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I am preparing a presentation for a conference. After reading many style guides for designing presentations and talking to other people, I have decided that the best way to make slides for a presentation is to have only a picture or formula on each slide. Then I will just talk about the topic or picture on that slide.

However, now I am wondering how to make it accessible to people who are deaf and hard of hearing. I suppose they would need something to read, but I don't want to cover my slides with text that will distract the other members of the audience. Is there a way to accomplish both? One idea I was thinking of was having a printout of a transcript, or to display a link to a transcript. However, I don't want to make a big deal out of it, and maybe passing around transcripts would take a long time.

  • Why does it have to be either "a picture a slide" or "cover my slides with text"? – Penguin_Knight Sep 4 '18 at 14:54
  • It doesn't - if you suggest that I put a few words on each slide then you could make that your answer. However, you might want to try to convince me that a few words will be enough to convey the message without distracting from what I am saying. – IIM Sep 4 '18 at 14:59
  • I'm curious what prompted this thought - are you giving a talk to an audience where you expect a lot of people to need accommodations? Or are you just generally thinking about it? Either way, it's commendable and thanks for asking – Azor Ahai Sep 4 '18 at 22:50
  • Take a look at Universal Design for Learning. Some people need text. To avoid big chunks of dense text, use bullets -- that's what they were invented for. You can also put short phrases or terms next to objects in a schematic (e.g. along an arrow). – aparente001 Sep 5 '18 at 4:34
  • @azor-ahai I was just generally thinking about it. – IIM Sep 7 '18 at 12:50
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The flip side is that some people are vision impaired and text won't work for them. You don't need to pass transcripts around, but you can make them available for those who would like them. Some conferences have student workers that monitor the entrance to the speaking hall and they can distribute them at the door. You can also announce at the start that they are available after the talk (or online). Many folks will have laptops open during any presentation. Some people may want to record your talk.

But it is a good idea not to have slides that are dense with text. For everyone. If people are scribbling down your slides, then they won't be listening to you.

If you can print only a small number of copies you should probably make them available online as well.

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A link to a transcript is a great way to make your slides and presentation fully accessible. However, I also recommend including text on some slides. Not every slide needs to have text, and no slide should be largely text, but putting words on a slide can be extremely helpful to all members of the audience.

Keep it concise, use it to express general themes or key points, and make sure it reinforces and enhances what you're saying instead of being a distraction. Text can be a good way to express phrases you want the audience to remember, and it can communicate a clear point to someone who may have trouble hearing or understanding you.

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You are using slides to make your presentation even clearer to your audience than if you just stood there and spoke. What you need to do therefore depends a lot on the audience.

So, for example, if you are speaking in English, are they all competent in understanding spoken English? If they are, then put on your slides only those things that are hard to say, such as graphics, mathematical formulae, or references. If they are not, you probably should put on your slides the key points in words.

On the same principle of helping your audience, each slide needs to be almost instantly comprehensible. So, for example, if you need some equations keep them very clear and very brief.

It may be that slides would not make your presentation any clearer to your audience. If so, great! Don't use slides at all; they can be a distraction.

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