Presenting Inclusive and Accessible webinars- Part 1

A few days back, I happened to learn about Inclusive and Accessible events from a random tweet (all who wander is not lost :D).

Thanks to the community and some great online resources from Microsoft, I was encouraged to make my next webinar for the Global AI tour accessible and inclusive. My content was near complete, and I anticipated only minor changes related to accessibility. Infact I expected to be done in a few minutes. The next 3 hours was a revelation.

Getting Started: Accessibility Checker

As my content was mostly done, I started with inspecting the results of the Accessibility checker. The Accessibility checker is a tool that can be accessed from the Review pane within PowerPoint.

Accessibility checker results in PowerPoint

As I clicked the option to Check Accessibility and took a look at the Accessibility pane, I had a myriad of emotions. Shocked (to learn about the quality of my presentation). Sad (this is going to take way more than just a couple of minutes). Embarrassed (so many errors!). Grateful (for the discovery). Determined (I’m not backing out). Here’s what I fixed and how.

Add Missing Alt Text

Alternative text helps people who can’t see the screen to understand what’s important in images and other visuals. Accessibility checker flags errors for any visuals with missing Alt Text. This includes shapes, graphics, pictures etc. As you review this list, you have the option to mark any element as Decorative or add an Alt Text.

Mark elements as Decorative

As I added Alt Text, I was tempted to say “picture of” but the best practices for Alt Text suggest against referring to images, such as, “a graphic of” or “an image of. Also, I noticed an option to “Generate a description for me”, the results of which were not very disappointing. Though, in most cases, I chose to add on to the suggestions and provide additional details for my audience, this was a really cool and helpful feature.

Adding Alt Text for images

Add Missing Slide Titles

I learnt that people who are blind, have low vision, or a reading disability rely on slide titles to navigate. Accessibility checker helps find slides with a missing slide. The errors pointed me to ensure that each slide had a unique title.

Check Reading Order

Screen reader typically reads the elements of a slide in the order they were added to the slide, which may or may not be as you intended. Accessibility Checker flags slides with possible reading order issues.

Check Reading order of elements in a Slide
Check/uncheck any elements to be read. Move up/ down in Reading order.

Color Contrast and Font size

Additionally, I also revisited the font family used in the presentation to make it Sans Serif (Arial Black and Arial Body). Also verified that the font size was at a minimum of 18pt.

Luckily, I chose a monochrome theme for this presentation deck- most content was in black and white. There was less work in ensuring the color contrast on slides. Nonetheless, I wanted to double check, Windows Control Panel > Ease of Access high contrast settings helps verify.

High Contrast settings in Windows
Testing the presentation deck for readability in high contrast mode

Intelligent Services

The last leg was verifying all the PowerPoint suggested Alt Text. AI infused applications like Microsoft Word provide Intelligent Services to Auto generate image captions. But you also have the option to verify the suggested Alt Text and make edits.

Verify the auto generated text by Intelligent Services
Autogenerated Text by the Service suggests “A boat on the water”
Edited auto generated Alt Text to provide better context to audience

The Final Result

Finally! Cleared all the errors and warnings in the Accessibility pane.

I didn’t use tables or videos in this deck but there are guidelines for the same (References). I also learnt that it’s advised to use full links in the slide instead of hiding them behind display text like “Click here”. This should people better scan links in a screen reader.

Zero Errors (Yay!)

Conclusion

PowerPoint provides us a visual canvas to support our storytelling. The more people our story can reach, the better. Accessibility is not an accident. Accessibility is intentional. The next time I build a slide from scratch, I would be careful to use a built-in design. Built-in PPT templates ensure that the reading order is also maintained. Also, keeping the accessibility checker running will help investigate and tackle any issues on the fly.

The tech world has hailed the rise of virtual events in the past year as a highly effective way to promote accessibility. People unable to attend in-person now has the chance to connect, learn, and share their experiences, regardless of their background or need. But with a few great tools and techniques, we are a few steps away from making our webinars truly accessible and inclusive. That said, technology can only go as far as we would want it to take us. As creators, let us CHOOSE to create accessible content. Choose to build a safer world.

P.S: This is Part 1 of the blogpost that covers the creation of accessible content. In the next part, I will share the considerations I made for the delivery/ presentation of this content. The story continues.. 🙂

References:

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/office/make-your-powerpoint-presentations-accessible-to-people-with-disabilities-6f7772b2-2f33-4bd2-8ca7-dae3b2b3ef25

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