Make a PowerPoint Accessible

For documents created in Microsoft PowerPoint 365, check the following accessibility guidelines for each document element to make sure that your document is accessible.

Create the PowerPoint Presentation

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.

The Slide View

  • Use the built-in slide layouts provided on the Home and Insert tabs instead of a blank one. This will help to ensure your slide's reading order remains intact.
    Screenshot of New Slide button being clicked and various slide layouts are being presented.
    • You can check or change this reading order by selecting Home > Arrange > Selection Pane. The Selection Pane will appear in the right-hand sidebar. The reading order for the elements in this pane is bottom to top.
      Screenshot of the Selection Pane, showing the order of the 4 items on the slide.

Images and Graphics (including Graphs, Maps & Shapes)

Provide alternative text descriptions (alt 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 Edit Alt Text.
  2. The Alt Text Pane will open on the right side of the screen.
    Screenshot of the Alt Text Pane, including the field where to type the alternative text description.
  3. Enter your descriptive alternative text into the field provided.
  • If the image is decorative, leave the field blank and check Mark as decorative.
  • If the image requires more explanation than can be covered in alt text, refer to How to Make Complex Images Accessible.

Lists

Format lists using formatting tools

Page formatting (titles, lists, and links) is read aloud to screen reader users so that the content is understood in context. Therefore, it is very important to properly format lists.

  1. Click on the Home tab.
  2. In the Paragraph group, select the Numbering or Bullets icon.
    • Use Number lists if a sequential order is important to the list
    • Use Bullet lists if all items are equal value.

Links

Write meaningful link text that indicates 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 Link.
  3. In the Address field, enter the link URL.
    Indicates Address fieldIndicates Address field
  4. 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 an indecipherable URL or an ambiguous phrase like "click here," the user will not know where that link goes.

Tables

Create data tables with column headers

Designating column headers in a table is essential for screen readers to understand how the information is laid out.

  1. Put your cursor anywhere in the table.  The Table Tools tab will display.
  2. Under the Table Tools tab, click the Design tab.
  3. In the Table Style Options group, verify the Header Row box is checked.
    Screenshot of the Table Style Options group with Header Row box checked.
  4. 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.  Make sure you construct your table in a way that accommodates the proper reading order and test the reading order after the table is complete.

  1. Place your cursor in the first cell of the table. 
  2. Press the Tab key repeatedly to navigate through the table. This will be the reading order that assistive technologies will use.
NOTE: A table in Slide Show view is not accessible. Use alt text.

Color

Don't use color alone to convey meaning

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

Use sufficient color contrast

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

Install and Use the Colour Analyser tool

  1. Download and install Colour Contrast Analyser Tool
  2. Open the Colour Contrast Analyser application
  3. Click the Foreground eye dropper tool, hover over and click the foreground color (usually text) to select it.
  4. Click the Background eye dropper tool, hover over and click the background color.
  5. If you have a 12pt font you are testing for color contrast, you must get a (AA) Pass for regular text.
    If you have font larger than that, you must get a (AA) Pass for large text.
    Colour Contrast Analyser Tool showing colors as passing for regular and large text.

Colour Analyzer Tips:

  • LSC's 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.

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 this content should be limited and used very rarely. Pages that do contain flashing content should limit the flashing to no more than three flashes per second and should not use fully saturated reds in the content.

If you have a video containing a scene involving very bright lightning flashes (or other scenes with flashes), edit the video so the lightning 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 devices and software options, such as speech to text software and touchpads, keyboard accessibility remains an important input format for many assistive technologies.

Label buttons

All buttons that require interaction with the user should be clearly labeled with real text (not images) or alternative text.

Video & Audio

Caption video and transcribe audio

It is better to link out to media on the internet than embed it in your PowerPoint presentation. 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.

PowerPoint supports the playback of video with multiple audio tracks. It also supports closed captions and subtitles that are embedded in video files. Currently, only PowerPoint for Windows supports insertion and playback of closed captions or subtitles that are stored in files separate from the video. For all other editions of PowerPoint, closed captions or subtitles must be encoded into the video before they are inserted into PowerPoint.

Math and Science

Math and science equations 

Math and science equations, formulas, and notations cause difficulties for screen readers. For more information, see How to Make Math-Science Resources Accessible.

Run the Built-in Accessibility Checker

A great way to begin checking the accessibility of your PowerPoint presentation is to use the built-in accessibility checker.

NOTE: The PowerPoint accessibility checker only checks .pptx files

For Windows:

  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.
    Identifies Check Accessibility

For Macs:

  1. Click on Tools.
  2. Click Check Accessibility.
    Identifies Check Accessibility

The Accessibility Checker panel will open to the right of the document. It 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