PowerPoint accessibility checklist

Overview

This guidance provides a checklist to follow to create an accessible PowerPoint presentation, with simple steps to help you and links to further information.


Checklist

Work through the following list of questions to make your PowerPoint presentation accessible.

This checklist won’t cover every accessibility problem, but it will highlight most of the issues that could arise.

  1. Have you used an accessible template?
  2. Do your slides have titles?
  3. Have you checked the reading order?
  4. Are there images, charts or graphs?
  5. Have you checked the colour contrast?
  6. Is any information identified by its position, colour, sound?
  7. Are there any lists? Should there be?
  8. Do you have descriptive links?
  9. Are you using video and audio?
  10. Are there tables in your presentation?
  11. What text styling have you used?
  12. Are there links to third-party content?
  13. Have you completed a final accessibility check?
  14. Have you saved your presentation in an alternative format for the web?
  15. What if you can’t make your presentation fully accessible?

1. Have you used an accessible template?

A PowerPoint template contains pre-set slide layouts to make creating a consistent presentation easier.

Starting with an accessible PowerPoint template, or copying your slide content into one, increases accessibility provided you use the slide layouts appropriately.

Choose an accessible template

A template will automatically make your presentations more accessible, because the text boxes will have a correct, set reading order. An accessible University of Leeds PowerPoint template is being trialled and will be available soon.

The Microsoft Accessible PowerPoint template sampler page contains a download with links to templates Microsoft regards as being “fully optimized for use by people with visual disabilities”.

Tip: Accessible templates don’t guarantee accessibility, they just help towards it. It’s important to follow the steps in this guidance too.

Use slide layouts

  • Slide layouts will help ensure your PowerPoint presentation has structured titles, lists, and other content that can be picked up by screen readers.
  • Manually created layouts can cause difficulties for disabled users and may require more accessibility fixes. Using slide layouts will help ensure that people who use technology such as screen readers can read your content.

For more information about slide layouts, see Microsoft’s guidance on What is a slide layout? and find out how to Apply a slide layout.

Return to the top of the page.


2. Do your slides have titles?

  • Most slide layouts include a slide title. The title is usually the first thing that is read out on each slide by a screen reader.
  • Having a descriptive and unique title on each slide helps users easily navigate the presentation.
  • A screen reader user may rely on slide titles to help them scan through a presentation quickly, enabling them to go straight to the slide they want. It’s like a table of contents for your presentation.

If your slide does not have a slide title, there are various ways to add one. For more information, see Microsoft’s guidance, Title a slide.

Tip: You can view and edit your slide titles in one place by going to the ‘View’ tab and then selecting the ‘Outline View’.

Return to the top of the page.


3. Have you checked the reading order?

  • It’s important that when you create slides you ensure there’s a logical reading order so screen reader users can understand the slide.
  • Content is usually read out in the order that it is added to the slide, which may not reflect the order you intended.
  • If you’re using a template the reading order should already be set, but if you have added, moved or removed items, it’s important to check the reading order is still correct.

Set/check the reading order

To set or check the reading order, follow these steps:

  1. Go to the ‘Home’ tab and select ‘Arrange’. Choose ‘Selection Pane’ on the drop-down list.
  2. Use the items in the Selection Pane to move slide objects as follows. This should not change slide appearance.
  3. Place the objects you’d like read earliest lower down the list. When a screen reader scans through a slide, it reads the objects in the reverse order listed in the Selection Pane. The bottom item is read first. The top item is read last.

Tip: If you’re using PowerPoint on your desktop (not in a browser or Teams) you can use the ‘Reading Order Pane’ instead. The ‘Reading Order Pane’ provides a similar function to the ‘Selection Pane’ but, unlike the ‘Selection Pane’, items are read from top to bottom. Go to the ‘Review’ tab, select ‘Check Accessibility’ and choose ‘Reading Order Pane’.

Return to the top of the page.


4. Are there images, charts or graphs?

Ensure all informative images, charts, graphs and tables have descriptive alt text. Screen readers read out the description to visually impaired users so they can understand what the item represents.

Alt text

  • All informative images in your presentation need alt text – a description of the image.
  • Aim to keep your descriptions short – two sentences maximum.
  • Decorative images can be marked as such and do not need a description.

Add alt text

To set alt text:

  1. Right-click on the image requiring alt text and select ‘Edit Alt Text’ on the drop-down list.
  2. Add your image description to the ‘Alt Text Pane’ that appears on the right-hand side of the screen.
  3. If the image is decorative, for example a border or other styling, you can leave the description blank and check ‘Mark as decorative’ box.

These instructions may differ if you don’t have PowerPoint for Microsoft 365. Please see Microsoft guidance for more information: Add alternative text to a shape, picture, chart, SmartArt graphic, or other object.

