Tips for engineering presenters: Think visual impairment

In my previous post I challenged the assumption that a presentation automatically entails the use of slides. I did, however, recognise that there is a rationale for using slides, namely when you have material that lends itself more to visual presentation — for example, in the form of a graph, map, or photograph — than to verbal.

If you do decide to use slides, or some other visual aid, the question arises, how will you make your presentation accessible to people who are visually impaired?

Some people may not be able to see your visual aids at all; others may not be able to see them easily or distinctly. Yet you presumably want to reach everyone in your audience.

And, in any case, there are such things as disability rights.

So, one needs to anticipate.

Take two examples.

  1. Someone in your audience has forgotten their glasses. This may sound trivial. And, of course, it’s their fault, not yours. But you’re still presented with the problem, how to communicate with them. Note that the less cluttered the slide, the larger the font used for any text, the more you use sans-serif font, and the less you rely on slides, the easier your presentation will be to access. A welcome by-product here is that, by taking steps to anticipate problems arising from visual impairment, you actually make your presentation better for everyone.
  2. Colour blindness is quite a common, and commonly overlooked, condition. I frequently encounter visual aids that ignore this point. There are resources that enable you to assess your slides, handouts, etc. from this point of view — for example, Vischeck.

If you’re the presenter that successfully accommodates the needs of people with visual impairment, you will emerge as more professional than others. As a result, you’ll gain a competitive advantage.

You’ll also have done the decent thing!

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