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PowerPoint Accessibility

Like Word documents, PowerPoint presentations should be made accessible in PowerPoint even if you are planning 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 and theme.
    • Most of the standard templates and themes are accessible, but be sure to pick one that has good color contrast. (See "Colors" below.)
    • If you are using a custom template, confirm it is accessible before you invest a lot of time.
  2. Slide Layouts - Use slide layouts with title placeholders.
    • Standard slide layouts include placeholders for title and contents that are designed to be accessible -- pick one by clicking the lower half of the "New Slide" button or right-click a slide and pick "Layout".
    • Use the "Title Slide" layout for your first slide and only your first slide.
    • Never use a blank template or delete the Title placeholder.
    • If your template doesn't have the layout you need, consider making a new one. (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 give each slide a unique title that indicates what it is about.
    • If you don't want a title to show, move it above the visible part of the slide. It won't show when you play your slide show, but it will still be readable by assistive technologies. (Hidden titles aren't readable if you convert to PDF however, so keep them visible if they're important!)
  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, click Layout, and pick a layout with content.
    • Use Font and Paragraph settings to adjust the size, weight, color, etc., but avoid fancy formatting like outline, shadow, glow, etc. (Fancy formatting can cause accessibility issues if converted to PDF.)
    • Avoid inserting Text Boxes. (Try columns instead!) If you have to use a text box, keep the formatting simple and check the Reading Order. (See "Accessibility" below.) 
  5. Pictures - Add "Alt Text" to Pictures (and Shapes, Icons, Charts, etc.)
    • Right click a picture, select Edit Alt Text, and enter text that communicates what the picture communicates (i.e., don't describe it.)
    • If there are words in the picture, put them in the alt text.
    • If the picture doesn't communicate anything, check "Mark as decorative".
  6. 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.
  7. Audio & Video - Add "Alt Text" and Captions to Audio & Video.
    • Right click an audio or video, select Edit Alt Text, and enter Alt Text that tells what it is.
    • If the audio or video includes speech, make sure everything it says is shown in text on the slide or in captions. (See Microsoft: Add Closed Captions to Media in PowerPoint or ask for help.).
  8. Transitions & Animations - Keep them simple and subtle.
    • Remember that animations can be distracting or even trigger headaches or seizures, so keep them simple and subtle (and professional).
  9. Accessibility - use PowerPoint's accessibility checker.
    • 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. (But remember, the Accessibility Checker can't find all accessibility issues and sometimes makes mistakes.)
    • Alt Text - with the Alt Text pane showing, click on each image in the presentation to check its alt text.
    • Reading Order - With the Reading Order pane showing, go to each slide, and check that the objects are listed in the right order. Click an object in the Reading Order pane to see it outlined in the slide. If an object is in the wrong order, click the Move Up (^) or Move Down (v) button. (If correcting the order causes an object to disappear, it has likely moved behind another object - set the overlapping object to "No Fill" or change it's size so it doesn't overlap.)
    • Color - The Accessibility Checker may identify text that doesn't have adequate contrast. For more information, see our Color Contrast Guide.

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