If you have more detailed images like graphs or charts please see our guidance on complex images.

Return to the top of the page.


5. Have you checked the colour contrast?

All colours used in your PowerPoint presentation must meet a contrast ratio of at least 3:1 for objects and for text that’s 18pt and higher or 14pt bold and higher. Text below this size should meet a 4.5:1 ratio.

Use a colour contrast checker

To check the colour contrast you can use the WebAIM colour contrast checker or another colour app checker. TGPi’s Colour Contrast Analyser is a simple desktop program that can measure any colour combination on your screen.

Tip: Choose an off-white background for your slides. Some people experience glare when viewing presentations with a white background.

Return to the top of the page.


6. Is any information identified by its position, colour, sound?

  • Avoid purely visual references. Change ‘above’ and ‘below’ to ‘previously’ and ‘following’ respectively.
  • Adjust ‘left’ and ‘right’ to something not exclusively visual (eg ‘data in the Results column’ not ‘right-hand column’).
  • Don’t identify something by colour alone (eg use ‘green submit button’ not ‘green button’).

Return to the top of the page.


7. Are there any lists? Should there be?

If there’s a list it must be set using the bulleted list or numbered list buttons. They shouldn’t be copied in from elsewhere, such as Word.

If you’re using a list in a paragraph, would it be easier to understand in a bulleted or numbered list?

Return to the top of the page.


  • Ensure link text (the highlighted words that become the link) is descriptive enough so people can know where the link leads when it’s heard without the surrounding content.
  • A good idea is to reflect the title of the destination page in the link text and indicate whether it’s a file link – use (PDF), (Word doc) etc in the link text.

Insert descriptive links

See our information on links for more detail.

Tip: If your presentation will be printed, you may want to include the plain URL with the link. For example:

Masters courses at the University of Leeds (leeds.ac.uk/masters).

Plain URLs could also be listed at the end of the slides in an addendum or appendix.

Return to the top of the page.


9. Are you using video and audio?

Ensure captions are available in embedded audio and video. Videos should be assessed for whether they need audio description. It’s also good practice for video to be supplied with a transcript, and required for audio-only media.

Add video and audio captions

For further Microsoft guidance on this, please see: Add closed captions or subtitles to media in PowerPoint.

Return to the top of the page.


10. Are there tables in your presentation?

  • Only use tables for data and only where necessary.
  • Create tables in PowerPoint. Tables should not be inserted as an image because screen readers won’t read out the data.
  • Ensure tables don’t contain blank cells, split cells, merged cells, or nested tables.
  • All tables in your presentation need to be formatted. Check ‘header rows’, ‘banded rows’ and ‘first column’ are selected on your table and add alt text.

Create table

To create a table in PowerPoint, follow these steps:

  1. Select the slide you are adding a table to.
  2. On the navigation panel click ‘Insert’ and select ‘Table’.
  3. Select ‘insert table’ from the drop-down menu and add the number of rows and columns you require in the box provided.
  4. Click ‘OK’ to create your table.

Format tables

To set table headers in PowerPoint, follow these steps:

  1. Click inside your table. On the navigation panel, select ‘Table Design’.
  2. In Table Style Options, make sure ‘Header Row’, ‘First Column’ and ‘Banded Rows’ are checked.

For more information on creating accessible tables, see: (Insert url)

Return to the top of the page.


11. What text styling have you used?

The PowerPoint accessibility checker doesn’t check for plain text, font size, overcrowded slides, bold, italics or acronyms – make sure you do a manual check.

Manually check styling

Fonts

Use simple fonts: sans serif typefaces such as Calibri and Arial. We would recommend a minimum font size of 24pt or above for a PowerPoint presentation, but 18pt and above is also regarded by some as acceptable.

Bold/Italic

Avoid bold on more than a few words and remove any italics. This should help people with dyslexia.

Abbreviations

Make sure the long form is included with the abbreviation in the first instance. Define the abbreviation again later in the presentation if you think it will be useful.

Keep it simple

Avoid using automatic slide transitions and animation and keep your presentation concise.

Return to the top of the page.


12. Are there links to third-party content?

You don’t need to recreate all inaccessible third-party content, but you do need to ensure people can access essential information and learning materials.

If a website is not owned, funded or supported by the university then its content is not legally required to be made accessible by us.

However, we are required to provide learning opportunities that are accessible to all students. If essential third-party content is not fully accessible then it should be supplemented with one or more other resources, so that in combination they meet the needs of all students.

For example, if an external website (which includes essential learning materials) has content that relies on colour alone to convey meaning, then it could be supplemented with a separate explanation that covers what the use of colour communicates.

