Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Free Web Conference: Creating Accessible PowerPoint Presentations

Being that I’m a blind computer user, it probably makes sense that one of my pet concerns is accessible computing and media. It makes no sense to live in a digital age, where, at least in theory, all material should be accessible without duplication of effort. We all know that this isn’t always the case. As technology evolves, so does material and, too often, it seems that access technology is following behind and trying to catch up with the pack. However, more than lapses in technology, it is lapses in attitude or the plain, old-fashioned, I didn’t think about those people,” that excludes students with disabilities from media presentations.

In a previous post, I mentioned that web offerings of the school need to be accessible. This accessibility includes on-line publications such as electronic versions of newspapers and newsletters as well as the different departmental websites. This line of thought needs to be taken a step further to include PowerPoint presentations, which have become integral to the learning environment.

Those ubiquitous PowerPoint presentations have become such a big part of the college learning experience that it has become almost mandatory that students have some mastery of using this Microsoft program by the time they graduate. There have been advances by the engineers at Microsoft in making the program itself accessible, but too often it is the content, not the application, which is not accessible, leaving students with disabilities out of the information loop.

How often are visually impaired students left to wonder what was presented in a PowerPoint slide show that offered visual support to a speaker’s program. With streaming audio becoming more and more involved as part of Powerpoint presentations, where does this leave deaf students?

With proactive attitudes, colleges and universities can embrace access as an integral part of media presentations. Schools should encourage and foster universal design by their faculty and staff. The DSS office can be the linking mechanism that brings together this enhanced awareness.

Just as with the previous post about accessible computing, I’m not one to complain without providing an alternative. I offer a good and again, free, resource for helping to resolve this problem.

EASI, Equal Access to Software and Information, is offering a free web conference on how to create narrated Powerpoint presentations and adding streaming captions. These two production aspects empower presenters to share their information to a broader audience.

*Creating Narrated PowerPoint and Adding Streaming Captions
*Date: Sept. 11, 2006
*Time 2 pm EDT

If interested, or to register, check out the EASI Clinic web page at:

According to the clinic web site, interested parties must register to participate. Registration for an event provides not only live access to the event when it occurs live, but also gives you access to a recording of the conference that you can view at a later time. So, if you can’t make the presentation at the scheduled time and date, you can register before the event and still have access to a recording of it.

Remember, his is a free conference, so you have nothing to lose by registering. You can only gain by taking part of this program.

This conference is only one of a variety of offerings the group has planned. There are free ones, like the PowerPoint conference, as well as some more complex, multi-session programs which require a fee. Check out the group’s calendar and see if there is something coming up that can further the goal of presenting accessible programming to your students.
If you’re interested in learning more about EASI and what all they have to offer, check out the official home page at:

(Note: Access Ability is not sponsored or affiliated by the organization discussed in the above post. The information is being offered on Access Ability merely as another resource to enhance further development of the DSS field.)

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