Digital Accessibility

When creating content, there are a few basic steps that should be followed in order to assure your content is accessible. The core steps needed for accessibility are the same regardless of format or medium you are working in.

Essentials for Content Creators

Proper Heading Structure

A uniform heading structure is often the most important accessibility consideration. Sighted users often scroll the page quickly and look for big, bold text (headings) to get an idea of its structure and content. Screen reader and other assistive technology users also have the ability to navigate documents by heading structure, assuming Heading styles (rather than formatting text to look like headings) are used.

Use heading styles to set your heading text. Pages should be structured in a hierarchical manner:

  • Heading 1 is usually a page title or a main content heading. It is the most important heading, and there is generally just one.
  • Heading 2 is usually a major section heading.
  • Heading 3 is usually a sub-section of the Heading 2.
  • Heading 4 is usually a sub-section of the Heading 3, and so on, ending with Heading 6.

DO NOT style paragraph/normal text to look like headings if they are creating a new section. 

Alternative Text for Images (Alt-Text)

Add alternative text (or alt-text) to images. Alternative text is needed to provide a non-visual means of representing the content or function of an image. Alternative text should be:

Accurate and equivalent—present the same content or function as the image
Succinct—no more than a few words are necessary; rarely a short sentence or two may be appropriate
NOT be redundant—do not provide information that is in the surrounding text
NOT use descriptive phrases—screen reading software identifies images, so do not use phrases such as "image of..." or "graphic of..."

If an image is decorative and does not add to the context of the content, then add a blank space (MS Word) or mark the image as decorative (in PDF).

Friendly Links/URLs

Follow these principles to create accessible links:

  • Use descriptive link text that does not rely on context from the surrounding text.
    • Example of descriptive text: "Learn more about LWTech", "Check out the Veterans Center webpage", etc. 
    • Example of non-descriptive text is "click here", "learn more"," go here", "visit this site/page here", etc.
  • Keep the amount of text in the link to a minimum.
  • For print materials, use short URLs (contact Marketing if you need one made)
  • Remove all prefixes such as http://, https://, www.; avoid using the full URL

Using Lists

Lists add important hierarchical structure to a document. Use lists to provide the document structure needed for assistive technology users.

There are two types of lists: ordered and unordered.

  • Ordered or numbered lists are used to present a group of items (words, phrases, sentences) that follow a sequence.
  • Unordered bullet lists are used for a group of items without a sequence.

Accessible Tables

The purpose of tables is to present data information in a grid, or matrix, and to have columns or rows that show the meaning of the information in the grid. Sighted users scan a table to make associations between data in the table and their appropriate row and/or column headers. Screen reader users make these same associations with tables.

You can add properties to documents so that column headers (headers in the first row of the table) are identified by a screen reader. All tables should follow the guidelines for proper data display:

  • Header row with appropriate header text coinciding with each column
  • Table alt-text and table summary
  • No merged cells

Tables should NEVER be used to for content layout (e.g. creating multi-columns such as in PDF forms). Screen reader users cannot make sense of content in these tables. In such instances, either a single column should be used, or a column feature in Word or use CSS for web documents to create grid columns.

Color Contrast

Applicable to digital and print content.

Additional Digital Content Principles

  • Ensure that font size is sufficiently large—generally a minimum of 11 points (12-14 points is recommended) for print, Word, and PDF documents, and 14 px (15-16 px recommended) for web documents. Note the LWTech website paragraph text is 15 px.
  • Do not skip lines to create blank spaces, do not tab across the same line. Instead use the paragraph line space feature in Word, or margin or padding styles in HTML.
  • Use simple/concise language.
  • Be careful with the use of watermarks. They can impact readability and create low contrast.
  • Provide a table of contents for long documents.
  • Use built in accessibility checkers in Word, PowerPoint, Acrobat to check your documents. But DO NOT entirely rely on these, as they are not perfect and will not check all errors.

Accessible Presentations

Checklist for Creating Accessible Presentation Slides

Creating accessible slides and considering accessibility during presentations enables full participation and engagement for all participants, including those with visual, auditory, cognitive, and mobility impairments, as well as learning disabilities, and mental health conditions.

This checklist is applicable to any presentation application, but the step-by-step how-to’s are provided for Microsoft PowerPoint. For more detailed steps refer to SBCTC’s Accessible PowerPoint Resources.

