Accessible Presentations at ACL 2020

2 minute read

Virtual presentations will change some of the experience of ACL, but not the imperative to make your work more accessible to a wide audience. The prerecorded nature of many of these talks will even create new opportunities for inclusion. Talks can be attended in other time zones, be rewinded to listen again, and captioned through the SlidesLive platform.

Many accommodations to make your presentations more accessible still depend on you. To ensure your work reaches a broad and diverse audience, please consider the following tips.

While preparing slides:

  • Avoid relying solely on visuals: Graphics and animations play an important role during presentations, but presenters should be mindful that relying just on a visual channel for communication can limit its access. When using graphics to convey critical aspects of your work, also provide a textual description so that your content is more accessible.

  • Use accessible colors: To ensure your visuals are more accessible, please use a color-blind friendly palette. Similarly, choose high resolution images for your visuals and use text color(s) with sufficient contrast against its background color for better readability. For some resources that may help you further, see the Accessibility for Camera-Ready Papers blog post.

  • Use accessible fonts: Select font styles and font sizes that facilitate reading for everyone, including for researchers with dyslexia. For instance, avoid using ALL CAPS.

  • Ensure screen reader friendliness: Many researchers with visual impairments use screen reader software to read aloud the content. If you will be releasing the slides publicly, please consider making them accessible for screen readers. Most presentation platforms support this functionality such as Microsoft PowerPoint, Google Slides, and Apple Keynote.

  • Minimize visual complexity: Try to reduce the amount of content (text and visuals) in your slides, since visual complexity can be overwhelming and make it more difficult for your audience to absorb information during your presentation. For audience members who are deaf or hard of hearing, or who have difficulty following spoken English, there can be too little time to view the dense visuals on a slide while reading captions or watching sign-language interpretation.

During the presentation:

  • Describe essential content verbally: Describe all the text/visuals on your slides to ensure that conference attendees with disabilities don’t miss out on any critical information. For example, if you have a results table, don’t simply say, “Here are our results,” and expect the audience to read the table quickly; instead, try describing the table and its highlights, for instance, by describing how well your system performed. If the visual is decorative, then skip describing it during the talk as it may be a distraction.

  • Adjust to a reasonable pace: For information-rich slides in your presentation, you should try to allow people some extra time to view and understand the information.

  • Be clear: Speak at an adequate speed and clearly. Avoid having to rush through your content. This is not just important for the listeners but also for sign language interpreters who may be supporting your talk. Look straight into the camera, so your lips will be visible to anyone relying on lipreading.

  • Avoid ambient noise: When recording your talk, please choose a quiet environment without noise in the background.

We also recommend reviewing the ACM SIGACCESS Accessible Presentation Guide, which also points to this video resource with examples.

Additional relevant links for exploration