Creating an Accessible PowerPoint: Step-by-Step Guide

Video Overview

Welcome to a comprehensive guide on how to create an accessible PowerPoint presentation. In this guide, you’ll learn the best practices for making a PowerPoint accessible and how to use the built-in accessibility checker to ensure your presentations are inclusive for all audiences.

Best Practices for Making a PowerPoint Accessible

Before diving into the process of making your PowerPoint accessible, it’s essential to understand some best practices:

  1. Use a built-in theme.
  2. Add alternate text to all images.
  3. Give every slide a unique title.
  4. Ensure list elements are properly identified within the PowerPoint.
  5. Format links properly.
  6. Use table headers in tables.
  7. Set the reading order.

By following these practices, you can create a PowerPoint presentation that is more accessible and inclusive for all users.

Using the Accessibility Checker in PowerPoint

To begin, launch the accessibility checker in PowerPoint by selecting the File button, then Info, and then Check for Issues. Click on Check Accessibility, which will bring up a list of errors that need to be fixed within the document.

Go through each error, starting with missing alternate text for images. Add appropriate alt text to each image, describing what the image represents. For example, “A screenshot from Adobe Acrobat with a parent figure tag on display.”

Next, ensure that hyperlinks are properly formatted. While you may want to leave the full URL for presentational purposes, it’s better for accessibility to use descriptive link text instead.

As you go through your slides, make sure each slide has a unique title, and list elements are properly identified. Additionally, check that any tables are using table headers for added accessibility.

In some cases, you may have images that can be marked as decorative if they do not add significant information to the presentation. Mark these images as decorative, and the accessibility checker will no longer flag them as errors.

Once you’ve addressed all errors, the accessibility checker may provide warnings about the reading order of the slides. To fix this, open the reading order pane and rearrange the content so that it is read in the correct order. For example, ensure the slide number is read last.

With all errors and warnings resolved, your accessible PowerPoint is ready to go! Remember, while accessibility checkers are not always perfect, PowerPoint’s checker is more fine-tuned, and following its guidance will help you create more inclusive presentations.

Remember, creating accessible PowerPoint presentations not only benefits those with disabilities but also ensures your content is available to a broader audience, making your presentations more effective and inclusive.

Start from scratch

Sometimes its easier to simply copy and paste the content from an inaccessible PowerPoint into a new accessible template:

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How to set the reading order of a PDF in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC

Setting the reading order can be tricky in a PDF. There are several items to consider including the content panel, the z order panel, and tags panel.

Video Overview of how to set the reading order of a PDF

Match the content panel with the reading order panel

If you’re just starting, it’s best to start adjusting the content panel first. Then, you’ll move on to the read order panel and finish with the tags panel. Most assistive technology will follow the tags panel.

  1. Open up the content view on the far left side (Important: Do not remove anything from the content panel. This could remove it from the document’s structure and cause issues with the document itself.).
  2. Use the down arrow to follow the structure of the content to ensure everything is in the correct reading order.
  3. If there’s anything out of place, move it to the correct spot in the content panel.
  4. Once you’ve finished reordering things in the content panel, check the read order panel to see if the content was updated correctly.
  5. Then, check the tags panel to see if the copy was updated.

Match the reading order panel with the tags panel

Once you’ve ensured everything is in the correct order in the content panel, you’ll want to adjust the reading order panel (z order panel). There are a couple of helpful tools in the reading order panel. Once you’ve selected the reading order panel, here’s how you’ll parse through it:

  1. Select the accessibility button.
  2. From there, select the reading order button.
  3. Choose “Show page content groups” followed by the “Page content order” button in the Reading Order popup. By doing this, you’ll see display boxes of content with numbers on the page for easy viewing of the reading order.

Final Step

Walk the tags panel to ensure everything is in the correct order.

If your document is missing tags – check out the other posts on this page.

Order 508 documents

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

Order 508 documents