We, as presenters, frequently subscribe to the old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” But, what if your audience cannot see the picture? Are your visuals as effective as you imagine them to be? When creating and preparing your presentations, do you consider the visual limitations of your audience? If not, you could be guilty of unintentional discrimination.
Section 508 of the American Disabilities Act was enacted to combat unintentional discrimination. Section 508 requires that Federal agencies' electronic and information technology is accessible to people with disabilities. We, as members of a civilized society, have a responsibility to avoid discriminatory practices and Section 508 makes it a law for federal agencies and employees. Presentations are the acts of making something publicly available, presenting information by broadcasting or printing. Presentations can and should be accessible regardless of limitations.
You are nearly certain to have an audience member with some type of visual limitation, even if you aren’t aware of it. Many types of visual limitations do not require special assistance and therefore, will never be mentioned by your audience. For example, you’ve created a wonderful winter holiday presentation using a green background and red text. Unfortunately for you, a member of your audience has red/green color vision deficiency. Consequently, the slides look blank to him or her. Did you know they were colorblind? No. Will they remember (and share) your unintentional slight? Probably.
A few simple guidelines will help you create the visuals your really want to share with all members of your audience.
This article has touched on only a few issues regarding live presentations and visual limitations. It is not a definitive guide for creating accessible presentations. Additional limitations to consider are hearing, mobility, cognitive and language. The main purpose of this article is to increase awareness of an audience diversity that you may have overlooked. I hope to provide future articles on tools and utilities for distributing accessible presentations and authoring for accessibility. In the meantime, you can find additional information about accessibility at the following sites:
Equal Access to Software and Information: http://www.rit.edu/~easi/index.htm
Section 508 Awareness Training: http://www.section508.gov/508Awareness/
Web Accessibility In Mind: http://www.webaim.org
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