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Microsoft PowerPoint Accessibility

This page covers techniques that can be used to make accessible PowerPoint presentations. Steps may vary depending on the version of Microsoft PowerPoint and the type of Operating System that you are using. The version used on this page is Microsoft PowerPoint 2013 for PC.

Page Contents

video of all PowerPoint accessibility topics
PowerPoint Accessibility Video

Reading Order and Structure

Reading order and structure are extremely important for anyone using a screen reader. Screen readers will read slide content in the order in which it was created, NOT necessarily the order in which you arranged it. In order to maintain the integrity of your slide's reading order and structure, it is always recommended to use slide layouts rather than manually inserting text boxes. (Tip: To view a slide's reading order, click on the blank space on either side of the slide and begin pressing the Tab key on the keyboard.)

Adding slides with layouts:  video of creating proper slide reading order and structure

  1. Under the Home tab, click New Slide.
  2. Click on a slide layout to add that layout to your presentation (avoid using Blank).
  3. Type appropriate text into the text boxes.

Note: By using a layout, you are accomplishing three important accessibility features: 1) By default, the text boxes use a large font for the title and content, making it easy to read. 2) As long as text boxes are not rearranged, the content will maintain a proper reading order. 3) Content added to the text boxes will also be added to Outline View - giving users another way to view the slide content.

new slide being inserted using a slide layout

Rearranging the reading order of slides:

  1. Under the Home tab, click Arrange and then choose Selection Pane. The Selection Pane will list the order in which your slide will be read. The object listed at the bottom of the list will be read first, while the object at the top will be read last.
  2. Using the Selection Pane, click and drag content around to rearrange the list.
  3. Click the X to close.
Arrange expanded to display selection pane option. Selection pane used to reorder slide content.

When creating a hyperlink, make sure to provide a clear description of the destination of the link, do not simply provide the URL. It should be clear to users where the link will be taking them before even clicking on it.

Adding meaningful Hyperlink descriptions:  video of creating accessible PowerPoint hyperlinks

  1. Copy and paste the desired URL into your slide.
  2. Right click on the URL and click Edit Hyperlink.
  3. In the Text to display box, enter a clear description of the link destination.
  4. Click OK.
right click URL to display edit hyperlink option. Insert text into text to display field.

Alt Text

Alternative text, also known as alt text, is hidden text that describes what is happening in an image. Alt text allows those that are visually impaired to use a screen reader to understand the content of an image. Purely decorative images, or images that don’t help with the understanding of the content, should include alt text with an empty description. Do not begin the alt text description with “This is an image of...” because images are identified to the user as images by the screen reader.

Adding Alt Text to your images:  video of creating accessible PowerPoint images (alt text)

  1. Right click the image and then click Format Picture.
  2. Click Size & Properties.
  3. Click Alt Text and enter a description for the image in the Description field (Title is not needed).
  4. Click the X to close.
right click image to display format picture option. Insert text into the description field.


When making a table, be sure to include alt text and column header rows. Providing a header row will allow users to better understand the layout of the table. (Tip: To view the order in which a screen reader will read the table, click within the top left corner cell and begin pressing the Tab key on the keyboard.)

Adding Alt Text to your tables:

  1. Right click the table and then click Format Shape.
  2. Click Size & Properties.
  3. Click Alt Text and enter a description for the image in the Description field (Title is not needed).
  4. Click the X to close.
right click table to display format shape option. Insert text into the description field.

Adding Column Header Rows to your tables:

  1. Select the table.
  2. Under the Table Tools Design tab, at the top of of your presentation, find the Table Style Options menu and check the box for Header Row.
  3. Enter appropriate text into the Header Row of the table.
Head row box checked.

Accessibility Checker

The Accessibility Checker is used to check your presentation for issues that could potentially make it inaccessible to those with disabilities. The Accessibility Checker results can be clicked on to provide details about why the issue should be changed and how to go about changing it.

Running the Accessibility Checker:  video of using PowerPoint's accessibility checker

  1. Click on File, at the top left corner.
  2. Click on Info.
  3. Click on the Check for Issues dropdown menu and then choose Check Accessibility. The Accessibility Checker will run and then open within your presentation.
check accessibility under info tab and check for issues menu     accessibility checker pane listing the results of the scan

Color and Font Schemes

Because PowerPoint is a highly visual medium, it is important to take into account visual imparities such as colorblindness. When deciding the color and font schemes, be sure to use some best practices:

  • Avoid using orange, red, and green in your text and backgrounds. Instead use colors that provide maximum contrast for the viewer.
  • Do not add text on top of busy backgrounds.
  • Make sure all text is large and readable.
  • Avoid using serif fonts (ex. Times New Roman), instead use sans-serif fonts (ex. Arial).
  • Periodically check Grayscale view to get an idea of how colorblind users might see your presentation. Grayscale view is located under the View tab in the Color/Grayscale area.

Audio and Narration

If you plan to use audio and/or narration in your PowerPoint presentations, you may choose to use Adobe Presenter. By default, adding audio with spoken words to a presentation, using PowerPoint's Insert Audio tool, is not accessible to hearing impaired users. However, audio can be made accessible by using the Adobe Presenter add-in. More information is available at eLearning's Tools & Technologies page.

More Help

For more help with creating accessible PowerPoint presentations, please contact Studio 6.

Additional Resources