a scale from A to AAA, with AA being legally acceptable. According to the AA guidelines, a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 for normal text and 3:1 for large text is required. Numerous digital tools are available to swiftly check ratios and propose solutions. Moreover, once you begin assessing color contrasts, you'll develop an eye for identifying inaccessible colors.

To check color contrasts, locate hex color codes, which represent colors using a six-character format preceded by a #. Hex codes ensure color consistency across digital platforms and are commonly utilized in web design and graphics programs. Understanding hex codes simplifies design work and upholds brand consistency, especially as organizations often specify colors for their brand's logo.

To utilize a color contrast checker, simply copy the hex code of your text and then the hex code of your background color and submit. If the colors are inaccessible, the checkers offer new codes that are accessible or provide color "sliders" for testing additional combinations.

My preferred color checker is Accessible Colors. Additionally, I recently discovered, which illustrates how different colors appear to individuals with various vision impairments.

Checking color contrasts. 3 rectangles with background colors. Box 1: Not accessible with white text and background with hex color of #51ACB8 and 32 pt bold font; box 2: Accessible with white text and background of #228895 and 18 pt bold font; box 3: accessible with black text and background color #51ACB8 and 12 pt regular font

⚠️ Warning: Many of the free templates available on popular sites do not use accessible colors, so I always check the color contrasts.

🌟Action step: if you’re currently working on a presentation, a graphic, or other digital resource, take a couple of minutes to use an accessibility tool to check the color contrast of your text and background colors. 

Inclusive Images

In designing inclusive presentations, I prioritize selecting graphics that accurately represent the diversity of my audience. When sourcing images, I carefully consider my audience members and refine my search terms to ensure inclusivity. I reflect on who might be missing or excluded, whether the portrayal aligns with how individuals want to be represented, and if any stereotypes are perpetuated.

Two go-to (free) sites for finding diverse images are Storyset and All4ED EDUimages:

  • Storyset offers illustrations featuring people with disabilities, and allows you to adjust the skin tones of the characters in the graphics.

  • All4ED's collection of photographs, titled "Real Students, Real Teachers, Real Schools," showcases a diverse range of students and teachers utilizing technology and other innovative instructional approaches.

🌟 Action Step: As you design your next presentation, take a few minutes to explore Storyset and All4ED EDUimages (or other sites) for diverse images that accurately represent your audience. Consider how these images can enhance the inclusivity of your presentation and make adjustments as needed.

How are your learners represented? An illustration from Storyset shows 3 people, one in a wheelchair, and all have different skin tones; a photo from EDUImages from All4ED shows a Black teacher and 3 students working on devices.

Delivering Inclusive Presentations

Enhancing Audio Accessibility

In my previous role, I worked with a hearing-impaired participant who taught me valuable lessons about inclusivity during workshops and sessions with ASL interpreters.

One important and easy-to-implement practice is always to enable captions when showing videos during a session. If a video lacks subtitles, I make sure to find an alternative. This strategy aligns with the UDL Guidelines and benefits not only those who are hearing impaired but also individuals with temporary hearing difficulties or who are seated in noisy environments.

Additionally, I've learned to always say YES to using a microphone when asked. While I personally may not prefer using a microphone, I recognize its importance as a tool for facilitating more inclusive presentations. Microphones benefit not only individuals with hearing impairments but also those seated at the back of the room or in noisy areas.

Another lesson learned is the significance of audio accessibility. During our first emergency remote webinar, someone immediately inquired about captions. Fortunately, we were familiar with the captioning feature in Google Slides, and it soon became a standard practice for our webinars. With the availability of more tools for automatic transcription and captions, it's essential to stay informed about these features and be prepared to enable them when needed.

Can you hear me now? Use video captions and use a microphone

 🌟 Action Step: In your next presentation, make it a point to show captions on any videos shared to ensure accessibility for all participants.

BONUS: Enhance Accessibility with Alt Text

One final lesson I've learned is the significance of incorporating alternative (alt) text on images. Alt text is descriptive text that conveys the content or purpose of an image, crucial for individuals with visual impairments who rely on screen readers. My Instructional Designer friends introduced me to this vital practice, emphasizing its role in ensuring inclusivity in my work.

During an online conference, a session participant who is vision impaired messaged me to express gratitude for including alt text on all images in a digital document shared during the event. This feedback underscored the impact of alt text in making content accessible to all individuals.

Today, my aim is to ensure that all my social media posts include alt text. On platforms like Twitter and others, there is a dedicated space to add alt text when uploading an image. This description is then read by screen readers, providing users with a concise yet comprehensive understanding of the image's content.

Including alt text is essential because while details such as time and location may be present in the image, they may not be mentioned in the post itself. For individuals using screen readers, alt text ensures they have access to all pertinent details, fostering a more inclusive online experience.

🌟 Action Step: Ensure all your social media posts include alt text for images to enhance accessibility for all users.

My journey in designing inclusive presentations has been greatly enriched by the invaluable contributions of diverse session participants. Their insights and experiences have not only helped me refine my presentation practices but have also inspired me to design with inclusivity at the forefront of my work. Through their feedback and perspectives, I have learned the importance of considering accessibility in all aspects of presentation design and delivery, from color contrast to alt text and beyond. Moving forward, I am committed to continuing this journey of learning and growth, ensuring that my presentations are accessible and inclusive for all. Together, we can create learning environments that empower and support every individual, regardless of their background or abilities.

Additional Resources:


Kathryn Laster brings 34 years of education expertise as a math teacher, instructional coach, and digital learning consultant. Now, as an independent consultant, Kathryn designs technology-infused professional learning experiences and facilitates learning communities that foster collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and continuous growth. Kathryn is a member of the Learning Forward Academy Class of '25, an ISTE Certified Educator, and a Google Certified Trainer. Hear her learning journeys and inspirations on her first podcast, Digital Learning Radio, explore Kathryn's insights at Refined Learning Design, and connect with her on Twitter @kklaster.

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