Diversity and inclusion are core values of the Botanical Society of America, this includes accessibility for people with disabilities. Please note that this page is currently being refined and added to. To provide feedback to the Society on ways we can make improvements in relation to accessibility, please use this form or email the BSA DEI Outreach Programs Coordinator, Sarah Sims, at email@example.com.
Tips for Accessible Presentations
Whether you are giving a talk or displaying your research in a poster at the BOTANY conference, facilitating a workshop, or teaching a course, the BSA wants to help you communicate botanical research in a way that is accessible to people with a variety of disabilities. You will likely not know if you have audience members with disabilities; so we recommend following these tips and guidelines to make your presentation as accessible as possible regardless of who attends your presentation. Please note, that disabilities are diverse and people with disabilities have diverse needs. This guide does not encompass all accessible accommodations.
- Plan to use a visual aid (such as a PowerPoint) to accompany your verbal presentation: Ensure that all of your key points will be communicated both verbally and in your visual aid. This ensures that your ideas can be accessed in more than one way.
- Build an accessible PowerPoint: Microsoft PowerPoint has an easy-to-use accessibility checker that makes recommendations on font style, size, colors, number and arrangement of words on each slide, and more. Read this “article” from Microsoft to learn more about accessibility tips and guidelines.
- Ensure all text is accessible: Using black text on white background, or white text on black background is best. Use visually simple fonts, like Arial, Calibri, or Helvetica. Avoid stylized fonts like Courier or Comic Sans. All text should be at least 20 point or larger.
- Provide large print versions of any handouts: Refer to these large print guidelines from the American Council of the Blind.
- Accessible posters: follow text guidelines above. Be prepared to read text and describe images to viewers who are blind or who have low vision. You can also have a digital copy with alt text ready on a flash drive to share.
During Your Presentation
- Start by sharing a brief agenda: Knowing the outline of your presentation will help people with cognitive disabilities follow along. Be sure to let the audience know whether or not you will include breaks, and a rough estimate and when they will occur, so they can plan for their needs accordingly.
- For longer sessions and workshops, include breaks: People with and without disabilities may need a break for a variety of different reasons including medical, physical, cognitive, emotional, family, etc. Aim for providing a break every 30 minutes.
- Always use the microphone if one is provided: Do not ask the audience if they can hear you. Many people may not be comfortable saying they can’t hear or disclosing a disability.
- Use accessible language: Avoid using acronyms, idioms, and other words or phrases that may not be easily understood by people for whom English isn’t their first language, or who have a cognitive disability. You should also use plain language verbally and in your written text. Plain language does not mean reducing scientific content or terminology, it is about organizing and communicating your ideas clearly. There are several online guides for plain language including https://www.plainlanguage.gov/guidelines/ and https://www.cdc.gov/healthliteracy/pdf/checklist-H.pdf.
- Provide spoken descriptions of any images, graphs, or other visual content: In just a sentence or two, describe what the visual looks like and how it is meaningful to your topic. Read this brief “guide” from the University of Colorado for this “article” by UX designer, Alex Chen, to learn how, when and why to describe visual content.
- Be aware of accessible routes and seating: While you may not have control over the physical space, if you notice it is becoming crowded, encourage participants to keep aisles and exits clear. Accessible aisles for people using wheelchairs are at least 36 inches wide, and turn radiuses should be at least 60 inches wide. You may also need to physically remove chairs to make space for a participant using a wheelchair to be seated.
- Be flexible: If a participant asks you to make an accommodation that will help them better access your presentation, do your best to fulfill the request.
- Captioning: captions are a real-time on-screen text version of all sounds in a video. They are essential for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, and are also useful for people with cognitive disabilities and for those who just like to read along. You will need to first create a captions file. If you are recording in zoom with an Education, Business, or Enterprise account, captions will automatically be generated. See this resource from Zoom support to learn more about editing your captions. Uploading a video to YouTube will also generate a transcript file that you can edit. This video, from Rooted in Rights, explains the process in YouTube. You can find tips for creating good captions here: https://dcmp.org/learn/captioningkey/608
- Audio Description: includes a verbal description that conveys important visual information, introductions for all speakers, and reading aloud of any text that appears on screen. While there are many professional Audio Description services that can be integrated into your video, you can also provide spoken Audio Description throughout your recorded presentation. This video from Rooted in Rights, provides and overview of Audio Description in videos.
Practicing your presentation ahead of time will help you feel more at ease with some of these accommodations that might be new to you. It may also help you to identify areas of your presentation that are inaccessible.
Please feel free to reach out to the BSA DEI Outreach Programs Coordinator, Sarah Sims at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or ideas about accessibility at the Botany conference and other BSA activities. Also, be on the lookout for Botany 360 webinars and other resources to learn more about accessibility for people with disabilities. We also recommend these resources: