Lists in PowerPoint Accessibility

Lists and PowerPoint accessibility are essential for Section 508 compliance. This post will cover the difference between unordered and ordered lists, and how to apply them in PowerPoint.

Lists and PowerPoint accessibility are essential for Section 508 compliance. This post will cover the difference between unordered and ordered lists, and how to apply them in PowerPoint.

Lists in PowerPoint Accessibility Video Overview

This video is going to show users how to apply lists in PowerPoint for accessibility purposes.

Lists are great from an accessibility standpoint because they provide structured order to content in a linear fashion. Lists are recommended as potential replacements for simple tables, as tables can be more difficult to navigate, and sometimes, we provide info in tables that really would be better suited to lists.

You can use lists inside of lists, or nested lists, just check to make sure they are coded properly. Lists should always be checked to make sure that the list items are really contained within one list, check to make sure that spacing does not break a list into multiple individual points, and use the proper techniques described below to create lists. You should never rely on indentation to provide a visual list, use the proper structure instead.

Does your list contain a link? Make sure your link is accessible too!

Unordered lists or Bulleted lists are for when the order is unimportant

Items that can be used for a bulleted list are for when the order does not matter. The example I like to use is that of grocery items, here is an example:

  • Milk
  • Bread
  • Eggs

Lettered lists are primarily for unordered lists were referring to a specific item may be important. 

Numbered lists are for lists where the order is important

Use numbered lists for when order is important. Here is an example:

Directions to Store

  1. Turn left at Walnut Ave
  2. Travel for 1 mile
  3. Turn right at College Street
  4. Travel for .3 miles
  5. Turn right into parking lot

Things to consider with Lists

  • Avoid using nonrich content editor symbols like dashes or x’s to indicate a list
  • Use the proper numbered or bulleted list for the items

Need to review other PowerPoint content? Check out this guide.

How to apply lists in PowerPoint

The first step in applying a list in PowerPoint is to select some text.

Then, select the list option from the paragraph ribbon.

Select some text and apply a list element. Lists in powerpoint

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How to Create a Caption file using Otter AI

Do you have videos in your course or on your website? If yes, then it is best practice to ensure accurate captions have been applied to your video. This post is going to walk you through how to create a caption file using (Opens in new tab).

Requires Paid account of


Video Overview

Rather watch me do this instead of reading about it? Check out the video below:

Text Overview

This process can be summarized in just a few steps:

  1. Prepare a folder of video files that need to be captioned.
  2. Login to your paid account and create a folder for the group of files you are about to import.
  3. Select the Transcribe Audio and Video Button
  4. Drag all of your videos into the window
  5. Edit the conversations for accuracy
  6. Export the caption files as SRT

Preparing a folder of video files

This step is essential as it will help you gather all of the relevant files in a single location. There are various programs that can help you download a video file if you have lost them. If you have uploaded to YouTube or Canvas then you probably have the video files on your computer somewhere. Gather them all in one spot.

I like to create a folder on my desktop and add them all there.

Folder on desktop containing all of the files that need captions

Log in to Otter and create a folder for the video uploads

This step is for maintaining our organization throughout the process. If you have many videos to caption – this step is even more important.

Create a new folder in otter ai
Create a new folder in otter ai

Select the upload media button

Once you are inside the folder you want to upload all of your videos to, select the Transcribe Audio and Video button.

Transcribe audio and video button in otter ai
Transcribe audio and video button in otter ai

Move all the video files from the folder on your desktop into the upload window

Simply drag all of the video files into the upload area.

Dragging files into

The files will immediately begin uploading and transcribing

The video files begin to be transcribed

Edit the Conversations for accuracy

Each video upload will create what is called a conversation. This is what calls individual recordings. Each conversation will need to be edited for accuracy.

Select the conversation to edit it, and select the edit button.

Select the edit button to edit the captions

Make any changes required to the text of the file. Simply type over the words where updates need to occur.

Prepare for export

With a conversation open, select the options menu and choose export.

Select options and then select export

This will allow you to choose SRT as an option.

Change the file format to SRT and use the settings for 2 lines and 32 characters per line.

Then, select export.


This post walks users through how to get organized with their video files that need captions, create a folder in for import, transcribe the video files, edit a conversation, and export them as an SRT file.

Using Canvas Studio? Upload the SRT file there!

How do I change the reading order in PowerPoint for Accessibility?

The reading order in PowerPoint is an important criterion for Section 508 and accessibility in general. The reading order will read from the top down, while the arrange panel will read from the bottom up or in reverse order.

This step is much easier if you have already used an accessible slide design theme!

