How to Make a PowerPoint Accessible

Create the PowerPoint Presentation

Mac users: choose Ribbon from the View menu - this will make the interface similar to Windows versions of Word, so you can follow the instructions below.

Shows the Outline and Slides tabs.The Outline View

  • Make sure all of the slide text content appears in the outline view. Students with visual disabilities may prefer not to bother with the more visual slide view.
  • Recommended best practice: Compose your outline in the outline view, and then move to the slide view to add images and design.

The Slide View

  • Use the slide layouts (not the blank one though) provided on the Home tab. This will help to ensure your slide's reading order remains intact.
    • The order that text and objects are inserted into the slide, will be the default reading order unless you manually change it.
  • Don't use animations or slide transitions on the PowerPoint presentation that you post online.

Check the following elements and ensure they are accessible

For each item that you have in your presentation, click on the accessibility guideline(s) that corresponds to it in order to learn how to make that element accessible.

Images and Graphics (including Graphs, Maps & Shapes)

Provide alternative text for images and graphics

Alternative text descriptions of images (ALT text) allows screen reader users to benefit from the information being conveyed by an image.
  1. Right-click on the image and select Format Picture. A dialog box will appear.
  2. Select Alt Text on the sidebar.
  3. Enter appropriate alt text in the Description field, (not the Title field.)
    • Appropriate alt text is a succinct description of why you are including the image.
  4. Click the Close button (in MS PowerPoint 2010 for Windows) or OK button (in MS PowerPoint for Mac) when done.
  5. If the image requires more explanation than can be covered in ALT text, refer to How to Make Complex Images Accessible.


Format lists as lists

Formatting, like lists, headings and links, are read aloud to screen reader users, so the content is understood in context.
  1. On the Home tab.
  2. In the Paragraph group, select the Numbering or Bullets icon.
  3. Use Number lists if a sequential order is important to the list
  4. Use Bullet lists if all items are equal value.


Write meaningful links that indicate link's destination

Links are a major method of navigating for everyone, but especially screen reader users. If the links are embedded into meaningful text, they are much more useful.
  1. Highlight text that describes the destination of the link.
  2. Right click and select Hyperlink.
  3. In the Link to field (in MS PowerPoint 2011 for Mac) or the Text to display field (in MS PowerPoint 2010 for Windows), type in a name or phrase that describes the link destination.
  4. In the Display field (in MS PowerPoint 2011 for Mac) or the Address field (in MS PowerPoint 2010 for Windows), type the link URL.
  5. Click OK.
Hyperlink Tips:
  • If you think students will be printing the document and you want them to have the URL, put it in parentheses after the link, but don't hyperlink it.
  • Screen reading software can pull up all of the links in a page to aid the user in navigating the page more quickly. If a link pulled up by the screen reader is some indecipherable URL or ambiguous phrase like, "click here" the screen reader user will not know where that link goes.


Create data tables with column headers

Designating column headers in a data table (not a table used for layout) is essential to screen reader users understanding how the information is laid out.
NOTE:  You can only create column headers (not row headers) in PowerPoint.
  1. Place cursor anywhere in the table.
  2. Two Table Tools tabs will appear in the Ribbon.
  3. Click on the Design table tool tab.
  4. In the Table Style Options group, check the Header Row checkbox.
  5. Now the cells in the top row of your table make up the headers for the columns below them.

Ensure a proper reading order in tables

Screen readers read tables from right to left, top to bottom, one cell at a time (no repeats). If cells are split or merged, the reading order can be thrown off.
To test the reading order of your table in PowerPoint, place your cursor in the first cell of the table. Now press the Tab key repeatedly to navigate through the table. This will be the reading order that assistive technologies will use.
Merged, nested, and split cells change the reading order of tables. Make sure you construct your table in a way that accommodates good reading order.


Don't use color alone to convey meaning

Don't use color alone to make a distinction, a comparison or to set something off or apart from the rest of the document. If you categorize something by color alone, those who are color blind or blind will not be able to benefit from the information.

Use sufficient color contrast

Make sure there is enough color contrast between foreground (font) color and background color.
If you print your color on a black and white printer, would it be understandable? Without sufficient color contrast, people who are color blind will not be able to benefit from the information.

How-to Install and Use the Colour Analyzer Tool

  1. Download Colour Contrast Analyzer Tool
  2. Open the Colour_Contrast_Analyzer application
  3. Make sure you are in the Result -- Luminosity mode, not the contrast result for color blindness.
  4. Click the Foreground eye dropper tool, hover over and click the foreground color to select it.
  5. Click the Background eye dropper tool, hover over and click the background color.
  6. If you have a 12 pixel font color you are testing for color contrast, you must get a Pass (AA). If you have font larger than that, you must get a Pass (AA) in the Large Text field.
Colour Analyzer Tips:
  • Excellent practice standards are to reach a pass in the AA standards.
  • Don't worry If you fail the AAA standards, though you might want to consider something with more contrast.

