Technology has dramatically expanded our access to knowledge. There are so many ways to share information with the public in mass. Microsoft PowerPoint is just one of the mediums available to distribute content to a broad audience. Everyone shares the responsibility of making this information accessible to as many people as possible. PowerPoint has many built-in and adaptive features that will help you to make your content appropriate for a broader audience.
Use the pre-set templates. Template choices are already available for use in Microsoft PowerPoint. These prepared templates are formatted to follow a logical order when someone uses screen reading accessibility tools. Content creators can ensure that their audience will hear the slide information in the same or similar order as the visual audience if they use the provided formatting choices. Unique slide backgrounds may seem more interesting, but it is not worth alienating a wide range of individuals with varying disabilities.
Provide appropriate ALT text for images. ALT text is the written description of a picture or figure that will pop up on your screen when you hover your mouse over an image. These labels are also the text description that a screen reader will read aloud to alert someone what images appear on the screen to add relevance to the topic discussed on the slide. PowerPoint offers an automatic ALT text generator, but this may be inaccurate. It is often best to add customized descriptions by right-clicking on the image and selecting “edit ALT text” from the drop-down menu. Select a format, like “picture,” and then type 1 to 2 sentences that productively describe the image.
Make sure you make copies of the presentation available to the audience. An audience member who uses screen reading software will need their individual materials. This accommodation will allow them to hear the slide description separately on headphones or from their home/office. It will not be possible for those with disabilities to participate fully if the presenter is sharing their screen or projecting the information to a large screen. Offer to send out a copy of the slide presentation to all participants before the event commences or ask if anyone would like to receive the information ahead of time.
Check to make sure your presentation is maximally accessible. Microsoft PowerPoint has a built-in accessibility checker that you can use to screen your presentation for any issues that may limit access to many populations. Click on “Review” from the top of the page, and you will see an option to “check accessibility.” If you select this option, you will see a box on the right side of your screen that lists any issues in your project that may become a barrier for your audience. These flagged problems may range from color contrast, reading order, or ALT text deficiencies. Select a concern from the list to be taken to the exact location of the problem within your presentation.
Accessibility is part of building an inclusive workplace and community. We all share the responsibility of creating a world with minimal barriers. PowerPoint is one of many programs that help you to optimize accessibility. Utilize these brief additional steps to be part of the solution.
Kim Blanchard is a Disability Navigator on the Regional Team for Workforce Solutions. She assists those with disabilities in the job search process to ensure customers are provided with all appropriate opportunities to begin or improve their careers. She has a Master of Science in Applied Psychology and enjoys sharing her knowledge and time in service to individuals who face challenges due to differing abilities.