Why should I make my PowerPoints accessible?

Making your PowerPoint slideshows, presentations and handouts accessible helps all users interact with and learn from the content you’ve created. Because PowerPoint has a high visual component, it is important to provide alternative ways of accessing slide content for users who may have visual, auditory, motor or cognitive disabilities.

Best practices

  • Choose a theme/template with good contrast and a simple background. Not all PowerPoint templates are created equal; some have low contrast and busy or patterned backgrounds. When you search for a template by selecting File > New, type “accessible” in the Search field to search for templates that are tagged as accessible by the creator. Microsoft has also tagged some templates as accessible (Accessible PowerPoint Template Sampler).
  • Stick to slide layouts. Take advantage of placeholder areas when adding titles, lists, images and tables. Descriptive titles on each slide help screen readers navigate the presentation. By default, screen readers read the title first followed by other content defined in the slide layout. To view the reading order and rearrange items, go to Home > Arrange > Selection Pane (the reading order is bottom to top).
  • Provide alt text for images. To add alt text, right-click on an image and select Edit Alt text. For images that are decorative, leave the field blank and check Mark as decorative.
  • Identify row and column headers in tables. The Table Tools feature in PowerPoint allows you to specify a Header Row, a First Column, a Last Column, etc. While not all screen readers are able to identify table headings, this step will ensure that any headers are identified when saving to PDF.
  • Write descriptive link text. Raw URLs might not make sense to screen readers. Provide more descriptive link text so that users know where the link will take them.
  • Avoid too-small text. Text size can be an issue when using a projector, so make sure your text is large enough to read from a distance.
  • Keep transitions and animations simple. Complex or automated transitions can be distracting.
  • Provide alternate ways to access audio/video. For embedded videos, provide closed captioning; for audio, provide a transcript.  
  • Run the accessibility checker. PowerPoint provides a built-in accessibility checker that will identify common issues.   

Resources

 

How to make your PowerPoint accessible

Themes / Templates Alt Text Arrange Order HyperlinksAccessibility Checker

How to select a theme or template
  1. Select the Design tab in the menu. Locate the Themes group and the Colors group.
  2. Click the More drop-down arrow to see all available themes, colors and fonts.
  3. Select the desired theme.
  4. The theme will be applied to the entire presentation. To apply a different theme, simply select it from the Design tab. Note: To create a slide with a specific layout, click the New Slide drop-down menu.

How to add alt text to images
  1. Right-click an image. Select Edit Alt Text.
  2. Select an image. Select Picture Format > Alt Text. The Alt Text pane opens.
  3. Type 1–2 sentences to describe the image and its context to someone who cannot see it. Note: Check the Mark as Decorative option if your image is decorative.

How to arrange the reading order on a slide
  1. On the Home tab, select Arrange.
  2. In the Arrange menu, select Selection Pane.
  3. In the Selection Pane, to change the reading order, drag and drop items to the new location.

How to add descriptive text to a hyperlink
  1. Select the text to which you want to add the hyperlink, and then right-click.
  2. Select Hyperlink. The text you selected displays in the Text to Display box. This is the hyperlink text.
  3. If necessary, change the hyperlink text.
  4. In the Address box, enter the destination address for the hyperlink.
  5. Select the ScreenTip button and, in the ScreenTip text box, type a screen tip.
  6. To apply the changes, select OK > OK.

How to run the accessibility checker
  1. Select Review > Check Accessibility.
  2. Review your results. You'll see a list of errors, warnings and tips with how-to-fix recommendations for each. See Rules for the Accessibility Checker for more information.
  3. Select a specific issue to see why you should fix the issue and steps to take to change the content.
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