The SoTL Advocate

Supporting efforts to make public the reflection and study of teaching and learning at Illinois State University and beyond…

Creating Visually Accessible Presentations

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Written by Jennifer Friberg, Cross Endowed Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning and Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders at Illinois State University (contact email:

It’s fairly well acknowledged that for SoTL to be SoTL, is needs to be shared in some form or fashion…and I use the term “shared” here with a broad vision (e.g, writing a blog, publication in a peer-reviewed outlet, conference presentation, completion of a creative endeavor, etc). That said, it’s not whether SoTL is shared that is the topic of today’s blog, rather, it’s HOW it is shared.

I have spent 20+ years as a speech-language pathologist, seeking to make various forms of communication accessible and valued for the clients I served. I’ve brought some of this disciplinary perspective to my work as a scholar who presents at conferences fairly regularly. For instance, I am very cognizant of the need for speaker voices to be amplified for folks to hear and process content effectively. I am sensitive to cultural differences in how language is used, and I know well that perspective and world experience influence how any message is comprehended. But there is more to access than this. Flash forward to ISSOTL last month in Atlanta, Georgia.

It was almost uncanny that four different conversations with four very different people at ISSOTL touched on — in some way — a need to think carefully about visual accessibility when planning conference presentations. As someone who likes graphics and color in my power point slides (when I use them!), I hadn’t before considered much other than having good contrast and easy (to me) ability to view slide content. I hadn’t considered how color choices might impact those with varied forms of colorblindness, low-vision, or other visual impairments. In reflecting on these conference conversations, it became clear that I needed to be more aware. It’s a case of “you don’t know what you don’t know…but when you know it, you have to make change.” With this in mind, I offer today’s blog with humility and a sense of purpose to improve my own efforts in the future. This blog is not expert testimony, but rather a way to share resources that have emerged from my dive into this topic since returning home.

  • Designing PowerPoint slides for Color Blindness: There are many different resources online for designing slides that individuals with various forms of colorblindness can most easily access. Of the many that I looked at, Robin Collinge’s blog post titled “How to Design for Colorblindness” was one of my favorites, sharing tips for ALL design, not just presentation slides. The blog post features several easy to implement ideas for good design AND provides a list of color combinations to avoid in order to increase the visual accessibility of your materials.
  • Microsoft Power Point offers something called an “accessibility checker,” which looks over presentation slides and suggests edits for visual accessibility (click link for usage instructions). I ran a recent PowerPoint of my own through the checker and found the feedback provided to be fascinating (image below for an example). Primarily, it was suggested that I use speaker notes and other text boxes to think about providing alternative text to explain graphics and other visual content (these annotations can be shared with those requesting them ahead of or after a presentation). Instructions for how to make my slides more accessible were provided in easy-to-follow format. Google has similar tools, to support its platform, as well.

  • This Microsoft Office reference lists in table form the types of behaviors most accessibility checkers attempt to identify, with a clear description and fix for each. It’s a good and informative read.
  • California’s Department of Rehabilitation’s division of Disability Access Services has an excellent publication called “Seven Steps to Creating an Accessible PowerPoint Slideshow” which provides a bounty of great ideas to increase the accessibility of your work.

Again, I am nowhere near being an expert on the topic of visual accessibility. Many of you may have other, better resources that might be of help to others exploring this topic…if that’s the case, I’d love for you to share them below in the comments section below.

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