Making handouts OHPs accessible

The basics

  • It may be necessary to produce your handouts/OHPs in an accessible format – with a sensible choice of format in the first place this is very easy, otherwise it can be very difficult.
  • An accessible format is a format which can easily be rendered in such a way that it can be used by a person with disabilities. The most accessible format is electronic text.
  • Where possible prepare your handouts/OHPs in an electronic format.
  • If that is not possible, use printed text – handwritten material should be avoided if at all possible.
  • If your handouts/OHPs are not in an electronic format, consider how you would make them accessible if it became necessary (eg scanning them in to a text format).

The tools

  • A word processed document (eg an MS Word document) is better than a presentation document (eg an MS PowerPoint presentation). Both of these are better than PDFs or postscript documents, which should be avoided if possible.
  • Web pages can also be made very accessible and can provide a useful way of showing the relationships between topics.
  • Consider using OpenOffice rather than Microsoft Office to create your documents – OpenOffice has similar functionality to Microsoft Office but is free and so any student can use it at home. OpenOffice documents are also in a more accessible format.
  • If you use LaTeX, make the tex files available as well as the final output.
  • Make sure that your projection device (OHP/data projector) is bright enough for the conditions it will be used in.
  • If you allow somebody to record the lecture, make sure that the microphone is not placed next to your projection device.
  • It may be necessary to provide tactile handouts for people with visual disabilities – the Student Disability Service have a tactile diagram maker and a Braille embosser which can be used for a small amount of emergency work. Ruth Ross in Computer Services can produce larger quantities of Braille handouts if given advanced notice.

The documents – common points

  • Different disabilities require different adaptations – there is no one solution (but if your document is in an electronic format it is very easy to adapt)
  • Consider font – Arial is the best commonly available font, Verdana and Helvetica are also useful. For fixed width fonts Bitstream Vera is a good choice

The documents - OHP

  • Consider size – normally use no less than 24 point font for the body of the text and 32 point font for the title.
  • Consider colour(1) – limit the use of colour that is used to convey information – use shape and line density (eg dotted line, dashed line, line of squares) to illustrate ideas.
  • Consider colour(2) – use of colour contrast can make text more readable for everybody (especially in awkwardly lit rooms), but take care not to make the colours too clashing or bright.
  • Consider backgrounds – a pretty slide background can look nice but often distracts from what you are saying and may make it difficult to follow.
  • Consider animations – limit the use of animations, especially transitions.
  • Avoid flashing or blinking objects.

The documents – handouts

  • Consider size – normally use no less than 12 point font for the body of the text and 18 point font for the title.
  • If you are photocopying, make sure that there is enough contrast to be able to read the information clearly.
  • Make sure that handouts are readable in black and white if you are giving them to the student to print out.
  • Students with dyslexia may benefit from handouts on different coloured paper – this is easier if you make electronic copies available for the students to print themselves.
  • No more than four slides (two if including notes or space for comments) to a page.

The people

  • Before you start your first lecture to any group of students, let them know how they can obtain alternative format material.
  • Make electronic copies of your notes available before the lecture
  • Consult with anybody who needs material in an alternative format and find out an acceptable method of getting it to them.

Further information