Change the reading order in PowerPoint Video Overview

The video below will show how to set the reading order and arrange order in PowerPoint 365 Desktop version.

Read order vs. Arrange order

PowerPoint has two options for setting the reading order. On PC, the reading order should be set starting with the top and working down through each element.

Reading order panel in powerpoint with an arrow pointing to the top down read order.

The Arrange panel is similar to the Reading order panel and should also be set. On PC this content will read from the bottom element first moving up to the top. (Reverse order)

In the arrange panel the read order starts from the bottom and moves up. This is reverse order from the reading order panel.

How to set the Reading Order in PowerPoint

The quickest method to open the correct menu item is to simply use the search feature at the top of PowerPoint. Type in Reading Order into the search box and select Display the Reading Order Pane.

Use the search feature in powerpoint to search for reading order. Then select display the reading order pane

Setting the order with the Reading order pane

Use the Reading Order panel to ensure the content matches as intended. If content does not match, use the arrows in the Reading Order panel to move objects to the appropriate location. In this example, the order is as follows.

Example of the reading order panel with sample objects.
  1. The Heading
  2. The content panel
  3. another content panel

Validating the order in the Arrange Panel

After you set the order in the Reading Order pane, ensure everything is also correct in the arrange panel. The arrange panel is in reverse, so the first item that will read is the one on the bottom. To get to the arrange panel – follow these steps:

  1. On the Home ribbon select the arrange button
  2. Select the Selection pane
On the Home ribbon select the arrange button
Select the Selection pane

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Captioning and Canvas Studio

Canvas Studio makes it easy to host a captioned video for content that you or someone else has created. This guide explains just how to do it!

Captioning is an important aspect of accessibility, and captioning in Canvas studio can be a breeze. If you are using Canvas and are posting videos; they need to be captioned. This post is not going to explain why captioning is important, but rather; how do you do it in Canvas Studio.

Canvas Studio offers a unique approach to captioning videos for content that you might own or do not own. It is also a premium feature – so be sure to check with your Canvas Admin to see if it is available.

Video Overview

This video will walk you through the steps needed to host a captioned video in Canvas Studio. The watch time is 2 minutes and 5 seconds.

Steps needed to host a captioned video in Canvas Studio

The basic premise is to get an SRT file, and then upload it into Canvas studio. Once you have the video captioned, it can easily be placed on the page. This section will cover the following steps:

  1. Get an SRT file for the video you want to caption
  2. Add the video to your Canvas Studio library
  3. Upload the SRT file to the captions section within Canvas Studio
  4. Insert the Video into the Canvas page

Step 1 – You have the SRT file right?

There are many tools to get an SRT file for a video that you are trying to caption. Here is one method using to create an SRT file. Make sure to edit it for accuracy!

Step 2 – Get the video into Canvas Studio Library

In order to properly display a video using Canvas Studio – it must be added to your library. Here are the steps:

  1. After logging into Canvas – select the Studio button on the left column.
    The studio button in canvas
  2. Select Add in the top right corner
    adding new media to canvas studio
  3. Upload a raw video file or use a YouTube link
    Upload a raw video file or a youtube link to canvas studio

Step 3: Upload the SRT (caption file) to the video itself

  1. In Canvas studio, ensure you are in My Library
  2. Select the video you want to add a caption too
    Select the video from your library that you want to add captions too
  3. Select the caption tab
  4. Upload English captions
    Select the caption tab and upload english captions

Step 4: Place the video into a canvas page

Get into edit mode on the canvas page that you want to add your newly captioned video

  1. Select the apps button in the Rich Content Editor
  2. Select Studio
    select apps and select studio
  3. Select the video to place onto the page
    select the video you want to add

That’s it!

Are you working with documents like PowerPoint, PDFs, or Microsoft Word files? Check out some of my other posts.


Slide titles should be unique in PowerPoint for Accessibility

Slide titles should be unique. Every slide in the slide deck should have a purposeful name. It’s easy to use duplicate titles but do your best to avoid duplicates.

Slide titles are easy to manage if using an accessible slide theme.

How to apply slide titles in PowerPoint Video Overview

Why should I have unique slide titles?

People who rely on assistive technology to review presentations will often navigate by the heading or title structure. If you end up converting the document to another format like PDF, the slide titles will come through as headings.

Failing Example

In the example below there are 5 different slides that share the exact same title.

There are 5 different slides that share the exact same title. Slide titles should be unique

Passing Example

In order to apply unique slide titles simply add a number to the end of each slide. The quickest method to change the title of a slide is to edit in outline view.

