Creating Accessible PowerPoint Presentations

All presentations created in Microsoft PowerPoint should be created to be accessible. Use the accessibility techniques that apply to your presentation as you create or update your presentation. Use these links to jump to the section you need:

Video Tutorial

Video: PowerPoint 2013 & 2016: Designing Accessible Presentations

Accessible Templates

In the Office 365 version of PowerPoint, you can search for and use pre-defined accessible templates.

  1. Open PowerPoint.

  2. Go to File > New.

  3. Type accessible templates in the search text field.

  4. To see information about an accessible template, select it.

  5. To open a new presentation based on the selected template, select Create.

  6. To see other color, style, and font options, browse the PowerPoint themes. On the Design tab, expand the Themes menu and select a theme that suits your purposes.

Slide Layout

Use the provided slide layouts to help your slide's reading order remain intact.

  1. From the Home tab, In the Slides group, choose the New Slide drop-down menu.
  2. Select a slide template. Start with the template that is closest to the layout you want.

Do not use the Blank slide template.

Reading Order

Check and correct the reading order of the content on each slide.

  1. On the Home tab, click on Arrange and choose Selection Pane (Mac: Reorder Objects).
  2. To see the reading order of the slide, tab through the slide and the corresponding element will highlight.
  3. To re-arrange the reading order, click arrow up/down button on the Selection Pane (Mac: drag layers). The highest number is read first.
  4. Test reading order with the Tab key.


When adding items that are in a list use the built-in list tools. When the order of your list doesn't matter, use the bullets button. When the order is important, use the Numbering button.

  1. Select the text that you want to make into a list.
  2. On the Home tab, in the Paragraph group, select the Bullets or Numbering list.


Add alt text to all images and shapes. Avoid using smart art as each element is considered an image and often you assign meaning to an entire image, not just each element. Additionally, the text in smart art is seen as an image, not actual text. If you need to use smart art, contact Distributed Education for tips on accessibility.

For PowerPoint 2019 or 365:

Select the image and then you will add alt text by locating the alt text button on the ribbon. 

For PowerPoint 2016 and earlier:

  1. Right-click on the image and Select Format Picture.
  2. Click the Layout and Properties icon and click on the ALT TEXT to open the Alt Text Field.
  3. Enter appropriate alt text in the Description field (not the Title field).

For images that can’t be described in one or two short sentences, look at how to address complex images.

Here are some additional resources to help you write effective alt text.

In addition to describing visual materials, it may be necessary to present information in a tactile format. Science courses may already have 3-D models of some of the concepts they cover. Disability Services may have access to already created tactile graphics or can create some simple raised-line graphics.

At this point, the need for tactile graphics is dealt with as an accommodation. If Disability Services contacts you regarding a need for a specific student you may need to meet with Disability Services to assess the need and determine what resources are available. 


Write meaningful link text that indicates the link’s destination.

  1. Type out test that describes the destination of the link.
  2. Select the text, right click and choose Hyperlink… from the menu.
  3. The Insert Hyperlink window will open. Enter a URL address in the Address field (Mac: Link to field).
  4. Click the OK button to save the link.


Use tables for comparing data, not layout. Make sure you create a table, don't just paste an image of a table. Tables need to be placed inline with text. Be sure to indicate the column headers and add alt text describing the table.

Add a table:

  1. Click on the Insert tab on the ribbon.
  2. Click on the Table button and select Insert Table.
  3. Select the number of Columns and Rows you want to start with and click OK.

Indicate Column headers:

  1. Place the cursor in the top row of your data table.
  2. Click on the Design Tab under Table Tools (Mac: Table tab)
  3. In the Table Style Options group, make sure the Header Row checkbox is checked.

Add Alt Text  (not available in PPT 2019 or 365):

  1. Place the cursor in your data table.
  2. Right-click and select Format Shape…
  3. Click the Layout and Properties icon and click on the ALT TEXT to open the Alt Text Field.
  4. Enter appropriate alt text in the Description field (not the Title field).

Color and Contrast

Use sufficient color contrast between the font and its background color.

 Without sufficient color contrast, people who have low-vision or are colorblind will not benefit from the information. Check your color combinations using the Color Contrast Analyser tool. Contact IT to install it on your computer.

Note: Color combinations need to have a green checkmark next to the WCAG 2.0 AA boxes in the Color Contrast Analyser tool.

Don't use color alone to convey meaning.

Don't use color alone to make a distinction, a comparison or to set something apart from the rest of the page. If you categorize something by color alone, those who are color blind or blind will not benefit from the color distinction.

Math and Science Content

Use the MathType plugin for MS Word to create math and science equations, formulas and notations. Contact IT to install MathType on your computer. Note: MathType objects do not need alt text. Do not use Microsoft's equation editor.

PowerPoint does not keep images and text "in-line" so mixing text and equations on a screen is not effective.

Video and Audio

When including video and audio, don't only embed the audio & video, also link out the content.

Audio-only content should have a transcript available. Video content should contain captions that are at least 99% accurate.

Multimedia players need to function fully with a keyboard. Mouse-only controls are not accessible. YouTube's player is accessible.

Outline View

  1. Click on the View tab (Mac: View > Outline View)
  2. In the Presentation Views group, click on Outline View.
  3. In the Outline Panel, make sure all text from the sides appears in the Outline View.

Using the Accessibility Checker

The built-in accessibility checker provides you with a list of errors, warnings and tips. When you click on an error, you will be moved to the correct location in the document and instructions on how to fix the error appear below in Additional Information. Although the built-in checker cannot catch all accessibility issues it does provide valuable feedback on your document.

For PC:

  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.

For Mac (Word 2016):

  1. Go to Review.
  2. Click Check Accessibility.

Delivering an Accessible Presentation

Now that you have created your slide accessibly, you want to think about presenting them accessibly.

The Web Accessibility Initiative lists the tips below. They are good reminders for any presentations. 

Speak clearly 

Avoid speaking too fast, so participants and sign language interpreters can better understand you and keep up.

Use simple language

Avoid or explain jargon, acronyms, and idioms. For example, expressions such as "raising the bar" can be interpreted literally by some people with cognitive disabilities and can be confusing.

Give people time to process information

Pause between topics. When you ask if anyone has questions, some people with cognitive disabilities will need extra time to form their thoughts into words.

Be visible

Also, be in good light so participants can see your face when you talk, which helps some people hear and understand better. Especially when you don't have a microphone, be careful not to face away from the audience to read projected material.

Use a microphone

Even in a small room, some people might need the audio electronically, including people using ALDs/hearing loops and remote CART writers. Note that if you ask "Can everyone hear me OK?" some people might be uncomfortable saying that they cannot.

Ensure that all relevant sound is audible through the sound system

For example, if the audience doesn't have a microphone, repeat their questions and comments into your microphone before replying.

Cover all displayed text

Say all of the information that is on each slide. (This does not mean that you have to read the slide exactly as it is, it just means that you cover the visual information in what you say.)

Describe pertinent parts of graphics, videos, and other visuals

Describe them to the extent needed to understand the presentation. (You usually do not need to describe decorative images.)

Describe other visual information

For example, if you ask a question of the audience, summarize the response, such as, Speaker: "If you make your websites fully accessible, please raise your hand."...then: "About half raised their hand."

Video: PowerPoint 2013 & 2016: Delivering Accessible Presentations



Article ID: 60424
Wed 8/15/18 9:28 AM
Thu 5/18/23 9:15 AM