Using Accessible Visual Aids in the Classroom

Multimedia Learning Principles and Tips

Multimedia: Use words and pictures rather than just words

Pre-training: Describe names and characteristics of key elements before lesson

Coherence: Remove excess material

Signaling: Highlight essential material

Redundancy: Avoid narrating text printed on a slide

contiguity: Place printed text near corresponding graphic, and present narration and corresponding graphic simultaneously

Segmenting: Break presentation into parts

Personalization: Put words in conversational style

Best Practices for (Slideware) Design

Slide Content: avoid crowded slides: max. 20 words, 3 “points” per slide, with generous “white space”

Font: sans-serif, 26 pt or greater

Colour: keep a consistent colour scheme, high contrast, avoid red/green

Images: relevant, high-quality, properly cited

Image Sources:,,

Copyright: Search for images licensed for non-commercial use with modifications. See UBC’s guidelines:

Accessibility: Include alt-text and titles. See the Council of Ontario Universities’ guide to using PowerPoint.

Animations & Transitions: avoid, except to use appear/disappear


U of T’s AODA Website on Teaching and Educational Resources provides links on educational resources for teaching and on accessible teaching for a variety of environments (from e-learning to science laboratories).

The Council of Ontario Universities (COU)’s Accessible Campus provides information about creating accessible lectures, teaching students with various disabilities, and making accessible PowerPoint, Word documents, and PDFs. They also provide resources on creating accessible laboratory teaching environments.

The TATP’s Fostering Accessible Learning guide offers context on how accessibility works at the University of Toronto, how to implement Universal Instructional Design, and further resources for barrier-free teaching.

DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) have created this page on the principles behind Universal Design and its practical application.

WAVE is a web accessibility evaluation tool to help you determine how accessible a website is. We recommend that you use this tool before offering websites to students that are instrumental to course learning.

References and Selected Bibliography

PowerPoint in the university classroom setting
Adams, C. (2006). PowerPoint, habits of mind, and classroom culture. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 38, 389–411.

Amare, N. (2006). To slideware or not to slideware: Students’ experiences with Powerpoint vs. lecture. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 36, 297-308.

Bartsch, R. A., & Cobern, K. M. (2003). Effectiveness of PowerPoint presentations in lectures. Computers & Education, 41, 77-86.

Bowman, L. (2009). Does Posting PowerPoint Presentations on WebCT Affect Class Performance or Attendance? Journal of Instructional Psychology, 36, 2, 104-107.

Brock, S., & Joglekar, Y. (2011). Empowering PowerPoint: Slides and teaching effectiveness. Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge, and Management, 6, 85-94.

Craig, R., & Amernic, J. H. (2006). PowerPoint presentation technology and the dynamics of teaching. Innovations in Higher Education, 31, 147-160.

Hill, A., Arford, T., Lubitow, A., & Smillin, L. (2012). “I’m ambivalent about it”: The dilemmas of PowerPoint. Teaching Sociology, 40, 3, 242-256.

Issa, N., Schuller, M., Santacaterina, S., Shapiro, M., Wang, E., Mayer, R. E., & DaRosa, D. A. (2011). Applying multimedia design principles enhances learning in medical education. Medical Education, 45, 818–826.

Tangen, J. H., Constable, M. D., Durrant, E., Teeter, C., Beston, B. R., & Kim, J. A. (2011). The role of interest and images in slideware presentations. Computers & Education, 56, 865–872.

Multimedia learning and cognitive load theory
Mayer, R. E. (Ed.). (2014). The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Tufte, E. R. (2003). The cognitive style of PowerPoint. Cheshire, CT: Graphic Press.

Presentation and slideware design tips
Council of Ontario Universities. (2012). Using PowerPoint. Retrieved from

Duarte, N. (2008). slide:ology: The art and science of creating great presentation. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media.

Reynolds, G. (2014a). Presentation zen design: A simple, visual approach to presenting in today’s world (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: New Riders.

Reynolds, G. (2014b). Presentation tips. Retrieved from