PowerPoint Accessibility Guide


Microsoft PowerPoint is one of the most popular tools for creating slide show presentations. It is often used to organize thoughts for a meeting or lesson, to present key points in a live presentation, and even to create handouts. This article outlines how to can make PowerPoint files more accessible on the web.

This guide is for users of Windows base computers only.


Slide layouts

Every version of PowerPoint since at least 2000 contains a series of highly-accessible slide layouts. PowerPoint is designed to encourage the use of these slide layouts, especially in newer versions. Using these templates correctly will ensure that your files have correctly-structured headings and lists, proper reading order, etc. The correct use of slide layouts is probably the most significant thing you can do to ensure that your content is accessible.

PowerPoint 2000-2003: Select Format > Slide Layout... or use the Slide Layout sidebar.

PowerPoint 2007-2010: Select Home > New Slide, or select the New Slide button, and a menu of slide types will appear.


Creating Slide Layouts

Select Home> New Slide.

Choose the desired layout from the Layout option.


Alternative text for images

PowerPoint presentations usually include images. While these images are sometimes decorative, many contain content that should be given a text alternative. Images can be give appropriate alterative text in PowerPoint. This alternative text will be read by a screen reader in a PowerPoint file and should remain intact when exporting to HTML or PDF. For more information on this topic, see our article on alternative text.


Adding Alt Text

Right-click on the image and choose Format Picture.

Select the Size & Properties icon and choose Alt Text.

Enter a brief description in the the Title field. Add appropriate Alt Text in the Description field.


Data tables and accessibility issues

Accessible tables need a clear table structure and table headers to help guide a screen reader user.

Select the Insert tab on the ribbon, then select Table > Insert Table.

PowerPoint can style rows and columns so they appear as data tables, but there is no way to add table header information in a way that will be identified by a screen reader.

If your presentation contains more than the simplest tables, and if you have Adobe Acrobat, consider saving your presentation to PDF and adding the additional accessibility information in Acrobat Pro.



Hyperlinks are usually created in PowerPoint by pasting the full URL into a page (e.g., http://webaim.org/techniques/powerpoint/) and hitting space, Enter, or some other key. This automatically creates a link. It is simple, but the URL may not make sense to the reader. To change the link text, select a link, right click and select Edit Hyperlink, or select Ctrl + K. Change the URL in the Text to display field to something more descriptive.

If you are creating a presentation that is intended to be displayed electronically and in a printout, you may want to include the URL and a description in the link text.

Article by WebAIM on accessible PowerPoint


Outline and Notes Panels

PowerPoint contains two panels that can be used to enhance accessibility: the Outline panel and the Notespanel.


Outline Panel

The Outline panel, found under View> Outline View, contains a text outline of the content that appears in your slides.

Reviewing this panel can help ensure the content on the slides is logically sequenced, that slide titles are unique and meaningful, and that reading order is appropriate for any user.


Notes Panel

The Notes panel, found under View> Notes, allows the speaker to add notes and information that will not appear on the slides. This information may not be accessed by a screen reader, so do not put important information in this area.


Accessibility Checker

PowerPoint includes an accessibility resource that identifies accessibility issues.

To run the accessibility checker, select File > Info > Check for Issues > Check Accessibility.

The Accessibility Checker task pane will show accessibility errors, warnings, and tips on how to repair the errors. Select specific issues to see Additional Information at the bottom of the task pane.


Other considerations

  • Ensure that font size is sufficient. If your presentation will be viewed on a projector, font size may need to be even larger.
  • Provide sufficient contrast. If your presentation will be viewed on a projector, sometimes the contrast needs to be even more pronounced.
  • Do not use color as the only way to convey content.
  • Avoid automatic slide transitions.
  • Use simple slide transitions when possible. Complex transitions can be distracting.
  • Use simple language.
  • Check reading order of text boxes that are not part of the native slide layout. They are usually the last thing read by a screen reader.
  • If you have embedded video, ensure that the video is captioned, and that the player controls are accessible.
  • If you have embedded audio, ensure a transcript is included.
  • If your slides contain animations, ensure that they are brief and do not distract from the most important content on the page.


Converting PowerPoint to Other Formats

PowerPoint is a good format for face to face presentations, but it is usually not the best format for content on the web. The file can be large, and users must either have Microsoft Office or a special plugin in order to view the file. Using PDFs may provide a better alternative.


Exporting to PDF       

PDF is often the best format to display PowerPoint presentations on the web. The file size is relatively small, distracting slide transitions are removed, and everyone has a PDF reader. Most importantly, heading structure and other accessibility information will remain intact if you export the file correctly. If you have a presentation with tables, and if you know how to add additional accessibility information in Adobe Acrobat, it might be possible to create a PDF file that is more accessible than the original PPT file.



 Creating PDF files from Office documents



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