Videos: How-to Install and Use the Colour Analyzer Tool

Icon for a video. Video How-to Install the Colour Contrast Analyzer 

Icon for a video. Video How to use the Colour Contrast Analyzer tool

Slide's Reading Order

Maintain proper reading order in the slides

If you added text boxes to a slide layout or if you used the blank layout, the reading order of your slide could be messed up. A student using a screen reader will be tabbing through your slide to read all of the information. If the tab order is not the proper reading order, the slide will be confusing. To check the reading order of a slide:
  1. Click in the gray staging area surrounding your slide or on your slide without selecting any of the placeholders.
  2. Hit Tab. This is the first thing on the slide that would be read by screen reading software (used by people who are blind, low vision or dyslexic.)
  3. Hit Tab again to see what the second thing read would be.
  4. And so on.

Change the Reading Order on Microsoft Office 2010 for Windows:Shows the Selection Pane on the Arrange menu.

  1. On the Home Tab, click on the Arrange menu and choose Selection Pane.
  2. Tab through the slide again (steps 1-4 above) and the corresponding element will highlight in the Selection Pane.
  3. The reading order starts at the bottom of the Selection Pane and moves up, so if you want to move some element in the slide to the first position reading order, it would have to appear at the bottom of the list in the Selection Pane.

Change the Reading Order on Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac

  1. On the Home Tab, click on the Arrange menu and choose Reorder Objects.
  2. Reorder the objects.
    • Important: The first object (#1 when you hover your mouse over the object) is read last, so if you want to move an object in the slide to the first position reading order, it would have to be at the bottom of the pile (and the highest numbered object).

Flashing/Blinking Content

Eliminate or limit blinking/flashing content to 3 seconds

Any flashing/blinking content (especially content in red) can cause seizures in people with photosensitive epilepsy as well as other photosensitive seizure disorders, so it should be limited and used only when necessary. Web pages that do contain flashing content, should limit the flashing to no more than three flashes per second and not use fully saturated reds in the content.
If you do have content that flashes/blinks more than three times per second, freeze the blinking content momentarily so it falls below the three times per second limit.
If you have a web video with a scene involving very bright lightning flashes (or other scenes with flashes), edit the video so the lightening doesn't flash more than three times in any one second period.

Interactive Elements

Ensure that any action that uses a mouse, can also be completed by a keyboard.
People with carpal tunnel and other mobility issues often cannot use a mouse. While there are more and more input device and software options such as speech to text software and touchpads, keyboard accessibility remains an important input format for many assistive technologies
  1. Whatever the operation or behavior, make sure a mouse is not required.
  2. Try navigate the web page without a mouse. Use the following keyboard keys to navigate and interact with the web page all of its content:
    • Tab,
    • Arrow keys,
    • Enter
    • Spacebar
      Keyboard commands clearly provided (and common operating system and browser keyboard commands) may also be used.
  3. Could you complete the course without using a mouse?

Label buttons

All buttons that require interaction with the user should be clearly labeled with real text or alternative text.

Video & Audio

Caption video and transcribe audio

It is better to link out to media rather than embed it in your PowerPoint. Layers of technology make it difficult for assistive technologies to navigate. If you do embed video or audio make sure the players are keyboard accessible and that you follow the accessibility guidelines for captioning video and transcribing audio.

Math and Science

Write math and science equations accessibly

Math and science equations, formulas and notations can only be read by screen reading technology if you use PowerPoint 2013 with MathType 6.9 for Windows.Otherwise, be prepared to somehow extract all the content and place it in a file format that is accessible. For more information, see How to Make Math-Science Resources Accessible.

Check accessibility & retrofit if necessary

Run the built in accessibility checker (Only available on 2010 & 2013 versions)

(Mac users, skip this step.)
A great way to begin checking the accessibility of your Microsoft PowerPoint 2010 or 2013 presentation is to use the built-in accessibility checker.
Shows the Check Accessibility option on Info tab.
NOTE: The accessibility checker only checks .pptx files
  1. Go to the File tab.
  2. Select Info from the sidebar menu.
  3. Click on the Check for Issues button.
  4. Select Check Accessibility from the drop-down list.
The Accessibility Checker panel will open to the right of the document. The accessibility checker provides you with a list of errors, warnings, and tips. When you click on an error or warning, instructions on how to fix it appear below the list of errors, in "Additional Information".

Additional Resources