PowerPoint Accessibility Overview

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General Accessibility Concepts

Creating accessible PowerPoint files follows many of the same principles as techniques as creating accessible Word or Excel files:

PowerPoint Specific Concepts

Due to PowerPoint being unique in comparison to Word or Excel, there are some specific topics to consider.

Reading Order

Because of how PowerPoint renders content, it is possible that users with a screen reader can read your content in a different order then what is visually displayed. This is called Reading Order, which is the order in which content is actually read to a user.

You can easily change the reading order by following these steps:

  1. Click on “Home”, then click on “Arrange” (Layout for Mac) and select the “Selection Pane”.
  2. Check your reading order using the selection pane. Items on the bottom of the list are read first.

Screenshot of the process for changing Reading Order in PowerPoint

The following video from Diablo Valley College, discusses about changing the reading order in PowerPoint:

Reviewing reading order for items on a PowerPoint slide (PC version)
© 2017 Diablo Valley College

Other Concerns

  • Use bulleted or numbered lists! This means using them from the toolbar and not just simply typing a 1 or a symbol in front of a list item.
  • If you are saving the PowerPoint document as a PDF, make sure it is accessible first, and then make sure you follow the Creating Accessible PDFs from Microsoft Word guidelines. These guidelines apply to PowerPoint files as well!
  • Avoid using blank cells in tables for formatting (if possible). This can cause issues for screen readers.
  • Word Art and Image Watermarks should be avoided as they cause accessibility issues.
  • Smart Art cannot be read by a screen reader, since it is treated as an image. So, make sure it has appropriate Alt Text.
  • Ensure font size is sufficient (18 points or more minimum is suggested, this helps when you do presentations in the classroom).
  • Use simple language and structure when possible (does not mean that instructional content needs to be “dumbed down”, just use best judgment).
  • Avoid flashing or blinking content. This may cause seizures.
  • Avoid using flashy animations or transitions that may be distracting to learners or cause seizures. Appropriate and careful use of more “normal” transitions is acceptable.

Dyslexia and PowerPoint

Dyslexia can be defined as a “language-based neural difference”, that causes difficulty in reading.

You can follow some guidelines concerning your PowerPoints, in order to help students who may have difficulty reading.

Please check out the video from Microsoft dedicated to this subject.

Accessible Templates

One great thing, is that Microsoft has included some accessible templates into PowerPoint that you can utilize.

Check out Microsoft’s guide on how to find accessible templates.

Video Overviews

The following video, provides an overview of everything that has been discussed in this article:

PowerPoint 2013 & 2016: Designing Accessible Presentations
© 2016 TXGCPD

You can also check out the following video discussing how to present in an accessible manner:

PowerPoint 2013 & 2016: Delivering Accessible Presentations
© 2016 TXGCPD


If you have questions, please contact Marc Nash (marc.nash@ppcc.edu) for assistance.

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