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Tips to Create an Accessible PowerPoint Presentation

Jun 21, 2019

PowerPoint is many people's go-to program for creating presentations. It also tends to be highly visual with graphs, images, and infographics. Fortunately, just like Microsoft Word, PowerPoint has many built-in features to help make documents accessible — but this doesn't mean your presentations are automatically accessible.

Want to learn how to make your next PowerPoint presentation reach a wider audience?

Structure, structure, structure

The outline structure of your file is the foundation for accessibility of any PowerPoint document. To structure:

  • Use PowerPoint’s built-in standard layouts namely title slide, title and content slide, section header slide, two content slide, and comparison slide to create slides. This will help assistive technology follow the correct reading order.
  • Create columns using the standard layout two content slide or comparison slide. Do not create columns by tabbing or using the spacebar key. If you do, a screen reader will read each line from one end to another, ignoring all tabs.
  • Give each slide a unique title. If for some reason a title is redundant for sighted users and is not required, in that case, make the title invisible.
  • Check the reading order of each slide.
  • Always remember to add a Document Title so your presentation is more-easily indexed by search engines and provides all users context of its content.

Related: Five Ways to Improve Your SEO with Web Accessibility

If including multimedia, make it accessible

A lot of presentations have audio or video clips placed inside a content placeholder. Consider providing audio or video information outside the presentation. If you must include them inside the presentation:

  • Ensure your audio content has a text alternative.
  • Ensure your video content has synchronized captions and a transcript, when applicable.

Provide alternate methods for users to understand images

  • Ensure infographics, charts, and graphs are explained clearly with the help of alternate text added to images. Add image description for infographics.
  • Always remember to add alt text to SmartArt Graphics, a collection of geometric shapes used to create arrows or a flow chart. These images are often overlooked when adding alt text.
  • Avoid or keep to a minimum the use of blinking or flashing content. If you must use animation, ensure content doesn’t blink or flash more than three times a second, as it can potentially trigger seizures for some people.

Ensure text meets color contrast requirements

  • Most content must meet a minimum contrast ratio of 4.5:1. This ratio measures how well the text stands out against its background.
  • Use the a11y® Color Contrast Accessibility Validator to check color contrast. It’s a free instant color contrast analysis provided by the Bureau of Internet Accessibility.

Related: The Basics and Importance of Color Contrast for Web Accessibility

Ensure tables are built correctly

Tables in PowerPoint are sometimes a challenge for screen readers to interpret. To make your table more accessible to all:

  • Always use the Insert Table option to build a table. Select the Table Style Options and Table Styles groups to set the text and background for the table.
  • Always identify row and column headers.
  • As much as possible, use simple data tables with simple grids of predictable rows and columns.
  • Do not unnecessarily merge cells or split cells.

Run the Accessibility Checker

Last but not the least, run the built-in Accessibility Checker to identify some common accessibility issues. No automated testing will catch everything and may return false positives, but this will help identify violations like missing image alt text.

Related: Is automated testing enough for accessibility compliance?


Remember, any document you link to from your website or social media, or share with your customers, needs to be accessible. For help understanding how laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or guidelines like the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) apply to your website, and for help creating a customized accessibility compliance solution for your organization, contact us. Or, get started with a free graded website accessibility scan.

Use our free Website Accessibility Checker to scan your site for ADA and WCAG compliance.

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