Make slides easier to read by using the Reading Order pane

Some people with visual impairments use a screen reader to read the information on the slide. When you create slides, putting the objects in a logical reading order is crucial for screen-reader users to understand the slide. 

Check the reading order of slides

  1. With your presentation open, select Review > Check Accessibility.

  2. Select the Check reading order category in the Warnings section to open the list. When the reading order of the objects on a slide doesn't match one of the common ways objects are spatially ordered, Accessibility Checker lists the slide here.

  3. Point at a slide number in the list, then select the adjoining drop-down arrow. Select the Verify object order command.

    Under Recommended Actions, select Verify object order.

    This opens the Reading Order pane:

    The Reading Order pane.

Change the order of objects

Objects are listed in the order that the screen reader will read them in.  The number next to each object indicates the position in the sequence. Objects without a number will be skipped because they are marked decorative.

If the order of the objects isn't logical, people using screen readers will have a difficult time understanding the slide.

To change the order that the objects are read in:

  1. Select one or more items in the list. (Use Ctrl+Click to multi-select).

  2. Drag the selection upward or downward, or click the up arrow (Move Up) or down arrow (Move Down).

Note: Changing the order of objects can affect how the slide looks when there are overlapping objects. If the slide does not look the way you want after changing the order, press Ctrl+Z to undo the change. You may still be able to improve how the slide is read by grouping objects in logical units and removing objects from the reading order by marking them decorative.

Group objects into logical units

If you have complex diagrams or illustrations made of many objects, group the objects into logical units. That way, the screen-reader user can read the grouped units rather than all of the individual objects in them. And you'll only need to order the units and not all of the objects in them.

In cases where grouping may be beneficial, a tip appears at the bottom of the Reading Order pane on slides:

A tip appears at the bottom of the Reading Order pane.

To group objects:

  1. In the pane, use Ctrl+Click to select the items you want to group.

  2. On the … Format tab at the right end of the ribbon, select Group > Group (or Arrange > Group > Group).

After you group the objects, only the group appears in the Reading Order pane, rather than all the objects in it. Click the item and then enter a description for the group.

Caution: If the objects have animation effects, the animations won't be preserved after you group them.

Add alt text to objects

Alternative text (alt text) is descriptive text which conveys the meaning and context of a visual item on the slide. Screen readers will read the alt text aloud, allowing people to better understand what is on the screen.

You don't need to add alt text to text boxes and shapes that have text in them, but all other objects need alt text. In the Reading Order Pane, a warning sign appears next to any item that needs alt text.

A warning symbol appears next to an item that needs alt text.

To add alt text for the object:

  1. In the Reading Order Pane, click the item to select it.

  2. Click it again to open a text edit box and type a description for the object.  Then press Enter.

    Type an alt text description for the object that needs it.

    The warning sign disappears after you've added the alt text.

    The warning about the missing alt text is now removed.

Review automatically generated alt text

Pictures inserted in Office 365 may have alt text that was automatically generated. A warning sign appears next to these items to remind you to review and edit the alt text.

  1. Click the item in the Reading Order pane to select it.

  2. Click it again to open a text edit box, then review and edit the description. Remove any comments added there such as Description automatically generated. Then press Enter.

The warning sign should disappear after you remove the comments.

Remove objects from the reading order

Decorative objects add visual interest but aren’t informative (for example, stylistic borders). Screen readers skip over the decorative objects when reading in Slide Show mode.

To mark an object decorative and remove it from the reading order, clear the check box next to the item.

A warning symbol appears next to an item that needs alt text.  

You don't need to change the position of the item in the list. The number next to the item goes away, indicating that it's no longer part of the reading order.

After the item is marked as Decorative, the warning is removed.

Keyboard shortcuts for the Reading Order pane

You can use these keyboard shortcuts in the Reading Order pane:

To do this

Press

Move the keyboard focus through the major regions until it is in the Reading Order Pane

F6

Navigate by keyboard through the buttons in the pane and then into the list

Tab

Move the focus among the items in the list 

Up arrow,
down arrow

Select an item in the list

Enter or spacebar

Edit the Alt Text of the item in the list that has focus

F2

Add/remove the item from the selection (that is, multi-select)

Shift+Enter or Shift+spacebar

Select the current item and toggle whether it is in the reading order

Ctrl+Shift+R

Select the current item and move it up

Ctrl+Up arrow

Select the current item and move it down

Ctrl+Down arrow

Select the current item and move it to the beginning

Ctrl+Shift+Up arrow

Select the current item and move it to the end

Ctrl+Shift+Down arrow

See Also

Make your PowerPoint presentations accessible to people with disabilities 

Everything you need to know to write effective alt text 

Rules for the Accessibility Checker 

Group or ungroup shapes, pictures, or other objects

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