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CTE - Center for Teaching Excellence: PowerPoint Presentations

Accessibility: Start at the Beginning

Although it is certainly possible to edit previously-created documents to make them accessible, the easiest way to ensure documents are accessible is to build them that way from the beginning.  Once you decide to make all documents accessible, build new ones using the accessibility standards and work through old documents by starting with the ones that are least accessible (i.e. need the most work to become accessible)--since those would be the least useful to someone using adaptive technology.

Accessibility: PowerPoint Presentations

Just like with Word, PowerPoint has built-in features that, when used correctly, allow screen readers to accurately interpret the contents of the slides.

  • Built-In Slide Templates: In addition to making the presentation's layout uniform, templates are designed to work with screen readers and other assistive devices.  Changes to templates need to be made using the Slide Master.  Visit "Apply a template to a new presentation" from Microsoft Support to get started and find links to related support topics.
  • Unique Slide Titles: This makes it much easier for someone using assistance technology to know that they are on the correct slide.  If you want to have content continue from one slide to another, add, for example, "Slide 1 of 2" to the main title to keep the individual slide titles unique.
  • Reading Order of Slide Contents: Unless you designate a different reading order, screen readers will read the elements on a slide in the order they were added--which might not be the logical, intended order of the content. To check and change the reading order, use the Selection Pane.  Screen readers will read from the bottom to the top of the list of elements.  Visit "Manage objects with the Selection Pane" from Microsoft Support for more details.
  • Images: All images should have descriptions of the image either in visible text (as a caption or otherwise directly above or below) or by using the alternative (alt) text tool.  Even if an image is merely decorative, that information should be included in an "alt text" tag so that someone using a screen readers knows whether or not the image has important information.
  • Lists and/or Tables: As mentioned on the Home page of this guide, it is important to use a program's built-in features to create formatted lists and/or tables so that screen readers can communicate that to the user. 
  • Links: As also mentioned on the Home page of this guide, any hyperlinks should have meaningful text (instead of something like "Click here").

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