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Instructions for improving the accessibility of PowerPoint presentations.

First published:
4 June 2020
Last updated:

Arrange slides correctly

Put your slide content in a proper reading order so that screen reading software can read it aloud correctly for users with a visual impairment.

Reading order

To set the reading order, click on Home > Arrange > Selection Pane.

List objects in the slide in a logical order so that any screen reading software reads them aloud in the right order.

To rearrange objects into a new reading order, either drag the object into a new location or click on it and select Bring Forward or Send Backward.

To check the reading order, select a slide and press the Tab key. Each time you press the key, the focus moves to the next object that a screen reader will read.

Improve image accessibility

How to make the charts, graphs, and images in your PowerPoint slides accessible to users with visual or cognitive disabilities.

To make images more accessible:

  • use colour, text, patterns, or shapes to communicate ideas
  • add descriptive Alt Text to pictures, charts, and other visual objects
  • group layered images, like a picture with callout lines, into a single object
  • select View > Grayscale, to get an idea how your slides might look to someone who is colourblind

Add Alt Text to a chart

  1. Highlight the chart by clicking on it.
  2. Right-click the chart and select Format Chart Area.
  3. Select Size & Properties > Alt Text.
  4. Add a meaningful Title and Description.

Add Alt Text to an image

  1. Right-click the picture and select Format Picture.
  2. Select the Size & Properties panel.
  3. Click on the Alt Text drop-down.
  4. Add a meaningful Title and Description.

Group layered images for simplicity

  1. Select all the images you want to group.
  2. Click on the Format tab and choose Group.

Use accessible colours and styles

PowerPoint is primarily visual and often displayed at a distance from the audience. However, you can make your PowerPoint slides more accessible by following a few best practice tips.

The colours and styles you use for slides, text, charts, and graphics go a long way toward improving accessibility in PowerPoint.

Start with a template

Prebuilt Excel templates can help save time and improve accessibility in the content that you create. Microsoft have a range of these templates available for users to download at office.com.

Templates from this collection have several features that support accessibility.

Tips for accessible colour and style choices

  • Off-white backgrounds are better for people with perceptual differences, like dyslexia.
  • Select templates and themes with sans serif fonts that are 18 points or larger.
  • Use solid backgrounds with contrasting text colour. This is preferred to patterned / watermarked backgrounds and low-contrast text themes.
  • To make information more accessible, differentiate it in more than one way. For example, use both colour and text to mark up different chart elements.

Design slides for people with Dyslexia

The elements that make presentations clearer and easier to follow for people with dyslexia also make them better in general.

These tips help you do both:

Fonts

Use simple, sans serif fonts with adequate spacing between letters.

Use at least an 18-point font size. Good Sans Serif font examples include: Calibri, Franklin Gothic Book, Lucida Sans and Segoe UI.

Avoid compressed fonts, fonts with uneven line weights, fancy / script / display fonts and italic or underlined fonts.

Text

To keep your text easily readable, limit the number of lines in each slide and leave plenty of space above and below each line.

Apply the “6 by 7” rule: only 6 words per line and 7 lines per slide.

Speaker notes

Use speaker notes to provide more in-depth information.

By default, speaker notes are formatted in a readable, sans serif font.

Share your slides after your presentation so your audience can refer to the slides and notes later. This will allow them to recall the verbal presentation delivery.

Background

Bright white slide backgrounds can make text harder to read; choose an off-white or cream background instead.

Text should be dark, with lots of space around the letters.

Alternatively, a dark background with white text also works well.

Images

Images are a great way to break up blocks of text and make your slide easier to scan.

Remember to add Alt Text to every image in your presentation.

Layout

A colourful, high-contrast graphic layout, with pictures and text creates a structured design.

Structured layouts are easier for people with dyslexia to understand.

Make use of alternative formats

To make a presentation more accessible to people with low vision, save it in an alternate format that can be read by a screen reader. Users can then open it on a personal device or port it to a Braille reader.

Create a document version of a presentation

  1. Open the PowerPoint presentation.
  2. Select File > Export > Create Handouts.
  3. To create a Word version, choose Create Handouts.

Formatting options for exporting slides:

  • to display presentation slides first, followed by presentation notes, select Notes below slides
  • to include slide images in the Word document, select Paste and then select OK

Remember to add Slide Titles using Heading Styles and add Alt Text to each image to improve accessibility in the exported Word document.

Slide titles

Add a colon (:) after each slide number in the document and then copy and paste the appropriate title from the PowerPoint presentation.

Heading styles

Highlight the slide title and then select Home > Heading 1.

To see an outline of the presentation with slide headings, select View > Navigation Pane

(Sometimes people who use screen readers or Braille review the navigation first to get an overview of the document).

Alt Text

  1. Right-click the slide image.
  2. Select Picture and then choose Alt Text.

Add a meaningful title and text that describes the image in the appropriate box.

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