The Accessibility Guy Blog

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.

Order 508 documents

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!

Order 508 documents