PowerPoint Accessibility

Like Word documents, PowerPoint presentations should be made accessible in PowerPoint even if you are going to convert them to PDF. This will save you work in the long run -- we promise. Here's how:

Quick Tips

  1. Templates & Themes - Use an accessible template/theme.
    • Most of the "standard" templates/themes are accessible, but be sure to pick one that has good color contrast. (See "Check Color Contrast" below.)
    • If you are using a custom template/theme, check it for accessibility before you invest a lot of time in using it.
  2. Slide Layouts - Use slide layouts with title placeholders.
    • Standard slide layouts include placeholders for title and contents that are designed to be accessible -- use them!
    • Never use a blank template or delete the title placeholder. (If you want to hide a title, see "Titles" below.)
    • Creating a custom layout can be complicated, but if you need to, start with Microsoft: What is a Slide Layout?
  3. Titles - Add a title at the top of each slide.
    • Enter a title where it says "Click to add title." If you don't see that placeholder, right-click the slide, click Layout, and pick a layout with a title.
    • Keep titles short, and try to give each slide a unique title that indicates what it is about.
    • If you don't want the title to show, go to the Home menu, Editing section, click Select, and pick Selection Pane. In the Selection Pane, click the visibility (eye) icon. The hidden title won't show on the slide, but it will appear in the outline and be read by assistive technologies. 
  4. Text - Put text in the content placeholder.
    • Enter text in the placeholder that says "Click to add text." If you don't see that placeholder, right-click the slide or look in the Slides section of the Home menu, click Layout, and pick a layout with content .
    • Use Font and Paragraph settings to adjust the size, spacing, alignment, etc.
    • Try to avoid inserting Text Boxes. If you have to, make sure to check and correct the Order (see below). 
  5. Tables - Keep tables simple
    • Find "Table" on the Insert menu. Don't use spaces, tabs, or columns to make tables.
    • Keep tables simple, with column headers in the first row and row headers in the first column.
    • Don't merge cells or use blank rows, columns, or cells to control table appearance; adjust border styles and/or cell margins instead.
  6. Pictures - Add "Alt Text" to Pictures (and Shapes, Icons, Charts, etc.)
    • Right click a picture, select Edit Alt Text, and enter the Alt Text.
    • Enter alt text that communicates what the picture communicates. Ignore any instructions to "describe" the picture."
    • If there are words in the picture, put them in the alt text.
    • If the picture is a decoration and doesn't communicate anything, check "Mark as decorative".
  7. Videos - Add "Alt Text" and Captions to Videos.
    • Right click a video, select Edit Alt Text, and enter Alt Text that gives the name of the video.
    • If a video includes speech, play it and look for captions. You may need to click a button on the player control bar to turn them on.
    • If you need to add captions, see Microsoft: Add Closed Captions to Media in PowerPoint or ask for help.
  8. Order - Check the reading order.
    • Find Check Accessibility on the Review menu, click the bottom half of the button to show its menu, and pick Reading Order Pane.
    • With the Reading Order pane showing, go to each slide, and check that the objects are listed in the right order. Click on an object in the Reading Order pane to see it outlined in the slide.
    • If the order is wrong, select an object in the Reading Order pane, and click the Move Up (^) or Move Down (v) button to put it in the right order.
    • If correcting the Reading Order causes an object to disappear, it has likely moved behind another object. You may need to set the overlapping object to "No Fill" to show what is under it or change it's size so that it doesn't overlap.
  9. Check Accessibility -
    • Find "Check Accessibility" on the Review menu. Click the bottom half of the button to show its menu:
      • Check Accessibility - review and fix any errors and warnings the accessibility checker finds.
      • Alt Text - with the Alt Text pane showing, click on each image in the presentation to check (and if necessary correct) its alt text.
    • Be aware that the Accessibility Checker can find many but not all accessibility issues and sometimes makes mistakes.
  10. Check Color Contrast - Use the free Colour Contrast Analyser to check colors.
    • Check that all text/background color combinations "Pass (AA)".

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