Essential Practices in Creating Presentations

  • Use Slide Layout to format the slides.
  • Use 20-22 pt or larger font size for all text.
    (18 font should be the absolute minimum, including citations.)
  • Strive for 30 words or less per slide.
    • Tip: Use the Notes feature to remind yourself what you want to cover, instead of typing everything on the slide.
  • Use concise wording and/or bulleted points instead of full sentences or paragraphs.
    • If you have a slide that has more than 5 bullets, consider breaking it into 2 different slides.
  • Use simple sans-serif fonts. (Ex: Arial, Calibri, Helvetica)
  • Include a unique Title on every
    • If the title must repeat, then add a “Part 1”, “Part 2”, and so on, to each repeated title.
  • Use high-contrast colors (dark backgrounds with light text, or light backgrounds with dark text)
    • Avoid gradient backgrounds or images as backgrounds if they do not provide enough contrast.
  • Bold text for emphasis. (Without overdoing it.)
  • Add Alternative Text (alt text) to images that are not simply decorative.
    • Mark decorative images where applicable
    • Provide descriptive alt text, not just vague descriptions. For example, if an image is a plot with data, include the data, or at least contextually describe the points you want them to know in the alt text.
    • Avoid the use of “Image of”, “Graphic of”, etc. In alt text.
  • Use descriptive links or short URLs. Good URL examples:
  • Use full words of acronyms in first use. Spell out abbreviations.
  • Check the Order of Slide Elements under Home > Arrange Selection Pane. This assists those that use assistive technology to have items presented in the correct order.
    • Title should be on the bottom, as the elements stack up in order of presentation.
      Example of the Selection pane showing Title correctly at the bottom of the ordering.
  • Run the Accessibility Checker to verify no errors or resolve outstanding errors.
    • However, do not depend only on the checker to ensure the slides are accessible. The checker does not catch everything.

Poor Practices to Avoid

  • Avoid cluttered, busy slides.
  • Avoid use of the Designer feature or other templates. These create unnecessary elements that become burdensome for those that use assistive technology. (See image below as an example of unnecessary elements created by Designer.)
    • Tip: If you want to use Designer, first create a simple and accessible version of the file. Save as accessible version. Next, create a copy of it to add Design features. Share both versions.
      Example of Selection showing many unnecessary objects created when using Designer or other templates. Repeated items titled Google Shape, Google Shape...
  • Avoid images, charts, graphs that are too busy.
  • Avoid transitions or animations that are too busy.
  • Avoid using underlines (except for URLs).
  • Avoid using ALL CAPS in excess. Avoid using italics in excess.
  • Avoid highlighting text with color for emphasis.
  • Avoid embedded videos if they do not have captions.
  • Avoid long URLs that are not easy to read or are not descriptive.
    • Use or another shortcut URL generator if needed.

Download Checklist for Accessible Slide Presentations

Checklist for Delivering Presentations Accessibly

Delivering your presentation in an accessible manner is just as important as creating accessible slides. For example, describing the content of slides aloud helps those with visual impairments and speaking clearly and not too quickly will help those with cognitive processing differences, ADHA, anxiety, etc. 

Delivery Best Practices

  • Presentation file: provide presentation file and materials ahead of time to your audience whenever possible. 
    • If sharing as a PDF (Portable Document Format), be sure to convert it to ensure accessibility is preserved. 
      • See Converting Accessible PPT to Accessible PDF below.
  • Always use the microphone. Even if you think you are speaking loud enough…use the microphone, always. This includes those in the audience speaking. 
  • Images: If you have an image that is contextually important to what you are speaking about, VERBALLY DESCRIBE the image aloud. Example: “The cute cat on this slide is winking and giving you a high five with their paw!” 
  • Speed: Avoid speaking too quickly. Speak very clearly. 
  • Acronyms: When using acronyms, be sure to VERBALLY STATE what they stand for. 
  • References: Be careful of using humor or references that not everyone will understand. Unless you plan to explain it. 
  • Describe Transitions: Work VERBALIZING slide transitions into your speech. For example: “Moving on to the next slide... (read the title of the slide)” 
  • Quotes: If you have a quote (short or long in length) on your slide, be sure to READ the entire quote aloud. 
  • Captioning: For online presentations, turn auto captioning on if possible. 

Download Delivery Best Practices Checklist

Converting Accessible PPT to Accessible PDF

These steps assume that your PPT file is accessible and error-free.

  1. Open the presentation and navigate to the File tab. From there, select Save As Adobe PDF.
    File menu with box around the Save As Adobe PDF option

  2. A window will pop up asking you to name the new PDF document. Select Options.
    In the Save As window, an arrow pointing to the Options button

  3. An Acrobat PDFMaker window will appear. Make sure the Enable Accessibility and Reflow with tagged Adobe PDF option is checked. Click OK. 
    In Adobe PDFMaker window, a box surrounding the "Enabel Accessibility and Reflow with tagged Adobe PDF" option checked.

  4. After you have entered the name for your PDF, click Save.

WARNING: DO NOT use Print As PDF to create your handouts. This will erase all accessibility elements of the presentation and create a PDF that is not accessible. 

Print As PDF screen in Microsoft with X pointing to the Print As PDF option

Download Accessible PPT to Accessible PDF

Additional Presentation Resources

Additional Accessibility Resources