'Is it accessible? Let's change this because it needs to be accessible,' Stephy Hogan often says as an accessibility advocate. She is also a UX/UI Engineering Supervisor and a founding board member and Vice President of the Presentation Guild. Stephy defines herself as two parts designer, two parts developer, three parts perfectionist and one part an impatient mother.

In this episode, we discuss an essential issue that we have not covered previously in our podcast: accessibility. We go through what accessibility is, what the standards are, and how you may apply them in PowerPoint or any other medium, digital or not.

How she ended up in the presentation industry

Stephy intended to be a chemistry professor, but she disliked graduate school, so she went to work for a nonprofit. There, she did one design project and then continued doing their design. Later, she became the leader of a new design team, and it was the presentation design team.

Stephy admits that she used to have the same mindset as other designers when it came to PowerPoint, but she got hooked on it.

What is accessibility, and why it is important

Making your product or design as good of an experience for everyone is what accessibility is all about. It is unlikely to make it the same experience for all, but you can assure that it is of comparable quality. For example, a visually impaired individual attending a presentation can have just as good of an impactful experience as everyone else.

Stephy says that we should not leave anyone behind. Make sure that no one is left out of the great experience you are creating, whether it’s a presentation, a website, or something else.

When the topic became more prominent

Stephy says that more light was shined on the subject after Domino’s lost a lawsuit. In 2019, a blind man sued them for their website’s lack of accessibility. And because big companies do not want to be sued – they are addressing the issue.

However, the issue began to gain traction around five years ago, Stephy states. Everyone started to realize that abandoning people is not cool.

Who defines accessibility

The major standard to follow for digital is the WCAG 2.0 standard. It provides recommendations for making content more accessible, and it applies not only to websites but also to presentations, ads, and anything digital. Stephy says that it is a long list to read, but you can pull out helpful guidelines from it.

Examples of accessible content

Microsoft is the first company that springs to mind. They have an excellent policy on accessibility and inclusion. And they adhere to it and do an excellent job of upholding their standards.

Stephy believes that you can see the mistakes more easily than the good examples. “When you’re using something, you can tell if the usability sucks, but you might not be able to put your finger on it,” she says.

She thinks that many sites fail accessibility, especially visually, but Microsoft is driving the industry and is the first to go all-in. For starters, they are attempting to make it easier for people to create such content. Then they push themselves to that standard.

How do we apply this to presentations

80% of people’s impairments are with vision, Stephy states. As a result, the visual part is the most impactful.

You can start by checking the color contrast ratio, which you can calculate easily online. If your colors do not pass the checker, it even suggests alternatives for you.

Another point she makes is not using color only to convey information. For example, in tables and charts, negative values can be indicated by coloring them red. Some people are not going to pick up on it if they have some color blindness. Instead, put a down arrow or a negative symbol as well.

The important thing about accessibility is that you don’t have to get it right on the first try. You don’t. As long as you’re making an effort to make it better, you’re going to be okay,” she says.

Practical tips for accessibility in PowerPoint

In PowerPoint, you have the accessibility checker at the bottom of the status bar. If you click on it, it brings the accessibility panel.

Stephy talks in detail about the alternative text for image descriptions that the screen reader can pick up. She says that it also works on charts and graphs.

She also suggests that you can practice with the subtitles on in Presenter Coach. You do not always notice how you speak, but you can see it when PowerPoint tries to transcribe it. Moreover, you can also set up your slideshow to always use subtitles.

And last – accessibility is not only about our bodies, but also about what kind of technology and hardware we have access to. So, what is your audience watching on?

Resources

Listen to the full episode!