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How to Create an Accessible PowerPoint Presentation

Lots of PowerPoint file icons
Lots of PowerPoint file icons

In this article, we’re going to cover making accessible PowerPoint presentations. If you haven’t read our article in creating accessible Word documents, we suggest that you read that first as this builds upon that information.

Keep in mind that similar to Word, you should always use the built-in default tools PowerPoint provides you.

So let’s begin!

Properties

When you start your presentation, first fill in your presentation’s properties. Select File > Info and then on the right, you will see a listing of properties. We suggest that you fill out the title and the author. This will allow a screen reader to describe both what the presentation is and who it’s from.

Next, as you fill out your content and need additional slides, it is important that you choose preset slide layouts. To do this select New Slide, then choose the layout the best suits your content. To note, after the title slide, most slides will only require the “Title and Content” layout. However, you can change your format on a slide-to-slide basis.

Now we will add some text. It is important to fill in text only in your content placeholders. If you need additional spaces for text, choose a different layout. You may also notice PowerPoint defaults to bullet style. Always utilize your tab key or you’re indent buttons to create a list or sublist.

Graphics

Let’s move on to graphics. As PowerPoints are typically visual, they can often be crowded with images, both meaningful and decorative.

For decorative images especially for photos that you want on every slide, you’ll need to add them to the Slide Master so they won’t be read with the other relevant content of the presentation. Go to View > Slide Master.

For images that are purely decorative, they don’t need alt text. You’ll also notice that the Master Slides correlate with the slide layouts.

For graphics that are meaningful and unique to specific slides that don’t need to be included in the Master Slides, be sure to also include descriptive alternative text that describes the content. To do so, right-click the photo and select Format Picture then select the third symbol at the top of the pane and select Alt Text. In the description field, write your text.

To note, if you’re using a logo on the Master Slide, you must put one copy of the logo on an individual slide typically on the title slide. This is so that you can provide alt text for that image.

Links

Moving on to links, unlike other formats for PowerPoint, you can only include raw URLs in your content. A linked phrase or word as a link is not keyboard-accessible to those using AT. As raw URLs can sometimes become unsightly, you can opt to place the full URL in the presenter notes.

Tables

Next, let’s do tables. Go to Insert > Table, then select the number of cells you need. Always make sure that you utilize these default tools. We’ve often seen people make a table into an image, then use it in their presentation. Well, that can work but this is not as effective as using the table tool. Users need to be able to read each cell of a table with their screen reader.

You should notice the table tools tab at the top of the toolbar. Select the top row of your table and under the design tab, select Header Row. This allows a user to identify the main categories of information your table presents.

Person creating a PowerPoint presentation on a laptop
Person creating a PowerPoint presentation on a laptop

Lastly, just a few more things to keep in mind:

  1. Have unique slide titles – It’s important to have different titles for each slide as this can be confusing to someone using a screen reader. If you need to differentiate between two slides, simply use Roman numerals or write “continued”.
  2. Check your reading order – Go to Arrange > Selection Pane. Your selection pane will reveal the reading order of each slide. In other words, the progression of how your content is read to a user. Note that the bottom the list will be read first. Typically, you want to structure your title first, then content placeholder, then the rest is up to you. Be sure to check every slide.
  3. Color contrast – This is important for users with colorblindness or other visual disabilities. Color contrast analyzers can easily be downloaded from the internet. You’ll compare colors surrounding text. You want the result ratio to be at least 4:5:1.

For example, you have a presentation and the black on light blue works while the white on medium blue does not. No worries! All you need to do is up the contrast and change the header row to dark blue.

And that’s it. We’re done!

Creating accessible PowerPoints can be super simple as long as you keep these few tips in mind.

About the author

David Cote

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