  1. Select View
  2. Select Outline View
Slide titles should be unique

Then simply add a number or change the title altogether. The image below shows an outline view of a presentation with numbers added to make slide titles independent.

Add a number to the end of the slide titles. Slide titles should be unique


The built-in accessibility checker within PowerPoint is exceptional at notifying of this error. Would you rather hide the slide titles?

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Alternate Text and Decorative Images in PowerPoint

What exactly is alternate text?

Images need accurate descriptions for students who rely on screen readers. Avoid using text-heavy photos and the description should provide enough information within the context of the topic. Keep in mind the context of the picture, which may change the scope of the needed explanation.

Images should never start with a “picture of” or “image of” as the screen reader will identify it as an image. The one exception to this rule is if the context of that information actually matters.

Is this a photography course? Is this an art course? If so, then it might be ok to use “image of” in the description.

How to apply alternate text to an image in PowerPoint Video Overview

Image Context

Image context will change based on the audience and what you want them to learn about the image. The same image could have different descriptions depending on its intent.

Special Notes

Be sure to check all images as sometimes the file name is inserted as the alternate text area. For example, jordison.png might be the default value in the alt text area for an image – be sure to spot-check all images to ensure that the file name did not get inserted.

Keep alternate text less than 100 – 150 characters. If there is more text needed – be sure to include it next to the image on the page. You can also link to a longer description using a separate document!

Want to know more about accessible pie charts and bar graphs?

When do I mark an image decorative?

When images are used that do not convey any meaning and are just for visual effect, it is possible to mark these elements as decorative with the latest versions of PowerPoint. After selecting the image and opening the Alt Text panel, select the checkbox “Mark as decorative”. This has the effect of making the image “invisible” to assistive technologies.

If an image does not include any alternate text information and is not marked as decorative, then assistive technologies may try to read out a file name or will announce the presence of a graphic, but with no additional information. This has the effect of informing the student there might be content, but the student does not have access to that information.

If sufficient information is described through text and images are used, consider marking the graphics as decorative to improve screen reader readability. 

Text Overview of how to apply alternate text to images in PowerPoint?

  1. Right click the image
  2. Select Edit Alt text
Right click the image
Select Edit Alt text.
alternate text in powerpoint

Then, enter a description.

  1. Enter an engaging alternate text description
  2. OR – Mark as decorative
Enter an engaging alternate text description
OR - Mark as decorative
alternate text in powerpoint
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Outline View and Textboxes in PowerPoint

Content should appear in the outline view. Sometimes using textboxes can interfere with accessibility, so only use them if they are a part of your accessible slide design theme.

Outline view and textboxes in PowerPoint Video Walkthrough

In order for content to be the most accessible to people who use screen readers it is recommended that all content appears in the outline view of PowerPoint. The outline view shows a text-based version of the content with your file.

Additionally, the outline view offers a snapshot of all of the major content types in your presentation. It is an excellent method for organizing and chunking your information. It is also a great way to create a quickly accessible version for people with disabilities!

To view the outline view

  1. Select View
  2. Select Outline view
  3. Review titles and content to ensure all content from slide is located in outline view
Select View
Select Outline view
Review titles and content to ensure all content from slide is located in outline view.
Outline View and Textboxes in PowerPoint

Avoid using added text boxes

The textbox feature will allow you to add extra content to a slide but it might not be accessible and it will not appear in Outline View properly. Additionally, it will cause extra problems when adjusting the reading and arrange order.

How do I ensure my content is in outline view?

This is purely based on using a theme and a slide template.

  1. On the home ribbon, select Layout
  2. Select the template you would like use
Outline View and Textboxes in PowerPoint

The last step of this process is to actually use the content boxes to place your content. Do not add additional text boxes in this step. Simply click into one of the content boxes to add the desired information. Using a template will not only add all content to the outline view, but it will also be in the correct reading order!

Additional Information

Edit the slide master theme in order to develop custom templates and ensure all the content is in order and available in the outline view.

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What are headings and why do I need them?

A heading is a style element that affects the structure of the content. Organizing a page by headings assists users with the orientation of the content and design. Typically, headings visually appear larger and more distinct than other text. Using headings and ensuring they are visually apparent is helpful for persons with all disabilities.

A heading is a style element that affects the structure of the content. Organizing a page by headings assists users with the orientation of the content and design. Typically, headings visually appear larger and more distinct than other text. Using headings and ensuring they are visually apparent is helpful for persons with all disabilities.  

