Creating accessible PowerPoint presentations

This article offers guidance on ways to create Microsoft PowerPoint presentations to make them more accessible to users with disabilities. Because many files are often viewed electronically, governments and industries around the world are implementing policies requiring electronic and information technology to be accessible to people with disabilities. For example, the amended Section 508 of the United States Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires Federal agencies to make all of their electronic and information technology accessible.

Tip: If you have Microsoft Office 2010 or later, you can use a tool for PowerPoint, Word, and Excel called the Accessibility Checker to check your PowerPoint presentations for any issues that might make it challenging for a user with a disability. To learn more, see Accessibility Checker.

In this article

Add alternative text to images and objects

Provide column headings in tables

Give every slide a unique title

Use ordinary words in hyperlink text

Use simple table structure

Include closed captions for any audio or video

Check the reading order of each slide

Think about people who are color-blind

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Add alternative text to images and objects

Alternative text (alt text or Alt Text) appears when you move your pointer over a picture or object, and helps people using screen readers understand the content of images in your presentation. Alt text should be included for any of the following objects in your presentation:

  • Pictures

  • Clip Art

  • Charts

  • Tables

  • Shapes (that don’t contain text and are not in groups)

  • SmartArt graphics

  • Groups (all objects in this list, with the exception of shapes, should also have alt text when in groups)

  • Embedded objects

  • Video and audio files

Add alt text by doing the following:

  1. Right click the image or object, and then click Format.

    Note:  For tables, click Table Properties.

  2. Click Alt Text.

  3. Enter a description of the image or object into the Title and Description text boxes.

    Tip:  Use clear, but concise descriptions. For example, “a red Ferrari” tells the reader more about the image than “a car.”

  4. Click Close.

To learn more, see Add alternative text to a shape, picture, chart, table, SmartArt graphic, or other object.

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Provide column headings in tables

Screen reader software uses information from the header row to figure out how to navigate a table. Without a header row, screen readers can't track rows and columns. In addition, a header row lets you add column headings, which can help everybody understand what's in the table. For example, without a column heading, a list of pay rates is just a list of unknown numbers.

To specify a header row in your table, do the following:

  1. Click anywhere in the table.

  2. On the Table Tools Design tab, in the Table Style Options group, select the Header Row check box.

  3. Add your header information.

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Give every slide a unique title

People who have visual impairments use slide titles to navigate. For example, they can scan quickly through a list of slide titles and go right to the slide they want. Titles are also critical for people with a reading disability such as dyslexia.

To add visible titles to your slides, do the following:

  1. On the Home tab, in the Slides group, click Reset to restore slide placeholders for the selected slide.

  2. Type a unique name in the Title text box.

If you do not want the title to be visible on your slide, do the following:

  1. On the Home tab, in the Drawing group, click the Arrange menu.

  2. Click Selection Pane.

  3. Click the eye icon next to the text box to toggle its visibility.

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Use ordinary words in hyperlink text

Hyperlink text should be easy to read. Use ordinary words, such as "City park recreation" instead of a complex and coded URL. Try to give the reader or listener a good idea of the link destination, so they can decide whether to follow the link.

To make a hyperlink display ordinary words in your document, do the following:

  1. Place your cursor where you want the hyperlink.

  2. On the Insert tab, in the Links group, click Hyperlink to open the Hyperlink dialog box.

  3. In the Text to display box, type in the name or phrase that will briefly describe the link destination.

  4. In the Address box, type the link URL.

  5. Click OK.

To change the text of a hyperlink, do the following:

  1. Select the link and then, on the Insert tab in the Links group, click Hyperlink to open the hyperlink dialog box.

  2. In the Text to display box, make any changes to the text.

  3. Click OK.

Additionally, you can include ScreenTip text that appears when your cursor hovers over a hyperlink, and can be used in a similar way to alt text. To add ScreenTip text, do the following:

  1. Place your cursor in the hyperlink you want to add ScreenTip text to.

  2. On the Insert tab, in the Links group, click Hyperlink to open the hyperlink dialog box.

  3. Click ScreenTip…

  4. Type in your text in the ScreenTip text box.

  5. Click OK.

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Use simple table structure

Keyboards and screen readers use table cells to determine where they are and what "next" means. It's easy to find out how this works, just click in any table cell and then press the Tab key.

This simple process is broken by merged or split cells, or when one table is nested inside another. You can no longer depend on using the Tab key to go to the next cell. Navigation becomes unpredictable.

To test and simplify table structure, do the following:

  1. Select the first cell of the table.

  2. Press the Tab key repeatedly to make sure that the focus moves across the row and then down to the first cell of the next row.

  3. If you need to merge or split cells to simplify the table, on the Table Tools Layout tab, in the Merge group, click Merge Cells or Split Cells as appropriate.

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Include closed captions for any audio or video

Whenever you use additional audio or video components in a presentation, ensure that the content is available in alternative formats for users with disabilities, such as closed captions, transcripts or alt text.

If you’re using PowerPoint 2010, you can download and install the Sub-titling text add-in for Microsoft PowerPoint (STAMP), which lets you easily create closed captions for video and audio in your presentations.

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Check the reading order of each slide

People who can't see a slide can have a screen reader read the slide contents to them. The screen reader reads everything in a certain order, and includes any text, alt text for shapes, and table contents. It's important to make sure that the slide contents is read in the order that you intend.

To check the order in which your slide content will be read back, do the following:

  1. On the Home tab, in the Drawing group, click Arrange and then choose Selection Pane.

  2. The Selection Pane lists the objects on the slide. Objects will be read back beginning with the bottom list item and ending with the top list item.

  3. Correct any out of order items by dragging items to the location that you want, or by using the Re-order arrows on the bottom of the pane.

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Think about people who are color-blind

Many people have some form of color blindness. Most often, it is an inability to distinguish between red and green, or seeing red and green differently. When you create a presentation, it’s important to make sure that people who can't rely on color distinction can still understand what they’re seeing.

Some things you can do when building a slide deck include:

  • Avoid using orange, red, and green in your template and text.

  • Use texture in graphs, instead of color, to highlight points of interest.

  • Circle or use animation to highlight information, rather than relying on laser pointers or color.

  • Keep the overall contrast in your presentation high.

To get an idea of how a person who is color-blind will see your presentation, you can check the contrast by doing the following:

  1. On the View tab, in the Color/Grayscale group, click Grayscale.
    PowerPoint Ribbon View tab, grayscale selected

  2. On the Grayscale tab, click Grayscale to see what slides look like when flattened to just their level of contrast.
    PowerPoint grayscale tab with grayscale selected

Learn more

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