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Creating Accessible Content

The disability community and people with non-normative access needs are important and necessary contributors to and consumers of research, yet they are often excluded from academic spaces. Here at CURL, we want to reduce barriers to participation and welcome the disability community to comfortably access, participate in, and benefit from our events.

You can help! We ask that CURL conference presenters consider ways in which they can make their work more accessible.

We’ve compiled some preliminary suggestions below, but we strongly recommend you do further reading at the links provided. You have valuable things to teach—and everyone deserves to learn!


Removing Visual Barriers

  • Text and graphics should be simple, clear, and visible. Use large fonts and high light-dark contrast to maximize visibility.
  • Break large blocks of useful text into separate, progressing slides. Instead of complicated graphs, use a series of simplified graphs.
  • Verbally identify AND describe important graphics, e.g: “Here in the corner, we have Figure A. It’s a blue bar graph that illustrates the relationship between study methods on the x-axis and average test scores on the y-axis. Study method A obtained the highest average test score, with 85%, study method B was slightly lower, with 75%”… etc.

Removing Auditory Barriers

  • Label important graphics using highly visible text, e.g: “Figure A: The relationship between [concept] and [concept.]”
  • Include text versions of important points in the same order that you describe them verbally. Presenting them in a different order, or with very different wording, can be confusing for people who are hard-of-hearing or who struggle with auditory processing.
  • Ensure your text includes all the details needed to understand your point. E.g: a line reading “Victorian gender roles?” is vague; “In what ways does [book title] criticize Victorian gender roles?” is not.
  • We strongly encourage providing handouts that match your slides and general script, especially if your presentation is highly verbal. These make an enormous difference for people who are Deaf, hard-of-hearing, or who struggle with auditory processing! 
  • If available, use a microphone. When taking questions from the audience, offer them a microphone or repeat their question into yours.

Combining Audio/Visual Accessibility

Using too many slides with lots of small text creates a barrier for people with visual impairments, yet using too few slides with vague, overly simple text creates a barrier for people with hearing problems and people with auditory processing delays! These needs don’t have to be contradictory: sort through them by clarifying your goals.

  • Your goal is not to have as few slides as possible—it’s for your slides to progress at a digestible pace.
  • Your goal is not to have the shortest text—it’s to have succinct, useful, visible text.

Further Reading for Talks

Making Your Conference Talk Accessible – Richard E. Ladner, University of Washington


  • Succint wording allows you to use a larger font size. This helps people who struggle to hear your presentation and people who can’t stand very close to your poster.
  • If your poster is too detailed for a larger font size, consider making large-text printouts (16pt+) on standard paper available for visitors to hold and read themselves.
  • Use high light/dark contrast between the text and background. Colour-based contrast, such as bright red text on a bright green background, may not be readable for colourblind people.
  • Add space between rows, columns, and categories of information to help with visual organization.

Further Reading for Posters

Guidelines for Accessible Printed Posters – Stephen F. Gilson, Robert M. Kitchin Jr.

Social Media, Web Content, and Digital Displays

  • Images should include text descriptions that are placed as close to the image as possible. This allows people who use screen reading technology (which reads text content aloud, but cannot “read” images) to understand what the image shows. Avoid placing body text within images where possible, and be sure to write out any text the image contains.
    • Example 1: Photo of a person. “Sharon Johnston smiles while standing in front of her research poster at the 2019 CURL Fall Exhibition. She has long hair and a stylish infinity scarf. Other research posters are in the background and the room is full of visitors.”
    • Example 2: An image containing text. “Bold, dark text is written on a white background. The text reads, ‘Examining Jack Maggs.’ Below the text is a small photo of the novel Jack Maggs by Peter Carey. The cover of the novel is a painting of a group of 19th-century Londoners.
  • Include captions or subtitles with videos to help people who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or who have auditory processing difficulties follow along.
  • Ensure your display can be zoomed in on, have its volume adjusted, etc.
  • Ensure navigational buttons visually contrast with content text (for visibility), are relatively large (so they are usable for people with motor difficulties), and include descriptive links (e.g: “Visit my website” rather than “Click here”).
  • Assistive technologies such as screen readers and browser plugins use headings to provide in-page navigation. Ensure your headings and sub-headings cascade in the correct order—do not skip from Heading 2 to Heading 4.
  • If using tables in PDFs or Word documents, ensure the tables are formatted accessibly. Learn how in the “further reading” section below.

Further Reading for Social Media, Web Content, and Digital Displays

Creating Accessible Documents – Washington University

How to Create Custom SRT Files for Video Subtitles – Social Media Examiner

Web Accessibility Tutorials – Web Accessibility Initiative

Creating an Accessible Table in Word – Perkins eLearning

Adding Alt Tags to Instagram – Social Media Examiner

How to Add Alt-Text in Facebook – Gies College of Business