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Designing Instruction for the Neurodiverse

Dr. Brett Cook-Snell, College Lecturer and Instructional Designer.

Tools Tip 1 - Creating Accessible and Inclusive PowerPoints

Take your PowerPoints with notes and automatically create on-screen text. A dialog box allows users to view and hear your notes as well as adjust text and contrast. Download the accessibility template and follow the instructions in the video. Video transcripts are located below the video.

Video Transcript

I’m Dr. Brett Cook-Snell. I’m a lecturer within the Darden College of Education and Professional Studies. I have my PhD in instructional design, and I use my degree to inform my classroom teaching in STEM education and information literacy.

Imagine for a moment, if you could take your existing PowerPoint lectures and with a minimum amount of rework, turn them into inclusive, accessible lectures for those who have physical and/or cognitive barriers to learning. You might not only see learning gains, but you may also see learning gains in students without these barriers. And as an added benefit you will also be meeting many of the accommodation requirements that you receive from our office of educational accessibility.

Welcome to the first in a series of 10-minute tips towards accessible, inclusive instruction. I’m here today to introduce you to a tool that we're developing that will help you do just that. You can download the tool at my professional website and work along with me as a go through these tips, or simply watch this short 10-minute tip to see how easy it is. So, let's get started.

Let me show you quickly how the tool works with a slide show lecture I’ve converted. Then I’ll show you how to do it. Note that when I open the lecture, I have to enable macros. Make certain to tell your students this. At the top are two buttons, transcripts and audio. The audio button reads the content of your notes. The transcript button allows learners to both see and hear your notes and has some added functions.

Let’s click on the transcript button. From the dialog box displayed, learners may read your notes, enlarge or decrease text font size and contrast for readability of the notes section as well. Clicking the speak button will read the notes in the box, displaying each sentence one at a time as it is read. As with the audio, a signal will play to advance to the next slide in addition to the entire text being redisplayed as a visual cue. There is one caveat hear for both the audio and transcript speak functions, and that is you need to wait for the audio or speaking to finish before advancing to the next slide or changing text font or contrast otherwise you may have performance issues. We are working on improving these features.

Now, let me show you how. I have on my screen the resource page on my professional website. The only way to reach this page is by typing in the full address because it is not linked from the main menu. The address again, is Scroll down the page and in the center section you will see a button to download the accessibility template. I’m going to download and open it, you may download and save it.

First, open the template in PowerPoint. You may get the standard alert about opening items, and you may get a second alert about content within the PowerPoint. This content is needed, so approve the second alert.

Next, open one of your existing lectures that you have. Notice no buttons. Copy the slides into the template. Notice buttons. Go to file/save as to where you might want it. It's already got the type, but it is PowerPoint macro-enabled presentation. So, you can save that. Go back to the top. You probably want to delete the first slide there. Resave it.

If you are concerned about maintaining control over your notes, you may also save the PowerPoint as a slideshow. You can do a file/save as, click on the dropdown. Go down to PowerPoint Macro Enabled show. Save that. Students will be able to view your slides and read or hear your notes through your dialog box, but will not have direct access.

Now we can play it.

And that’s it! That’s how easy it is to convert you slides to accessible, inclusive instruction.

This tool is under development. If you try this, please provide me with some formative evaluation. You can e-mail me at or call me at my extension 3-5308. Our next 10-minute tip will go talk more about perceivable instruction, and I'll show some more complex tools that you can use to make instruction accessible to those with cognitive or physical barriers.

Have a great one.