Breanne Kisselstein, Chelsea Newbold, and
Chelsea Newbold (They/Them/Theirs)
M.S. Plant Pathology, Oregon State University
Low Vision and Anxiety
In a world where new committees and positions are
constantly being formed in our universities and scientific organizations around
the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion, it's important to remember
that disabled people also belong to this spectrum of diverse people. We know
that 30% of full-time employees working in white-collar professions in the United
States have a disability, but only 3.2% disclose their disabilities to their
employer (Source: Center for Talent and Innovation's "Disabilities and
Inclusion" report, 2016). This means that many of our colleagues are
disabled or have chronic illnesses that we likely do not know about. As we
already know, diverse experiences allow us to have different perspectives and
come up with novel solutions to the world's problems. Isn't that why we became
scientists in the first place?
So now that we all agree that we need to do better to make
sure our colleagues can participate fully in science, let's talk about how we can do better!
While there is a plethora of ways we can make every part of our scientific
communities more equitable, let's focus specifically on how to give
presentations that are more accessible to people who live with color blindness,
hearing or visual impairments, neurodiversity, autism, or dyslexia. Here's a
checklist to get you started with the basics:
Use simple sans serif
fonts like Arial, Comic Sans, Verdana, Tahoma, Calibri, or Helvetica. Serif
fonts (like Times New Roman) can be more difficult to read, particularly the
more decorative, hand-written, and italicized fonts. "Will Comic
Sans Make a Comeback?" is an
interesting opinion article on accessible fonts and when to use them.
Use a high-contrast
color scheme like black text on a white background or vice versa.
Avoid using large
amounts of text and make sure the text remaining is large enough, i.e. 14-point
font on handouts and written documents and 24-point font on posters and
When making graphs
and figures avoid using color combinations like red and green, green and brown,
green and blue, blue and gray, blue and purple, green and gray, or green and black.
(Here is a
useful link that shows variations on color schemes that make them more
accessible.) Also, use text and
object colors that clearly contrast with the background. Black text and arrows
on a white or pale grey background (or vice versa) might seem "dull," but
it is easy for most people to read.
Perform an "accessibility
check" on your documents in recent versions of Microsoft Office and Adobe
in the Tools menu under Check Accessibility or Accessibility.
Use accessible slide
designs. Click here to
download free templates and
learn about how to create accessible graphs, reports, presentations, social
media posts, and more.
Poster presentations are often a key point of
information sharing at both national and regional meetings, and it is the
critical conversations and dialogue that emerge from these presentations that
drives our questions forward. To best serve all attendees, we recommend the
following guidelines for creating a more accessible poster:
Make sure your line
and character spacing is not too small. Use between 1.2 and 2.0 line-spacing to
allow the reader greater ease in moving from line to line. If your processor
allows for letter-spacing adjustments +3 is adequate.
Consider creating word
document, PDF file, and/or webpage versions of your poster and provide a QR
code or link on your poster to the above options. QR codes can be easily
generated through free online software or websites (e.g., www.qr-code-generator.com). This will allow viewers to access a digital version
of your poster or affiliated handouts and use screen reader software. In these
electronic versions, be sure to include alt (alternative) text for figures,
graphs, and illustrations. Here is a
great resource to learn how to write image descriptions, alt text, and captions
and what the difference is between the three.
Consider creating an
audio recording of the text and description of the visual materials on your
poster and provide a QR code or a link on your poster to the audio recording.
Pro tip: Generating this audio recording will also have you fully prepared for
when people stop by your poster at in-person meetings!
If you are presenting
your poster in person, face the people you are speaking to and avoid covering
your mouth so they can see your lips. Avoid chewing gum or eating when you are
talking. If you must wear a mask that covers your mouth be sure to include alternative
options, such as a QR code and voice recordings.
If an American Sign
Language (ASL) interpreter is present, speak directly to the person who is deaf
or hard-of-hearing. Also, if an interpreter voices for a deaf person who signs,
look at the person signing rather than the interpreter.
If you will be
presenting a video description of your poster, include captioning (see tips for
Online Presentations below).
It has been suggested
in recent years that the Better Poster format (i.e., billboard poster format) is one way to
communicate your poster's main ideas more effectively and clearly to your
audience, and it makes your poster more accessible to a diverse audience.
Note: Most people with a smartphone can open their
phone's camera and hover over the QR code on your poster to be brought to the
Public Health Association – Accessible Poster Presentations
Presentation and Poster Accessibility
Oral presentations are key ways of communicating our
research to other scientists, whether they are given at department seminars,
conference sessions, or other venues. They serve to not only present findings
but engage members in the fascinating research happening within the scientific
community. To help you craft an accessible oral presentation, we recommend the
Give your slides to
disabled audience members, captionists, and interpreters ahead of the
Avoid slides with an
excessive number of pictures, images, or screenshots. If you do use
illustrations in your storytelling, be sure to verbally describe the images or
figures that are shown on each slide during your presentation. For example, "This
image of a broken padlock represents how plant defenses can be overcome by some
Avoid complex tables
and graphs. Only include information needed to tell your story and be sure to
describe the results in your presentation. For example, "The bar graph on
the left shows that the growth of Pseudomonas in Arabidopsis was 10-fold lower following the treatment
compared to the nontreated control."
