What defines “good” presentation design? From the style of the graphics to the cohesiveness of the content, every element should come together to help deliver a clear message. Whether you’re pitching a groundbreaking product to a room of investors, or simply providing your team with a weekly update, you want your audience to walk away with clear, actionable knowledge.
However, something many creators neglect with presentation design is the element of accessibility. It’s simply natural for most people to create a presentation based on their own perceptions and point-of-view. But the reality is, that there’s a chance that someone in their audience has a disability that limits their ability to effectively understand the presentation. This reality of understanding and adapting to the disabilities of others is where Accessible Design comes into play. It’s what ensures that your presentation is understood and enjoyed by the widest possible audience.
In this article, we will dive into the impact of Accessible Design and how it can give your entire audience the clarity and knowledge they need.
What is Accessible Design?
Accessible Design is centered on being sensitive to the disabilities of others and creating designs that can be understood by all. In 2018, the CDC stated that 1 in 4 US adults live with some form of disability. The following are among the most common disabilities:
Color Blindness – According to Colour Blindness Awareness, roughly 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women live with color vision deficiency. This typically refers to having difficulty in distinguishing red and green colors effectively from one another. In more severe cases, a person’s vision is monochromatic. Globally, there are approximately 300 million people with some degree of color blindness.
Dyslexia – Considered the most common learning disability, roughly 10% of the population has dyslexia. It affects one’s ability to effectively relate speech with letters and words, making it hard to learn through reading.
ADHD – Roughly 60% of children diagnosed with ADHD grow into adulthood still with ADHD. Those with the disorder often have trouble focusing their attention and organizing their thoughts. People with ADHD often struggle to retain information when they are bombarded by too much content.
Photosensitive epilepsy – 3.4 million people in America alone suffer from epilepsy, with sudden, sometimes unpredictable seizures. Many of these people are highly sensitive to flashing lights or colors, leading to dangerous falls or traumatic episodes.
How it Works
As a designer, it’s your job to make sure that, no matter who’s in your audience, your message is clear and delivered responsibly. But the key to Accessible Design is actually a good cornerstone of creative work in general: the simpler, the better.
Like any art form, a truly beautiful presentation often benefits from an understanding of minimalism. “Less is more,” as the saying goes. By carefully curating your content, you allow your audience to focus on the information that matters. This is significant for those with ADHD because fewer elements mean fewer possible distractions. Remember: a presentation is a visual medium, not a novel or article. Often, the hardest question is: “what should I not include?”
The minimalist philosophy also applies to designing presentations for those with color blindness. A presentation with a color palette limited to 2-3 simple colors can make for both a stylish and accessible design. This would rely on effectively utilizing white spaces to contrast the colors, making elements pop and easily distinguishable.
Dyslexia, on the other hand, takes a bit more finesse to manage. Because people with dyslexia struggle with recognizing the distinct shapes of letters, consider your choice of fonts carefully. Using simple sans serif fonts like Arial or Verdana increases readability, without compromising design aesthetics. Additionally, keeping your font large makes it easier to read all the text on screen overall.
Why Accessibility Matters
The value of accessibility is similar to how many buildings are made to have wheelchair access. These facilities allow individuals who use wheelchairs to enter buildings with ease. Discussions are much more valuable when the whole room can share the same knowledge. Being able to generate a great and fruitful discussion is the mark of delivering a killer presentation.
Finally, by focusing on minimalism and streamlining your content, there’s a good chance that you’ve improved your design overall!
Design is evolving at a rate that makes it easy to get caught up in so many new trends and ideas. However, the purpose of practicing Accessible Design is to remind ourselves that there are people out there who live with disabilities. Whether or not a person in your audience has a disability, practicing accessibility is a sign of good faith that your presentation is inclusive of everyone.