Digital Accessibility Learning Path: Instructors and Presenters

Ensuring educational materials are accessible is an integral part of the teaching and learning process. Use the resources on this page to ensure that all learners have an equal opportunity to participate.

Best Practices for Accessibility – Instruction and Presentation

Know your audience – When preparing to provide instruction to a group of individuals, one of the most important things that you can do is to understand your audience. By identifying the way individuals perceive content, you can ensure all learners are included.

Know your content – Is your learning content accessible to all members of your audience?
For example; if you have created a slideshow or a video presentation, have you considered that some people may not be able to see or hear the content?
Is there an activity that requires a mouse to complete?

Equally effective alternatives – If you have identified that some of your content might not be accessible to all learners, what are the options for an alternative?

Table of Contents

Alternatives for Visual information

Presenters: If you are making a reference to visual media, describe the visual media in words, or more importantly, describe its meaning and purpose. This is especially important when participants with visual disabilities could be part of your audience.

Instructors: Ensure all handouts and shared materials that contain visual media have an equally effective alternative for non-visual users. Text captions and other descriptions which are available in text, as well as alt text can be used. [See Resources]

Image Example - Isabela Castillo works on a 3-D printed prosthetic

Isabela Castillo works on a 3-D printed prosthetic hand in the EXP Makerspace on the Boston campus. Castillo is a third year Northeastern bioengineering student who heads up Give A Hand, a club developing low-cost prosthetic hands with 3-D printing. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

Captioning, Transcriptions and Alternative Descriptions

  • If the media contains audio and visual content that should be understood together:
    • Provide captions which include all dialog, narration, and other meaningful sounds (e.g., laughter or background noise such as footsteps approaching).
    • Ensure that all meaningful visual content is also conveyed in the audio track. If needed, provide an alternative audio track that provides spoken descriptions of what is taking place visually. To accommodate for other audio content that may be taking place simultaneously, the video may require brief pauses as the content is described. This can be offered as an alternative to the standard video, also known as “Extended Audio Description.”
  • For audio content such as a podcast, provide a text transcript. You may also include Sign Language video for users who are hard of hearing or Deaf.
  • For video content with no meaningful audio, provide a transcript or a descriptive audio alternative.
  • Get to know the automatic captioning and transcription tools that are built into commonly used applications such as Microsoft Teams, PowerPoint, and the Chrome web browser. (See the resources section for additional information).

Closed Captioning
Closed Captions

Audio Description
Audio Description

Presenters: Do your best to identify the preferences of your audience, and make accommodations whenever possible:

Sign Language

Offer a Sign Language interpreter when it is beneficial. Ensure that a need has been identified or is probable (e.g., for a large audience) before requesting this service.
Instructions for sign language and captioning support can be found at the following page: Requesting and using CART (live captions) and sign language interpreters in live video 

Logical Content Structure

All presentations and handouts should be structured in a way that is easy to follow and navigate. Considerations include the following:

  • Use built-in headings instead of paragraph text for headings. If the default heading styles do not fit the visual design, those styles can typically be adjusted.
  • Use a descriptive heading (h1) to identify the document or presentation topic.
  • Use subsequent headings (h2, h3 etc.) to identify sections of content. Make sure the headings are in a logical order and try not to skip heading levels. Additionally, the visual presentation should match the heading levels in terms of visibility and importance.
  • Headings should be able to serve as a document outline (table of contents), and in some cases can be used to create an automatic table of contents.
  • Make sure that the sequence of your content is meaningful and maintains a logical reading order.
Example headings levels 1,2 and 3
Example of Heading Structure

Easy to Read, Follow and Understand

  • Design should never get in the way of content presentation. Use easy to read fonts and layouts that have a clear reading order.
  • Avoid using animated or distracting content that may confuse or disorient your audience.
  • Avoid using text over images. If you use visual content behind text, ensure the text is easy to read. Use a color overlay or decrease the opacity of the image, and ensure a high contrast between your text and background.
  • Avoid descriptions that rely solely on vision such as “Press the red button on the left to continue.”
  • If color is used to convey information, also include another visual indicator such as an asterisk, and refer to it with instruction.

Example of color alone being used to convey information.

Example of how the use of color may appear, for some people without color vision

Example using color as well as a visual indicator to convey information that does not rely on color vision.

Easy to Use and Participate

  • Include clear instructions for tasks, and don’t assume that all individuals recall previous task processes.
  • Avoid flashing or blinking content. If it is necessary to include, make sure you warn your audience, as it could potentially cause a seizure or discomfort.
  • When building a slide presentation, try to minimize the amount of text and visual content on each slide. Generally it is best to have no more than 10 slides for a 20 minute period. It is also a best practice to use a font size of 30 or more for all readable presentation text.
  • Send handouts before the presentation whenever possible, and make accommodations for those who might need larger print, braille print, or an alternative document format.
  • Ensure all users have enough time to complete tasks, and make considerations for extending time whenever possible.
  • Describe visual information for those who may not be able to see easily, process easily, or have blindness.
  • Make considerations for individuals who may not be able to perform exercises that require dexterity. Ensure that any alternatives are equally effective.
    • Based on audience preferences, ensure participation does not require the use of certain kinds of devices such as a mouse, trackpad or touch screen to complete tasks, unless a provision for an equally effective alternative has been made. Participants should be able to complete all tasks using a keyboard alone.
  • Schedule or allow breaks during lengthy presentations.
Example Warning: The following contains flashing lights and imagery that may cause discomfort and/or seizures for those with photosensitive epilepsy. Viewer discretion is advised.

Make sure it’s easy to read

  • Look for any text that uses colors or images which make reading difficult.
  • The language of the page, including instructions for tasks, should be in a logical order and easy to understand.

Look for media alternatives

  • Ensure videos have appropriate captions and audio descriptions and/or have transcriptions available.
  • Make sure any audio only information has a transcription, or other text based alternative.

Digital Accessibility Testing

Basic digital accessibility testing can be done using a keyboard, and some visual processing, as described in this section.
If you need any additional assistance or would like to request an assessment of your digital content, send a message to the Digital Experience team at, or fill out the Consultation Request Form, to request a consultation.

Basic Accessibility testing using a keyboard.

The interactive parts of digital documents and web pages, need to be accessible for anyone that does not use a mouse or trackpad.
Users must be able to complete all activities, participate in programs and use all services offered, without additional difficulty or assistance.

  • After a document or webpage has loaded, use the tab key to navigate the page (Shift + tab to go backwards).
    • There should be a visible way to tell where you are at all times, such as a box around a button or link. For forms, it may just be a blinking cursor.
  • You should be able to use all interactive items. Try using the return/Enter ⏎ key or the spacebar to follow links or push buttons. Some items such as menus and tabs may use right → and left ← or up ↑ and down ↓ arrows.
  • Make sure you can perform all actions that a mouse user can, fill out any forms using the keyboard alone and submit them successfully.
Keyboard with Braille Display
Keyboard with Braille Display


Accessible events and presentations

Alternatives for Visual information

Captioning, Transcriptions and Alternative Descriptions

Logical Content Structure

Easy to Read and Understand

Easy to Use and Participate

Usable without a Mouse (or trackpad)

Additional Resources

Email Accessibility

This guide describes best practices for creating accessible Microsoft Outlook email documents.

Document Accessibility

This guide provides general document accessibility best practices for digital documents of all kinds.

Accessible Social Media (Best Practices)

Use the resources provided here to create social media content that is available and accessible to the widest audience possible.

Digital Accessibility – Learning Paths

This guide describes best practices for creating accessible Microsoft Outlook email documents.

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