Accessibility Guide for Teaching and Presenting

UC Davis is committed to making experiences as inclusive as possible for everyone in the campus community, so we’ve compiled this brief accessibility guide as an aid while you prepare your synchronous (in-person or remote) or asynchronous class or presentation.

In addition to the recommendations in this guide, most presentation programs have built-in accessibility checkers to flag issues within slides and handouts:

Microsoft PowerPoint and Word | Adobe Acrobat | Google Slides and Docs 

Ponder A “Plus One” Strategy

At first glance, accessibility can feel overwhelming, but if you can enhance even one aspect of your materials, the entire audience will benefit from your efforts. Thinking about what you already do to accommodate diverse audiences, consider adding even one new accessibility practice from this guide. Over time, these iterations add up to significant gains for audiences who benefit from accessible practices.

Benefits of accessibility efforts

Small accessibility efforts can have a big impact, since they can benefit those with many different disabilities. For example, even just the "plus one" of providing your slides and materials in advance as accessible PDFs can benefit the following groups in the following ways:

Who benefits How they benefit
Students / attendees who use screenreaders

Can follow along with the presentation using their screenreaders to read the text on the slides

Can work with the SDC to make tactile graphics as needed

Students / attendees with low vision Can magnify the slides to follow along
Students / attendees who are deaf / hard of hearing Can review the slides they may have missed due to reading captions or watching interpreters
Students / attendees with mobility and learning disabilities Can use the slides as a visual reference to augment their notes, reducing the need to write as much
International and ESL students / attendees Can convert words into their natural language for better comprehension
Students / attendees diagnosed with PTSD or anxiety Can review slides for potential triggering content
Students / attendees with autism, learning disabilities, or depression Can review slides to prevent being overwhelmed during lecture

In addition to benefiting those with documented disabilities, sharing your slides and materials as accessible PDFs in advance of class time benefits all students by allowing them to take notes directly on slides, as well as read and interact with content on their own timelines using their preferred technologies. This practice also mitigates some struggles with challenges like low internet bandwidth or undocumented learning disabilities.

Present with accessibility in mind

  • Share accessible PDF slides and handouts prior to your class or presentation.
  • Make sure you have a good microphone and are well-lit.
  • Restate questions from the audience before answering them for the benefit of Deaf/Hard of Hearing students as well as those watching the recording later, and to make sure you have understood the question.
  • Announce slide numbers while presenting so attendees can follow along in their own format / copy of your slides as needed.
  • Briefly describe images on slides if they contain relevant information before discussing the rest of the content. 

Create accessible slides and handouts

  • Use an easy-to-read font face, such as Arial, Proxima, or New Times Roman. 
  • Use a text size that will make slide content legible for those who have medium or small screens (minimum font size 14; size 18 for large print format).
  • Use adequate color contrast between text and background colors, or within graphics. To learn more about selecting color combinations with legible contrast, including a tool for testing colors, explore WebAIM's Contrast Checker guide [].
  • Add slide numbers to your presentation deck to easily reference aloud for those following along on alternative formats like PDFs. 
  • Limit motion and animation to moments where they add impact or value to your presentation (source on motions / animations in presentations []). Animations in slides will not be in motion when slides are made into accessible PDFs, and might even conceal other content. For animations that do add significant impact or value, consider including them on a separate slide where they won’t cover other content when in PDF form.
  • If you use paper handouts in your classes, be sure to provide accessible electronic copies for students who need alternative formats. Consider these tips, especially for those who use screen readers for visual disabilities:
    • Use built-in heading styles for titles and section headings.
    • Provide captions and alt text [] for any images. 
    • Use descriptive links instead of “click here.” For example, “this page has more information about accessible links []” as opposed to “click here for more information about accessible links.”
    • Implement column and row headers for tables.
    • Do not include tables or other important text as images.
    • Create equations and formulas in Microsoft Office products using the Equation Editor [].
  • For links that go to external sites, indicate the root destination of the link in square brackets after the linked text.  For example, “this page has more information about accessible links [].”

For assistance 

  • Join the SDC Zoom Drop in hours [] from 12-1PM, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for Q&A on accessibility and accommodations. Drop in hours at that same Zoom link are also available Monday - Friday from 4-5PM, but students have priority during these hours. Breakout rooms are used to maintain confidentiality.
  • Contact to schedule a consultation about any of these recommendations.
  • You can schedule a Remote 1:1 “Accessibility in Depth” consultation with the Accessible Technology Coordinator by emailing With a referral from Disability Management Services (DMS), we also offer “Assistive Technology Review” consultations. 
  • SensusAccess, an automated document converter, is available on the Student Disability Center (SDC) website to upload and convert documents into many accessible formats. Instructors can activate SensusAccess within Canvas [AggieVideo] to allow students to convert documents into other formats to meet their specific needs. 
  • If you have more complex documents that are difficult to make accessible, specialists at the Student Disability Center can help by converting your materials and providing them directly to students. Contact for assistance.
  • For more details about any of these recommendations, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative lists concrete, actionable ways to make presentations accessible to all [].

Many thanks to Joshua Hori, Sebastian Niles, Luis Cuoto, and Hannah Minter Anderson for sharing their expertise and feedback to improve this guide!