Create Accessible MS PowerPoint 2019 Presentations


Microsoft PowerPoint is one of the most popular tools used to create slide show presentations, typically during face-to-face meetings and lectures. However, PowerPoint can be used to organize thoughts for a lesson, present key points, and create handouts that can be printed. Because of this, the content will need to be accessible to those viewing the presentation live, those viewing printed versions of the slides, and those accessing the content electronically. The following best practices are provided to help you maximize the accessibility of your PowerPoint presentations.

Article Contents


Things to Consider

  • Choose a design template that offers good contrast.
  • Avoid starting with a blank slide and adding text boxes.
    • Instead, choose the layout that fits your slide design.
  • Look at the "outline view" of the slide to see if the text and slide title are visible there.
  • Describe images, charts and graphs with alternative text.
  • Use fonts that are clear and easy to read. Avoid overly decorative fonts.
  • Create an accessible PDF version of the PPT for students to download. This version will be more accessible to screen reader users. To do so, choose Save to PDF instead of printing to PDF.

The items below will walk you through best practices for creating accessible PowerPoint presentations.

Choose a Design Template

PowerPoint has many built-in and custom themes. Choose a template that has good color contrast, however, be aware that not all of the templates available in PowerPoint provide adequate contrast.

Theme layouts should be adjusted in the Slide Master to maintain accessible formatting for assistive technologies such as screen readers. Select View > Slide Master.

A new tab will appear on the ribbon labeled Slide Master. From here, you can change colors, fonts, effects, etc., of your template theme.

NOTE: Avoid using Text Boxes as they do not show up in Outline View. Using Text Boxes can also interfere with the slide reading order for those using screen readers.

Back to Top

Slide Layouts

After you've chosen a template, use the built-in layouts provided by PowerPoint for your chosen theme. 

You can add a new slide from the Home or Insert tab. From the Home tab, select the area below the icon labeled New Slide. From here you can choose the layout that you want for your new slide. If you select the icon above the text, a new slide will be created based on the layout of the currently selected slide.

To change the layout of an already existed slide:

  1. Go to the Home tab,
  2. Select Layout.

NOTE: Avoid using the Blank slide layout and adding text boxes to create content.

Back to Top

Slide Reading Order

The reading order of a slide should follow a logical sequence. This ensures individuals using screen readers are able to follow the slide content in a logical order.

To check or change the reading order:

  1. Go to the Home tab
  2. Select Arrange
  3. Click on Selection Pane

NOTE: The reading order in the Selection Pane is read bottom to top. The element at the bottom of the reading order will be read first. The title of the slide should always be read first.

To move elements in the Selection pane, simply click and drag, or use the arrows located in the top right corner of the window.

Back to Top

Use a Unique Title for Each Slide

Titles allow individuals using screen readers to easily navigate a slide presentation. It is important that each slide have a unique title. Avoid using the same title for slides that have spillover information. When similar content continues on more than one slide, consider adding 'continued' after the title or if you have more than one slide with similar content, add numbers to the title (example: Title (continued), or Title (part 1), Title (part 2), or Title (1), Title (2), etc.).

If you are designing a slide where you prefer the title not to be visible, you can still give the slide a title and then hide it. This will allow a screen reader user to access the title but it will not show visually.

To hide a slide title:

  1. Go to the Home tab
  2. Select Arrange > Selection Pane
  3. Select the toggle hide/show button to the right of the title

Notice that the title does not appear on the slide, but is still visible in Outline View.

Back to Top

Create Meaningful Hyperlinks

When adding hyperlinks to a PowerPoint slide, it is important to think about the purpose of the hyperlink and how your users will interact with the PowerPoint. Will everyone have access to the PowerPoint electronically? Some may choose to view the presentation electronically while some may choose to print it. It is generally a good idea to include both meaningful text for the links and the actual URL for those that might print the presentation.


UCO homepage (

CeCE homepage (available at:

NOTE: If you have a URL that is long, you can shorten it by using an online tool like Bitly or Tinyurl.

There are multiple ways to add meaningful text to hyperlinks. 

Add a link from the Insert tab by selecting Link

  1. Type your meaningful text in the Text to display box
  2. Type the URL in the Address box

Add link text to an already existing URL

  1. Right-click on the URL and select Edit Link
  2. Type your meaningful text in the Text to display box

Create a hyperlink from text

  1. Highlight the text you want to hyperlink
  2. Right-click and select Hyperlink
  3. Type the URL in the Address box

NOTE: Avoid link text phrases such as "Click here", as they are not descriptive and would not make sense out of context. 

Back to Top

Add Alt Text to Images

You can add alt text to images in PPT in a few different ways. 

PowerPoint 365 and 2019

Add from the Accessibility Checker:

  • Go to File > Check for Issues > Check Accessibility.
  • Select the dropdown arrow next to the image with missing alternative text.
  • If the image is decorative, leave the field blank and click Mark as decorative.

NOTE: Do not select Suggest a description for me. The quality of the auto-generated description is usually very poor, and a description of an image is often not the same as alternative text.

Add from image:

  • Right-click on the image and select Edit Alt text.
  • Enter the appropriate alt text in the field that appears in the Alt Text sidebar.
  • If the image is decorative, leave the field blank and check the box labeled Mark as decorative.

NOTE: Do not select Generate a description for me. The quality of the auto-generated description is usually very poor, and a description of an image is often not the same as alternative text.

PowerPoint 2016

PowerPoint 2016 does not give the option to mark an image as decorative or to generate a description. To add alt text:

  • Right-click on the image and choose Format Picture.
  • Select the Size & Properties icon and chose Alt Text.
  • Enter the appropriate alt text in the Description field only (not the Title field).
  • For decorative images, leave the field blank. If the presentation is saved to a PDF, decorative images can be hidden using Adobe Acrobat Pro.

Back to Top


Unlike with HTML, PowerPoint only allows you to identify a single row of column headers and a single column of row headers. Once you've created the table, identify the headers:

  1. Click inside the table. The Table Tools option should become visible, with a Design and Layout tab available. Click on the Design tab.
  2. If the top row of the table contains headers for each column, make sure the Header Row box is checked.
  3. If the first column of the table contains headers for each row, make sure the First Column checkbox is checked.

NOTE: You can have both the row and column headers in a table.

In the Table Styles section, select a style where that table headers are clearly identified visually and make sure the style has good contrast.

Back to Top

Accessibility Checker

Use the accessibility checker in PowerPoint to help identify accessibility issues in your presentation. The checker will identify common issues, but it is still recommended to perform manual accessibility checks as well.

To run the accessibility checker:

  1. Select File > Info.
  2. Select the Check for Issues button then choose Check Accessibility.

The Accessibility Checker sidebar will appear to the right. The inspection results might include Errors, Warnings and Tips.

  • Selecting an item under Inspection Results will highlight the issue within the slide. 
  • When selecting the down arrow to the right of the issue, suggestions and sometimes recommended actions will appear.
  • Information about the issue, and instructions on how to repair it, will also appear at the bottom of the sidebar.
  • When the issue is addressed, it will disappear from the report automatically.


Back to Top




Article ID: 107126
Thu 5/7/20 4:24 PM
Fri 5/7/21 10:13 AM