Include alt text to
describe an image when pictures and graphs are used, especially if your
slideshow will be shared with the audience before or after your presentation. Here is a
great resource for creating image descriptions and alt text.
Use a minimum font
size of 20 points for less important text but keep most text around 30 points.
If you have a hard time fitting all of your text onto a slide, try to be more
concise with your information or separate the information into multiple slides.
Use plain language.
Speak loudly, clearly, and directly into the microphone at a moderate pace. Use
active words and short sentences. Use language that reinforces the visual
material on your slides.
Always use the
microphone provided. In some cases, the amplification system is connected to an
FM transmitter, and people with hearing aids rely on sound coming through that
system. If your presentation includes sound, make sure the sound is also routed
through the amplification system and that captions are accurate and displayed
on any videos.
questions using the microphone so that all listeners can hear the question.
Online presentations and on-demand content are likely
to become more common as we phase back into in-person meetings following the
COVID-19 pandemic. Crafting prerecorded and live online content presents unique
opportunities to prepare accessible presentations. To help you craft an
accessible online presentation, we recommend the following guidelines:
Follow the layout and
content guidelines already described above.
Design your content
to be interpreted by assistive technology. Use a templated slide format. For
example, rather than adding text boxes to existing layouts, add new content
placeholders to the slide master if possible.
Use automated or live
captioning for your presentation. Share your slides or a list of key terms
(i.e., species names, acronyms, measured response variables that you repeat
often) with the captionists or captioning software beforehand and remember to
speak slowly, clearly, and loudly enough that the captioning can be as accurate
as possible. Zoom, Microsoft PowerPoint, and Google Meet all have automated
captioning options that you should get in the habit of using for all meetings and
presentations, even if nobody discloses a disability to you.
Use ASL interpreting
when possible and share your slides and a list of key terms with the
If the presentation
will be posted online for asynchronous viewing, proofread and edit the captions
and transcript. Make sure that when they are posted, captions are available and
working. (This takes the burden off disabled people who will assume that
captions and transcripts aren't available and, therefore, will be unable to
access the material or be forced to look for a contact person to ask if these
How to Create Accessible Designs
Delivering Presentations and Facilitating Discussion
Science Conference – Oral Presentation Guidelines
Do-It – Equal
Access: Universal Design of Your Presentation
Social media has become a great way to help disseminate
our scientific research and discover new collaborations. We present here a few
suggestions to help you share your research through social media so it is
accessible to all people:
Insert alt text
before posting (it cannot be done retroactively on this site).
When you see images
or gifs, reply to other posts with "@ImageAltText," and the bot will
reply with the alt text that was inserted by the original poster. If it says no
alt text, then kindly ask the original post creator to delete and repost the
image with alt text. This is especially important if the image is about a job
posting or displays a flyer for an upcoming talk that includes a registration
or video conferencing link.
@AltTxtReminder to receive reminders when you post something without alt text,
so you can quickly delete and repost with alt text.
retroactively add alt text to all posts.
descriptions in your captions or a pinned comment.
If you see valuable content
from another creator that does not have an image description in the caption or
pinned comments, kindly ask the creator to do so.
If sharing a short
video, add a transcript of any speech, either directly to the video captured or
in the description.
If releasing a
YouTube video or podcast episode, please provide captions and a downloadable
transcript along with every podcast episode. You can use a transcription
software, such as Otter AI, Temi, Trint, or others, to generate a transcript,
edit any mistakes, and share them with your deaf, hard-of-hearing, English as a
second language learners, and every other member of your audience.
AbilityNet – How to Do Accessible Social Media
Twitter – How to Make Images Accessible for People
OtterAI – Generate Live Transcripts
We would like to thank Dennis Halterman for generating
the idea to write this much needed article, for seeking out and valuing all of
our knowledge, experiences, and input, and for giving us insights and edits to
polish and publish this information. Secondly, we would like to thank The
American Phytopathological Society (APS) Committee for Diversity, Equity, and
Inclusion (DEI). This committee is co-chaired by Breanne Kisselstein and
Krystel Navarro and vice chaired by Mariama Carter and Chelsea Newbold. The accessibility
subcommittee is led by Chelsea Newbold and brought these three authors together
to share this information with you. Please feel free to contact Breanne Kisselstein in order to contact the authors or receive more
information on how to make scientific conferences, presentations, and STEM as a
whole more accessible for people with disabilities and chronic illnesses, as
well as people from multiple marginalized backgrounds.