Accessible PowerPoint

David SpearsMicrosoft PowerPoint is one of the most, if not THE most, popular software presentation tools available. I’m sure most of the readers of this blog are at least familiar with PowerPoint and have used it on a number of occasions. It’s not just for people in business settings, but also in education and just about any community based or governmental organization you can think of.

With so many people using PowerPoint, it would be wise to consider making presentations accessible to people with disabilities; after all, they account for about six percent of the population.

Creating a document with accessibility in mind is much easier than taking a document that is not accessible and making it accessible.

There are several steps to consider when making (or creating) an accessible document, and as a result can become confusing for those who didn’t study computer science in college (that’s me). Taking a look at the “Quick Reference” (yes, I said ‘quick’) from Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) makes my head swim!

Fortunately, Microsoft includes a tool called the “Accessibility Checker” in  Microsoft Office suite (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint). The accessibility  checker is an excellent starting point when editing a document for accessibility.

To access the accessibility checker, simply click on File > Info, then click the “Check for Issues” button and select “Check Accessibility.” A pane will open to the right side of your presentation showing any errors and additional information.

Microsoft has gone further by providing an online resource to make your PowerPoint presentations accessible. The following are a few things to remember:

  • All images should have alternative text. Alternative text is a way to describe an image for people who cannot see the image due to visual impairment. Decorative images not pertinent to the message can have a blank alternative text (“ “). A previous blog on our page, has more information.
  • Each slide has a read order. A screen reader reads elements of a slide in the order it was placed on the slide. So it you’re like me and throw images on the stage and rearrange them how you like it, a screen reader may read the information in the wrong order.
  • Add meaningful and easy to understand hyperlinks. For example, the WCAG link above is actually https://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG21/quickref/, but I chose to use words that made sense instead (a screen reader will announce “link” before it reads the hyperlink address to let the user know it’s a hyperlink).
  • Make sure color is not the only means of conveying or emphasizing information.  People who are blind or colorblind may not know what you mean by “click the red button.”
  • Ensure there is color contrast between background and foreground – a strong contrast between background color and font color helps people with low vision see the text better.
  • Give each slide a unique title – this helps with navigating the document with a screen reader. A screen can often jump from one title to the next giving the user the ability to navigate the document more freely. More than one slide with the same title can easily create confusion.
  • Use a larger font size – Microsoft suggests 18 points or more, other accessibility personnel suggest 24 points as a minimum. WCAG suggests using a font that can be resized “up to 200 percent without loss of content or functionality.”
  • Ensure videos are accessible – this can be done by including captions and a video description. There’s more insight into this on a previous blog entitled Web Accessibility: Auditory.

So these are just a few things to remember when creating or editing a PowerPoint document for accessibility. For a more exhaustive list, please visit WCAG Quick Reference. And if you are currently using a screen reader, accessibility support for PowerPoint can assist you.


David Spears is a member of the Workforce Solutions Navigator team for the Texas Gulf Coast Region. Combining training and education to real world examples, David brings personal and professional experience with disabilities to the table in order to help job seekers with disabilities realize their potential. David has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Business Administration with over 20 years of experience in the business world.



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