If the underlying code for the headings of a page is correct, screen reader users can also benefit from headings. Screen reader users can navigate a page according to its headings, listen to a list of all headings, and skip to the desired heading to begin reading at that point. For example, screen reader users can use headings to ignore the repeated blocks of content like headers, menus, and sidebars. 

This is just too complicated. Can you do document remediation for me? How do I get a quote?

Most everyone

Code example

The image below shares a few examples of formatting text differently. There is plain text on the left, and then the HTML is shown on the right. One example of text has no formatting, while the other is formatted as a heading and a list.

sample heading structure
<p> Here's a paragraph. </p>

Why should I care about headings?

WebAIM asked how screen reader users preferred to find information on lengthy web pages(Web). Almost 70% of respondents said they preferred to use headings on a page.

The Heading 1 is the most important idea on the page.

Skipping heading levels can be confusing

This heading is a heading level 2. The next heading that we should create would either be a heading 3 or an additional heading 2.

If we were to create a heading 3 it would need to relate to our Heading 2 of Do not skip heading levels.

Why should I not skip heading levels?

This is a heading level 3. We do not want to skip heading levels because it can be confusing for people who use technology to read the content. Additionally, it can make the content feel out of order if I would have jumped to a heading level 4 instead.

Visual formatting like using bold or color does not work for a person using a screen reader

This is a heading level 2. I am not using a heading level 1 because I have already used one, and it does not make sense to add another one. Bolding, underlining, and using color for emphasis can be difficult for people who are color blind or visually impaired. Additionally, this reliance on visual aspects does NOT translate to assistive technology.

Only use Heading 1 through Heading 6

Most of the Assistive Technologies will pull only the first 6 headings. Ensure your content fits within this structure. Do not overuse headings. In most cases, content editors will not need more than <h2> rank headings and the occasional <h3> rank. Only for exceptionally long or complex pages would <h5> and <h6> be necessary.

To summarize, here is a shortlist of the requirements for headings:

  • <H1> is the most important idea on the page. Subsections should begin with <H2>
  • Documents and pages should have at least one <H1>
  • Do not skip heading levels
  • Do not select heading levels based on appearance
  • Do not use bold or another visual formatting instead of a heading
  • Only use <H1> through <H6>

Ok, so How do I apply headings?

Applying headings completely depends on what environment you are in. For this example, we are going to use Microsoft Word. Built-in styles are combinations of formatting characteristics that you can apply to text to quickly change its appearance.

Benefits of using styles:

  • Accessible
  • Create a Table of Contents automatically
  • Reduce time for document wide updates and changes
  • Ability to use Outline View

How to apply heading styles from quick styles

  1. Select some text you would like to apply a style to
  2. On the Home ribbon under the Styles tab
  3. Select a style from the Quick Styles (the ones in the box)

How do I apply headings in a google document?

This video will introduce users how to apply headings in a google document.

How do I apply headings in a Microsoft Word Document?

This video will walk users through how to apply the heading style to a document in Microsoft word.

Using a theme in PowerPoint

This post will walk users through how to apply a theme to a PowerPoint for accessibility purposes.

A theme is the easiest method for applying accessibility to a PowerPoint. A theme allows for quick and easy access to predefined accessibility elements using slide design.

Any element that is entered into the slide design theme boxes will be much more accessible. If you enter content without using the theme or slide design; it will need to be edited to ensure that it is accessible with assistive technology.

Apply a theme in PowerPoint Video Overview

This video will walk participants through how to apply a theme to an existing PowerPoint presentation. View time is 4 minutes and 36 seconds.

Creating a new PowerPoint

Microsoft created a handful of accessible powerpoint templates that are available for free! Start with one of these templates are simply search the templates for “accessible” when creating a new presentation.

How to apply a theme to an already-created PowerPoint

This method is ideal if you already have a PowerPoint created and are looking to make it more accessible.

  1. Select the Design button
  2. Choose an appropriate theme
Step 1: Select Design. step 2: Select a theme

Ensure you are adding content to the slide design theme

Once you have a theme selected you can verify with a couple of methods.

  1. Select the Home Tab
  2. Select the Layout Dropdown menu
  3. Choose the appropriate slide layout

This will change the current slide selected to the predefined slide layout.

Editing the slide itself

Once you have selected a template you can verify if it is the right type based on what you need to enter. In the image below, we have a few different options of what we can add and they include a title and two text boxes underneath it.

Sample theme slide from the slide deck

Other slide design templates allow for the insertion of tables, images, charts, and other information. If we add anything with the insert feature like an additional textbox, we are setting ourselves up for problems with the reading order, arrange order, and outline view. Make sure you stick to using the theme!

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