Similarly, if you’re linking to third-party content that is essential, such as to complete a compulsory step in a process, you should provide an alternative accessible route to achieving the same thing.

Return to the top of the page.


13. Have you done a final accessibility check?

  • PowerPoint has an in-built tool that can help you check your presentation’s accessibility.
  • If you’re working on teaching materials in Minerva, you can use Blackboard Ally to check the accessibility of files.

Use the PowerPoint Accessibility Checker

  1. Go to the ‘Review’ tab and click on the ‘Check Accessibility’ button – the checker will scan your presentation for an accessibility issue.
  2. A results panel will bring up any accessibility problems that need resolving.
  3. Click on any issues presented to find out how you can fix them.

Please be aware that the PowerPoint checker has limitations. For example, it won’t tell you if your font choice or point size are hard to read, or if your alt text is appropriate.

For further Microsoft guidance on how to use the Accessibility Checker, see:

Blackboard Ally check

Blackboard Ally will identify content with accessibility issues and show you how to make your content more accessible. It also gives students access to files in multiple formats, such as braille, html and mp3 audio.

If you’re using Minerva, each file on Minerva will be accompanied by a Blackboard Ally accessibility indicator, which looks like a red, orange, or green gauge.

The colour of the accessibility indicator signifies issues with the file – red indicates significant issues, whilst green indicates minor or no issues. You can access guidance on how to address these issues by clicking on the indicator.

Limitations of the Ally checker

Note that there may be differences between the capabilities of Microsoft’s checker and Blackboard Ally. The latter might identify an issue with colour contrast, whereas the former won’t.

There are also limitations, for example Ally can’t assess quality of image descriptions. Leaving alt text blank, to indicate the image is decorative, may also mean Ally flags it as an issue.

Also, Ally is currently unable to recognise where materials meet accessibility requirements by supplementing each other. For example, where visual content is made accessible by supplementing it with a written description in a separate document, Ally’s score for the visual content will not be updated.

For further information on using Blackboard Ally see:

Return to the top of the page.


14. Have you saved your presentation in an alternative format for the web?

  • PowerPoint is useful for presentations but it isn’t the most helpful format for using on the web because of the large file size.
  • If you need your PowerPoint to be available on the web, one of the most accessible ways of doing so would be to create a HTML web page version of your presentation.
  • If you need  an accessible document version of your presentation you can create a PDF version. This will be a smaller file for the web and the accessibility functionality can be saved. However, HTML web pages are more accessible so use this option wherever possible.
  • Blackboard Ally gives students access to files in multiple formats.

Create a  PDF version of a PowerPoint presentation

  1. Choose the ‘Save as’ option.
  2. Choose PDF as the file type.
  3. Select the ‘Options’ button and ensure that in the ‘Include non-printing information’ section both the ‘Document properties’ and ‘Document structure tags for accessibility’ boxes are checked.
  4. Click ‘OK’ to close the options box and click ‘Save’.

All the accessible formatting and styling in the PowerPoint presentation should remain in the PDF document. You can double check this by using the accessibility checker in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC or Blackboard Ally in Minerva.

Adobe Acrobat Pro DC Accessibility check

For further guidance see: Using the Acrobat Pro DC Accessibility Checker.

Tip: People have different requirements, depending on their circumstances. You may need to provide your content in more than one format to increase the accessibility of your material.

Return to the top of the page.


15. What if  you can’t make your presentation fully accessible?

If you’re unable to make your PowerPoint fully accessible, you can supplement it with one or more additional resources, so that in combination you provide information which is accessible.

For example, if elements of your PowerPoint are not accessible,  you could create a web page that covers the same information.

If you’re unable to provide an alternative version it is important to make this clear wherever the content is presented/linked to or in your module accessibility statement so that students or staff can seek appropriate advice or support if they need it.

Using examples of previous student work as a learning aid

If you’re using a PowerPoint example of student work as a learning aid it needs to be made accessible. However, there may be good reasons to leave the original work untouched to illustrate exactly what the student produced.

In this case, the original work should be supplemented with an alternative resource that addresses any accessibility issues. This could be an updated version of the original work that meets accessibility requirements or a different document that addresses any missing content (eg alt text descriptions of images/diagrams).

Please note: If you edit a student’s work this may impact on its copyright status, which may be relevant in a small number of cases.

Do you need to make something accessible even if you think disabled people won’t use it?

Yes, even if you’re not aware of any disabled students or staff using your content you still need to make materials accessible. Following accessibility guidelines improves the usability of websites, documents and systems for everyone. Making content accessible means students and staff will benefit from being able to engage with the information in more flexible ways.

Return to the top of the page.


For more information

Learn how to create more accessible PowerPoint presentations with training videos and online tutorials created by Microsoft:

Return to the top of the page.