PowerPoint Accessibility

Microsoft PowerPoint includes options for adding accessibility information to slides to support access by individuals with disabilities. This information also ensures that Microsoft PowerPoint files maintain a level of accessibility when converted into other formats (e.g., tagged PDF). The best practices for Microsoft PowerPoint accessibility include:

  • Structure
  • Images
  • Links
  • Tables
  • Accessibility Checker 
  • Exporting to Other Formats


In Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, the structure of the content can provide an organizational and navigational framework for individuals to understand the informational hierarchy and relationship between different sections of content. These structural elements can help determine the organization and logical reading order of the presentation for an individual using assistive technologies.

Slide Title 

The Slide Title is used to provide a heading for the slide’s content. Slide titles should be unique and descriptive to help users navigate to specific content on the slides. 

View and edit all titles quickly:

  1. Select View.
  2. Select Outline View.
  3. Edit the titles according.
The PowerPoint Outline View, slides should have unique titles.

If slide titles that are the same, provide a numerical reference to differentiate the first slide from subsequent slides. For example, if there are two consecutive slides that cover the same topic, “Muscle Atrophy”, consider using  “Muscle Atrophy 1” and  “Muscle Atrophy 2”.

Slide Layout 

Using preset slide layouts will automatically control the reading order and structure of content placed on the slide.

To choose a slide layout:

  1. To locate Slide Layout, select Home > select New Slide.
  2. Choose the slide layout that meets your needs.
PowerPoint built-in slide layouts, such as Title Slide, Section header, Title and body, etc.

For more information, read Microsoft’s support page Apply a slide layout.  

Managing Reading Order

If text boxes are separately created from the preset slide layouts, this information may not be in the correct reading order. If content is manually placed onto a blank slide, you will need to assess and manage the reading order using the Arrange button. 

PowerPoint Arrange button.

To review and fix reading order:

  1. Select Home > Arrange > Selection Pane 
  2. Reading order begins at the bottom of the list. First highlight the “Title” and use the Up Arrow to view the reading order on the slide. 
PowerPoint Selection Pane, showing the reading order of the slides, from bottom to top.


Use the built-in list styles to provide users additional guidance. 

Do the grouped items convey a process or have a logical sequence? Use the number list style.

Is this grouped list of items in no particular order? Use the bullet list style. 

Two PowerPoint built-in list styles buttons, Bullets and Numbering
  1. Select Home.
  2. Select either the bullet or number list style. 
In PowerPoint, highlight the text, then select button for the appropriate list style.


Images that support the content require a text description (also called “alternate text”) to communicate the purpose and/or content of the image. Image descriptions should be short and communicate the main purpose of the image. If a longer description of the image is necessary to fully explain its content, consider alternate strategies outlined on the Images page.

To add the alternate text:

  1. Right-click the image.
  2. Select Edit Alt Text…
  3. In the Alt Text window, write a descriptive text. 
In the PowerPoint Alt Text window, write the alt text in the box.  In this case, the alt text is, “Man listening.”

For images that are not supplementary to the content, consider using the check box Mark as decorative.

In the PowerPoint Alt Text window, select Mark as decorative.

Important considerations

For additional guidance on writing effective text descriptions (i.e., alt text), please review the information on Images.

Formatting guidelines
  • A text description should convey the purpose or content of the image in approximately 120 characters or less. Avoid repeating the same information as contained in the surrounding text.
  • If the image is complex, consider providing additional information in the surrounding text of the document while providing a shortened text description. 
  • Do not include the file format in the alt text (Example: .JPEG, .PNG)
  • Do not include “picture of” or “image of” in the alt text. 
  • For older versions of PowerPoint, leave the Title field bank, and only use the Description field for alt text.


Documents containing hyperlinks to websites or other online resources can be improved by including hyperlink text that is understood by the reader. For instance, using the full hyperlink URL may not make sense to the reader without some context. 

In PowerPoint, highlight the desired hyperlink text, then select the Link button from the upper ribbon.
In the PowerPoint Insert Hyperlink window, type or paste the URL in the Address field, then select OK.
  1. Highlight the short descriptive phase or words that will become the descriptive hyperlink.
  2. Select the Link button in the menu.
  3. In the Address field, add the desired URL.
  4. Select OK.

For additional guidance, please refer to Links.

If the PowerPoint presentation is intended to also serve as a handout with resource hyperlinks, content authors may want to create a reference slide at the end that lists the full URL of the hyperlink. 

PowerPoint slide showing resource hyperlinks, with the full URLs visible.


When possible, use a simple table structure for tabular data. Using tables with split cells, merged cells, or nested tables can lead to issues with assistive technologies recognizing the appropriate column and row header information in a data table. 

Avoid using a table to manage layout. Instead, use a Slide Layout that orients content into the appropriate visual layout as desired. 

Tables should include the following:

  • At least one header (the row and/or column).
  • Alt Text description summarizing the table

Specify the Header

To mark a header row for a data table:

  1. Select the table to reveal Table Design. (Note: this tab will only appear if the table is selected.) 
  2. In the far left-hand section, determine the required header type:
    • Header row: check the box Header Row.
    • Column header: check the box First Column.
In PowerPoint, select the table to reveal the Table Design tab, then check the boxes for Header Row.

Add Alt Text

In the PowerPoint Alt Text window, write the alt text in the box.  In this case, the alt text is, “Sunflower growth (cm) based on fertilizer type.”

