Making PowerPoint Documents Accessible

There are some simple things you can to do to ensure that your PowerPoint presentations are accessible to learners with disabilities.

The directions on this page apply to PowerPoint 2013, the current version available TCC.  Unless specifically noted, the directions will also work for PowerPoint 2010.

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Outline View

The outline view shows all of the text that is available to assistive technology (screen readers).  If there is text on the slide that is not showing in outline view, then it will not be read by a screen reader.  All content must be visible in outline view (or for images, as alt text).

Use the "Normal" view button at the bottom of the screen to toggle between Slide View and Outline View.
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Unique Titles

Each slide needs a unique title.  These unique titles make it easy for all learners.to navigate through the presentation and locate specific information.

Auto Layout

When creating a new slide, always use the Auto Layout menu.  This ensures that all content on the slide will be seen by assistive technology.  Don't be tempted to add text boxes as these will not be available to screen readers.

When adding images, be sure to select an auto layout that includes images, and then use the image place holder to add the image.  Resist the urge to just "insert" images as this creates an additional layer on the slide and the image's alt text may not be accessible.

In the Home Ribbon, select "New Slide" to view the auto layout options.

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Images

Why add alt text?

Include alternative text (alt text) for all images including charts.  Alt text should be entered in the Description area, not the Title area.

In PowerPoint 2013

After inserting the image on the document,
1.    Right-click on the image and select "Format Picture" from the menu.

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2.    A side panel will open.
3.    At the top of the panel, select the third icon.

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4.    Click on the words "Alt Text" to expand the area.
5.    Type your text in the DESCRIPTION area.  Do not type in the Title area.  A screen reader will not read text in the Title area.

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In PowerPoint 20101

  1. Go to the image and right click, then select Format Picture....
  2. The Format Picture window will open.
  3. Select Alt text from the left menu.
  4. Type in description text in the Description field. (Not in the Title field.)
  5. Click the Close button when done.
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Keyboard Access

Learners must be able to access all parts of the presentation using just the keyboard.  Simple transitions and animations can be accessible. 

Transitions

On the Transitions ribbon, make sure that "On Mouse Click" is selected.  (Do this even if no transitions are used.)  This option allows learners to use the space bar to move to the next slide.
 
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Animations

On the Animations ribbon, use the "Start on Click" option.  This will allow keyboard access to the transitions using the spacebar.
 
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Testing Accessibility 

A great way to begin checking the accessibility of your PowerPoint presentation is to use the built-in accessibility checker.

Please Note: The accessibility checker only checks .docx files
  1. Go to the File tab.
  2. Select Info from the sidebar menu. (this is the default view)
  3. Click on the Check for Issues button.
  4. Select Check Accessibility from the drop-down list.
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The Accessibility Checker panel will open to the right of the document. The accessibility checker provides you with a list of errors, warnings and tips.
 
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When you click on an error or warning, instructions on how to fix it appear below in "Additional Information."
 
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Convert PowerPoint Document to PDF Document

The benefit of a pdf document is that it preserves the layout, formatting, fonts and images of your document.  The content of the document cannot be easily changed.  Free viewers (like Acrobat Reader) are available on the web.

PowerPoint 2013: Convert to PDF

  1. Check the final version of the document with the built-in Word Accessibility Checker.
  2. Click the File tab in the top right corner of the window.
  3. Select Export.
  4. Click the Create PDF/XPS button.

    click the create pdf button in the Export area of the File tab

  5. In the bottom right corner of the Publish as… window, click on the Options button.

    click the create pdf button in the Export area of the File tab

  6. Make sure all boxes are checked in the option section called Include non-printing information.  Click OK.

    Make sure all boxes are checked in the option section called Include non-printing information

  7. Then click Publish.

Word 2010: Convert to PDF

  1. Check the final version of the document with the built-in Word Accessibility Checker.
  2. Click the File tab in the top right corner of the window and select Save as.
  3. In the Save as type field, select PDF (*.pdf).
  4. Click on the Options button and make sure the Document structure tags for accessibility checkbox is checked.  Click OK.
  5. Then, click Save.

Technical Directions for PowerPoint 2011 for Mac

Technical directions for these items can be found on The National Center on Disability and Access to Education PowerPoint for Mac website.


1  Sorensen, Karen. "PowerPoint Accessibility." Portland Community College. 2000-2014. Web. 20 Nov 2014. <http://www.pcc.edu/resources/instructional-support/access/powerpoint.html>.