How to make Pie Charts Accessible in PowerPoint

This post will guide users through how to create an accessible pie chart in PowerPoint. Pie charts and bar graphs are inherently inaccessible when built within PowerPoint. There are additional steps that must be completed in order to make a pie chart accessible.

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Creating an accessible pie chart video overview

This video will provide a detailed walkthrough of how to make an accessible Pie Chart in PowerPoint.

An accessible pie chart includes the following elements:

  • Labels
  • Patterns
  • Do not rely on color alone
  • Alternate text
  • Data table is available

Example of accessible pie chart (image)

This image represents an accessible pie chart that includes labels and patterns.

This is an accessible pie chart which includes labels, patterns, and alternate text.

Add labels to a pie chart

There is no reason to hide or confuse data in a pie chart. Be specific and direct and add data labels to all data points in any chart!

  1. Right-click the pie chart
  2. Select Format Data levels
  3. Select the best options for the data labels
Right click the pie chart
Select Format Data levels
Select the best options for the data labels

Add patterns to a pie chart

Patterns are more accessible to a wider array of people with disabilities. Instead of relying on color alone (which is an accessibility failure) – use a pattern and a color.

  1. Right-click the Pie Chart
  2. Select Format Data Series
  3. Choose the appropriate pattern and color
Right click the Pie Chart
Select format Data Series
Choose the appropriate pattern and color

Add alternate text

  1. Right-click the entire chart object
  2. Select alternate text
  3. Enter a detailed alternate text

Right click the entire chart object
Select alternate text
Enter a detailed alternate text

Do you plan on converting the PowerPoint to another file type like PDF?

You might consider inserting the Pie Chart as a flattened image and providing alternate text instead. Screen readers can have difficulty reading the contents of a pie chart within the PPT itself.

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Table Accessibility in PowerPoint

Table accessibility is an important aspect of creating accessible PowerPoint files. Be sure to follow all basic table accessibility features. Unsure of what those are? Keep reading.

Accessible tables should include the following elements:

  • Ensure the table has a header row or header column selected
  • Apply a table style
  • Avoid complex tables or merged cells
  • Avoid layout tables
  • Add alternate text

Did you know?

In MS Word you can make your tables even more accessible by applying alternate text, and repeating header rows within the properties menu! Each Microsoft product has different abilities when it comes to accessibility in general. Its all about the authoring program features. What you can do in word, is not the same as what you can do in PowerPoint, excel, or even PDF for that matter.

Table Accessibility Video Overview for PowerPoint

This video will walk users through how to create accessible tables in PowerPoint.

Text overview

The next section will provide a text-based method for making tables accessible in PowerPoint.

Add a heading row or column to the table

  1. Select the table
  2. Select Table Design
  3. Select the appropriate header row or first column selection based on the data

This will change the visual look of the table but not any of the data.

Select the table
Select Table Design 
Select the appropriate header row or first column selection based on the data.

Table accessibility

Apply a Style to the table

  1. Select the table
  2. Select Table Design
  3. Choose a Table Style
Select the table 
Select Table Design
Choose a Table Style

table accessibility

Add alternate text

  1. Select the Accessibility Tab
  2. Select Alt Text
  3. Enter the Alt Text
Select the Accessibility Tab
Select Alt Text
Enter the Alt Text

Avoid merged cells and complex tables

Merged cells and nested tables cause nothing but problems for screen readers and other forms of assistive technology. Keep your tables simple and direct. If you have nested tables, consider creating multiple tables instead.

Layout Options

Do not use tables to move content around on a page. There are accessible methods to format and lay out content on a slide. Keep tables for their designated purpose – which is to display data. You can edit the slide design theme as one example.

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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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