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Creating Accessible PowerPoint Presentations in Office 365

A good PowerPoint presentation should have a thoughtfully chosen theme with good color contrast and legible fonts, consistent structure for ease of navigation by screen reader users, and alternative text on all images and other graphical content. Other considerations include the handouts and the accessibility of the posted (.pptx or PDF) file after the presentation. 

Note: While PowerPoint for Office 365 is used  in this tutorial, the concepts can easily be applied to other versions of PowerPoint. See Microsoft's  Make Your PowerPoint Presentations Accessible to People with Disabilities for help with other versions of PowerPoint.

Handout: PowerPoint Accessibility Checklist (.docx)


Segment TitleDescriptionLinks
Themes, colors, fonts

When choosing a PowerPoint theme, take care to choose a background that does not interfere with slide text, choose colors that have good contrast, and use legible fonts.

  • Color contrast ratio minimum of 4.5:1 is recommended
  • Choose sans serif fonts, avoid script fonts
  • Recommended font size minimum 24 points, 36 preferred

Link: WebAIM.org Color Contrast Checker

Slide Titles

Slide titles are necessary because they provide a way for screen reader users to easily navigate your presentation. All slides must have a unique title, but there are ways to hide the title from the screen if you would rather it not be visible. Check for the presence of slide titles in outline view.

Slide Layouts and Reading Order

Use built-in slide layouts to ensure that your slides have titles and that all content is included in a container, is present in Outline View, and is in the proper reading order. Creating a blank slide and filling it with text boxes and images often results in hidden content and reading order problems.

Any slide that has content outside of designated content areas (containers) will show up in the Accessibility Checker with a warning to "Check Reading Order". You can view the reading order in the Selection Pane.

Alternative text on images

All meaningful images should contain alternative text descriptions for screen reader users. Alternative text should be informative but succinct. Avoid using the words "Image of..." or "Graphic of..." as this will already be announced by the screen reader.

See WebAIM.org Alternative Text for tips on writing good alternative textual descriptions.


Descriptive hypertext links

Hypertext links are generally presented as long URL strings by default. These URLs may not make sense when read aloud by a screen reader. Also, participants in a live presentation are unlikely to try to copy a long URL from the screen. It is considered best practice to use descriptive (plain language) links and, if necessary, shortened versions of URL on the visible slide.

Charts and graphs

Charts and graphs require alternative text, and must not use color as the only means of communicating information. Consider including data labels or an accompanying data table as an alternative means of sharing the information conveyed by color.

Tables

Keep data tables simple with a proper header row and a uniform number of rows in each column (no merged or split cells.)

Using the Accessibility Checker

The built-in Accessibility Checker can alert you to some common accessibility errors in your PowerPoint presentation, including missing alternative text on images/charts, missing headers on tables, poor table formatting, unclear hyperlinks, and missing slide titles. It will also alert you to any slides that may contain reading order problems.The Accessibility Checker does not check for color contrast or font-related issues so you will have to check these manually.

Exporting to PDF

When exporting your PowerPoint presentation to PDF be sure to use the built-in Export or Save as Adobe PDF options. Do not try to use the Print option as this will not retain any of the accessibility that you have just built in to the file! Many people try to use the Print function to save the 3-slides per page handout as PDF and this will result in an inaccessible PDF.

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