Illustration of speaker with accessibility symbol next to them

Accessible Speaking Best Practices

Providing an accessible virtual event or presentation requires more effort than one might expect. Besides the effort of the organizers of the events, individual speakers and presenters must also remember to keep many accessibility considerations in mind to provide an equal and accessible experience to attendees with disabilities. Below is a checklist we provided to speakers at axe-con, Deque’s accessibility conference, that we thought might be helpful to share.

Accessibility Checklist for Speakers

  1. Ensure that your slides are accessible. As a best practice, have all text on your slides be at least 18 pt or larger. If you want to go above and beyond you could use 20 pt or 24 pt as your minimum text size.
    • Text Color Contrast – We recommend 4.5 to 1 contrast for all text on your slides to provide equal access to attendees with low vision. This can also benefit any attendees with lower quality displays or projectors.  And you do want them to be able to see your content, right?
      • At an absolute bare minimum, all text must pass accessibility requirements (4.5:1 for normal text and 3:1 for large text – 14pt bold or 18pt or larger).
    • Accessibility Checks – Your slides should pass an accessibility check in PowerPoint and should be made available to attendees before the presentation so low vision and blind attendees can follow along during the presentation on their own machines. Having the slides ready well in advance will also be a helpful resource for any live caption or ASL providers to prep beforehand.
  2. Font Size and Contrast in Code Demos – If you are doing live coding demonstrations, please make sure the size of the text is large enough and meets color contrast accessibility requirements. What is a good text size for code demos? 18 pt font is the bare minimum, ideally, aim for 24 pt. If you’re not sure how to test for color contrast, use this Color Contrast Analyzer to test for contrast ratios.
  3. Describe Visuals – Describe what is being visually presented on your slides for attendees who are blind or have low vision (you do not need to describe decorative images)
  4. Identify and Describe Speaker(s) – Say who is speaking when there are multiple presenters in one presentation. If your camera is on or you’re presenting in person, be sure to describe what you visually look like and your environment at the start of the presentation.
  5. Speak Clearly – Speak clearly and avoid speaking too fast for the live captioners and ASL interpreters
  6. Use Clear Language – Use clear language to give people time to process information for attendees who have cognitive disabilities
  7. No Content that  Flashes (Zero Tolerance) – Do not display any content that flashes. Content that flashes can be harmful to people who suffer from photosensitive epilepsy.
  8. Use Animations Very Sparingly – Any animation between slides must not include flashes and should be simple and not distracting for individuals with certain types of vertigo. If animation is critical to your presentation, be sure to call out regular content warnings for attendees so they can avoid the animation.
    • If possible, make sure any animation, video, or gif in your presentation can be paused or stopped.
    • If possible, make sure any animation, video, or gif in your presentation is no longer than 5 seconds.
  9. Avoid presenting content that contains violence, gore, harassment, sex, nudity, drugs, alcohol, or gambling – Words or images that contain violence, gore, self-harm, suicide, harassment, sexual assault, sex, nudity, drugs, alcohol, or gambling may be triggering for some people. If you choose to include this content:
    • Be sure to verbally call out regular content warnings during your presentation so attendees can choose to leave or be prepared to see/hear disturbing content.
    • Let the conference organizers know so they can add a written content warning to your session on the schedule.

Accessibility Best Practices for Event Organizers

If you are speaking at an event, it’s the organizers’ responsibility to provide certain accessibility considerations for attendees. Below is a checklist of items for you as a speaker to ask the organizers if they are providing. It’s a best practice to require these items for participation if you’re a guest speaker for an event.

  1. Live CART or ASL – Organizers should provide slides in advance to prepare attendees who are deaf or hard of hearing and provide better services the day of the presentation.
  2. Provide an accessible platform – Whether it’s a website or application, the platform should be screen-reader and keyboard accessible at the minimum.
  3. Distribute Accessible Slides in Advance – As previously mentioned above, it’s the speaker’s responsibility to finish their slides in advance so they can be made accessible and available for attendees with disabilities. It’s the organizers’ responsibility to remediate these slides as necessary and distribute them to attendees.
  4. Captioned Recordings – All on-demand presentation recordings should have captions for attendees who are deaf or hard of hearing.
    • AI-generated captions have historically been rife with errors when compared to human-generated captions, but some great advancements have been made in the last year to vastly improve accuracy. If you need speedy live captions, AI can help. If you are captioning a recording, use AI to do the heavy lifting but a human for quality review.
  5. Session Transcripts – All recorded videos should also have a transcript available for deafblind attendees.


It’s not always possible to be perfect and keep all of these considerations in mind during your presentation, especially if your nerves are running high. But it’s good to keep this checklist in mind to make your content understandable and enjoyable for all attendees. Also, keep in mind that you may have to hold event organizers accountable for the accessibility accommodations list above. When everyone contributes to making a presentation accessible, everyone benefits.

Photo of Laura Nandakumar

About Laura Nandakumar

Laura is the Event Manager and Marketing Analyst at Deque Systems. She is passionate about marketing, writing, and creating accessible content for all.
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Comments 2 responses

  1. I am a big fan of everything Deque Systems brings to digital accessibility. As an accessibility professional and a blind person , I’d like to offer my perspective on the Accessible Speaker Checklist. Great and useful content, however, I find it rather boring to hear presenters or any other meeting participants describe their physical appearance. Not only will that kind of information add nothing to the purpose or content of the meeting, but after the second person has described themselves, I will have forgotten the first speaker’s description. I know several people who feel uncomfortable describing themselves in front of an audience. I have also asked many blind people who don’t find these descriptions particularly useful. I am sure the intent is good and some people feel that by asking presenters to describe themselves, they provide an equivalent experience, but frankly, I’d rather presenters focus on describing the key elements on the screen. Many thanks for taking the time to read my comments.

  2. Thanks for your comment Luna! We definitely relay to speakers that self-description is optional since not everyone is comfortable doing it, but we still recommend it as a general best practice. Representation is an important part of inclusion.

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