Accessible presentations and other verbal communication

When preparing for discussions, presentations and any other verbal communication, consider the following guidelines.

  • Speak clearly, at a measured pace, with even intonation.
  • Consider how many New Zealand Sign Language interpreters you require. You will need 2 interpreters, who can take turns, if a meeting goes longer than 1.5 hours or requires technically complicated signing. It is best to discuss this with the interpreting agency.
  • It can be difficult to book New Zealand Sign Language interpreters, as there is a shortage, so do so in advance – this is particularly true of tri-lingual interpreters (eg, Te Reo–English–New Zealand Sign Language). See Further resources and organisations for information on booking New Zealand Sign Language interpreters.
  • Send any written material to be used at the event to the interpreters ahead of time.
  • If a sign language interpreter is not available, or you wish to engage with Deaf participants who do not use New Zealand Sign Language, consider using an electronic note-taker/live captioning to transcribe the discussion in real time; this will transfer your material on to a data show or computer screen which the participant can read.
  • Ensure there is enough light on the Sign Language interpreter, so that participants can clearly see both the interpreter’s hand movements as well as their lips.
  • Consider using a hearing loop. Set it up in advance, and test it before the event to ensure it is functioning. Always use a microphone when a hearing loop[1] is in use, and say your name before speaking. People using hearing loops often cannot differentiate between different voices over the loop, as all voices tend to sound mechanical.
  • Deafblind people use a variety of communication strategies, depending on the nature and extent of their vision and hearing impairment/loss, including modified sign language and tactile signing. Appropriate lighting is particularly important. Discuss communication options with participants, and contact Deafblind New Zealand for advice.
  • If you are conducting a meeting, provide an agenda, and then try to keep to the agenda topics in the order they are listed. This will be helpful for people with learning/intellectual disabilities.
  • At times, you may need to conduct conversation and presentations at a slightly slower pace, to enable all participants time to have their say.
  • When you are asking for comments from the audience, have at least one person (depending on the size and configuration of the group) ready to take a microphone to participants, and ensure that Sign Language interpreters have a microphone available. Be aware that you may need more than one microphone.
  • Be prepared to offer to have a minute taker. Also consider the use of a reader/writer for people who have short-term memory loss and for those with learning/intellectual disabilities, when conducting surveys or asking for feedback.
  • Avoid using acronyms, and say all names in full.


  • When planning for a presentation, find out the specific needs of the audience in advance, so that you can prepare accessible materials.
  • When using a PowerPoint or overhead presentation, keep sentences short and easy to read. Limit key ideas to 4 per slide. 
  • View your presentation from the back of the venue to make sure it is legible and readable, and the text/background colours you have chosen don't make it difficult to read.
  • Read presentations in full, and describe images, diagrams, graphs and tables. Do not tell the whole room that this is for the benefit of people who are blind or have a vision impairment. See Using images, diagrams, graphs and tables accessibly.
  • If possible, prior to the meeting, provide a copy of PowerPoint presentations or Word documents electronically and/or in large font to anyone with a vision impairment, and to meeting assistants. For more information on meeting assistants, see Engaging with people with learning/intellectual disabilities.
  • Provide a copy of your presentation to New Zealand Sign Language interpreters in advance, so that they can familiarise themselves with the content.
  • Consider providing information in advance to people with learning/intellectual disabilities, to allow them time to read and understand your material.
  • If you are engaging New Zealand Sign Language interpreters, discuss with them the speed at which presenters should speak, and whether they will need to pause to allow interpreters to swap over.
  • If you are going to use videos in presentations, consider inserting captions or video clips of New Zealand Sign Language interpreters.
  • Where possible, do not have presenters stand in front of windows or with a lot of light behind them. Lighting may obstruct some people’s ability to pick up on visual cues and other non-verbal messages, such as gestures. It also restricts communication with people who depend on lip-reading.

[1] A hearing loop is a system that enhances sound sources such as a microphone or PA system, and is transmitted directly to hearing aids that have a telecoil attachment. With a telecoil, hearing aids do not have to use their microphone, and ambient noise is decreased. Hearing loops can be permanently set up in a venue, or portable varieties can be used.

Back to top