Guidelines for Accessible Presentations

The American Academy of Religion is committed to ensuring the full participation of scholars and students with disabilities at the Annual Meeting. As the academy strives to become more inclusive of underrepresented scholars in the field, the AAR asks panelists and presiders to be aware of practices that inadvertently may impede the full participation of members with disabilities. In order to enhance the contribution of all scholars at the meeting, we encourage our members to consider adopting the following practices:

As you prepare your presentation:

If your presentation uses PowerPoint, use a “sans-serif” typeface font such as Calibri or Arial for all materials projected on screen.

If you have handouts, make a few copies available using a sans-serif large print font. We recommend 18-point font for the large-print version of your handout.

Consider creating a QR code to project on the screen prior to your presentation that links to either the presentation or paper. 

If available through the AAR/SBL mobile app, consider uploading materials (paper text, presentation, etc.) to the mobile app so it is connected to the individual session.

If your presentation involves visual images, prepare to give a simple description of each image so that audience members will be able to follow your talk even if they cannot see the visuals. A good image description draws audience attention to the most relevant portion of the image and allows the audience to quickly understand why the image is significant. 

If a sign language interpreter has been requested for your session, you will receive a request from the AAR for a copy of your presentation in advance of the scheduled event; this copy will be sent to the interpreter to allow them sufficient time to prepare for the panel. Any advance copy is to be considered as “unpublished and not for circulation.”

During your presentation:

Speak clearly and avoid speaking too fast, so audience members and sign language interpreters can better understand and keep up with you.

Provide a verbal description of all visual information that pertains to the presentation, including graphics, videos, or physical gestures. For example, if you ask participants to “Please raise your hand if you make your presentations accessible,” summarize the response with “About ten out of fifteen people raised their hands in the affirmative.”

Always use a microphone when available. Even in a small room, some people may need the amplification. It is better to ask “Is the sound OK?” rather than “Can everyone hear me?”

Be visible so that audience members can see your face when you talk, which helps some people hear. Do not turn away from the audience to read projected material.

Recognize that a sign language interpreter is present to facilitate communication between and among participants. Address the person with whom you wish to speak, not the interpreter. 

As a moderator or presenter, repeat audience questions and comments into your microphone before replying. As a moderator, train yourself to be aware of participants who may be outside your regular line of vision. Make sure to look for a participant in a wheelchair who may be waiting at a microphone to comment or ask a question.

For more information, you may wish to consult:

AAR, Committee on the Status of People with Disabilities in the Profession.

Kerry Wynn, Guest Editor, “Embracing Disability in Teaching Religion,” Spotlight on Teaching (May 2005), PDF

Daisy Consortium, “Making Information Accessible to All” (2014), and Image Description Manual (2014).

JISC TechDis, “Accessibility and Inclusion," and “Accessibility Essentials: Complete Series” (2003–2007; Archived).

Web Accessibility Initiative, “How to Make Presentations Accessible to All” (20 February 2012).