  1. Right-click on any of the white perimeter squares.
  2. Select Edit Alt text…
  3. Write descriptive Alt Text in the Alt Text field. 

For additional guidance, please read Complex Graphs and Layouts. 


Color can be an effective method to communicate ideas and draw attention to information. Insufficient color and contrast can limit the ability of others to perceive and understand the presentation.

PowerPoint offers a variety of slide themes, but not all of these will provide sufficient contrast. To edit Slide Theme colors:

  1. Select Design > expand the Color Palette Menu to reveal available color combinations.
  2. Select Colors to review the pre-built color palettes or select Customize Colors…to create a slides that have appropriate color contrast.
In PowerPoint,expand the Color Palette menu to reveal built-in color combinations.

Select one with accessible contrast, or select Customize Colors… to manually select the colors. Alternatively, you can use other methods in Microsoft PowerPoint to remove or change the current theme in your presentation.

Accessibility Checker

Evaluate your PowerPoint accessibility using the Accessibility Checker. Please read Microsoft’s support to learn how to improve accessibility with the Accessibility Checker.

PowerPoint Check Accessibility button.

Errors, Warnings, and Tips

The Accessibility Checker presents the results in a pane on the right-hand side of the interface. It organizes the results into three categories: Errors, Warnings, and Tips.

  • Errors – Must Fix
    Errors are issues which indicate content that contains an accessibility issue and is extremely challenging, if not impossible, to read or understand.

Note the following cannot be completely resolved – these results will continuously appear:

  • Warnings – Most Likely Will Need to Address
    Warnings indicate that the content may be challenging for individuals with disabilities to read or understand. Resolving some Warning may require the author to consider a different visual or organizational layout.
  • Tips – Very Helpful
    Tips are pointers intended to help you improve the user experience of your audience by streamlining and organizing your content in certain ways. Tips provide additional guidance and will appear depending on the content.

The Accessibility Checker is a good starting point towards identifying potential accessibility issues in a document. Microsoft continually updates the Accessibility Checker rules and so newer versions of Microsoft products may result in a different list of accessibility results. Using the Accessibility Checker can help identify some of the more significant accessibility issues present in a document.

To check accessibility:

In PowerPoint, select the Review tab from the upper ribbon, then select the Check Accessibility button.

  1. Select Review.
  2. Select Check Accessibility
PowerPoint accessibility report, showing Errors, Warnings, and Tips.

Exporting to Other Formats 


Never choose a “Print” to PDF option in Office, or in any other program. A screen reader user may still be able to access the text of a PDF created in this way, but heading structure, alternative text, and any other tag structure will be lost.

Creating a PDF 


Create PDF with PowerPoint using “Save As”

Users of PowerPoint for Mac should be cautioned that exporting to PDF will not yield an accessible, tagged PDF document, it must be remediated using Acrobat Pro.

Create PDF with Acrobat

  1. Use the Acrobat plug-in in the ribbon. Select the Acrobat tab.
  2. Select Create PDF.  
Create PDF button.
Acrobat Create PDF dialog box; select Yes.
  1. Adobe Acrobat will automatically open and present your content in PDF format. 


Create PDF with PowerPoint using “Save As”

  1. Select File > Save As 
  2. Select PDF > More options…
    In the Windows version of PowerPoint, select file, then Save As.  Choose PDF from the file format menu, then More Options.
    Alt Text: In the Windows version of PowerPoint, select file, then Save As.  Choose PDF from the file format menu, then More Options.
  3. In the Save As dialog, select Options.
    In the PowerPoint Save As window, select the Options button.
  1. Verify in Options dialog that Document structure tags for accessibility is selected. Select OK.
In the PowerPoint Options window, check the box for “Document structure tags for accessibility”.

Create PDF with Acrobat

PowerPoint Create PDF button.
  1. Use the Acrobat plug-in in the ribbon. Select the Acrobat tab.
  2. Select Create PDF.  


  1. Specify your flyer dimensions via the Design tab, select Slide Size > Custom Slide Size
  2. Determine the Width and Height in inches & select OK.
    Standard paper size:
    • Width: 8 in
    • Height 11 in
In the Windows version of PowerPoint, the Slide Size window will appear.  Adjust the Width and Length, and Orientation.

The Microsoft Powerpoint dialog will appear. Select Ensure Fit to avoid cropping out content from the slide size frame. 

A Microsoft PowerPoint dialog will appear, select “Ensure Fit”.

  1. Select Arrange to manage reading order. Apply accessibility principles such as alt text, descriptive hyperlinks,

Creating a Lecture Video of Your PPT presentation

Here are some guidelines for creating and posting PowerPoint lecture presentations. 

  1. Create a transcript to read from or prepare an outline of points to help you create concise videos.

    An audio recording needs a transcript to allow individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to access your content.

    The transcript is a text equivalent of the audio recording and should include not only the spoken information, but also identify any speakers or other sound effects as part of the recording. A transcript may be useful in its own right as a learning tool for students, who can read the text and search for keywords.
  1. When screencasting, provide a brief description of on-screen content and actions. This provides concept reinforcement and allows students to easily follow along whether they rely on listening or prefer to listen to just the audio to study. Read more about audio description.
  2. Provide your students an accessible version of your presentation and transcript (if available). 
Provide accessible PPT above the accompanying video lecture.