Creating, editing and presenting slides as a blind teacher

As many teachers will tell you having some slides makes teaching a lesson far easier. So how do you create the slides when you can’t see?

PowerPoint and Google Slides work ok in presentation mode with a screen reader, assuming no complex images and standard flow. However, as soon as you switch to creating or editing that accessibility quickly changes. Adding titles, lists and text elements is a laborious task. It just takes forever, what may take a sighted person a few minutes to create, could take a screen reader user 10 or 20 times longer. Imagine that, your main teaching resource taking 10 or 20 times longer to create each time.

So what’s the solution? How do i generate slides, present them to students and mask the screen reader? Oh, and right now do all that virtually.

The answer is markdown, reveal-md and and AirServer. If you don’t teach computing all those terms may look a little alien.

So lets start with a sample presentation,, Quick demo deck.

The markdown text below is what generates that slide deck.

Quick slides

How fast 🚀

  • Super fast slides
    • with simple access to lists

    Easy Headings

    That get smaller

    & smaller

    It’s that simple

    • quic, simple formatted slides
    • Text access to images, video, tables & everything you can think of!

As you can see its just plaintext. The punctuation does all the formatting of titles, lists, text and images. Anything you can think to put in a PowerPoint or google slides deck you can do with plaintext and some punctuation.

But how do i mask the screen reader from the students? After all when i present i need to know what the slides say, but I don’t want to expose the screen reader to the students. It would be highly confusing and distract from my teaching.

The key here is an app called AirServer and an iPad. After generating my slides with reveal-md i access them on my iPad. I then use AirPLay mirroring from the iPad to AirServer running on a windows laptop. This separates the audio, so with some headphones i receive the screen reader audio and all the students see are the slides. The beauty of this setup is it works just as well in a physical classroom as a virtual one.

In the physical classroom the AirServer screen is displayed on the interactive white-board and i control it through my iPad. In the virtual room the AirServer is the shared or presented app on the virtual call.

Both setups allow me to deliver the lesson without students aware i am accessing the slides using a screen reader. The true beauty however, i can create a presentation in minutes. I dare say i am faster than a sighted person using PowerPoint or google slides. After all we both have to type the same text. But while they are clicking around the app to make titles, or add lists, all i do is type some punctuation and all that formatting is taken care of.

It’s a beautiful way to generate slides and importantly incredibly accessible to create, view and edit.

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