Accessible PowerPoints


  1. Use the default layouts.
  2. Use default slide titles.
  3. Add alternative text to images.
  4. Create accessible charts and graphs.
  5. Create accessible tables.
  6. Provide accessible video.
  7. Create accessible content.
  8. Run the built-in Accessibility Checker.
  9. Save PowerPoints with Adobe PDFmaker.
  10. Enable real-time captions in Office 365 PowerPoint

In depth

1. Use the default layouts

One of the most effective ways to make PowerPoints accessible is to use the default layouts to create new slides. This ensures the content is in the correct reading order and has proper titles. Do not create new text boxes on slides (unless you're willing to check and edit the reading the order of the objects).

  1. On the Home tab, click the arrow next to New Slide.
  2. In the gallery of layouts, select the layout that you want for your new slide.
    The default layouts pane in PowerPoint

If you'd like a different layout for an existing slide, do not create a new text box. Instead, change the layout:

  1. In Normal view, on the Home tab, click Layout.
  2. Pick a layout that best suits the content of your slide.
    Layout option pane

Slide object reading order

If you must add additional content to a slide, you will need to check the reading order of the objects.

  1. On the Home tab, select Arrange, then Selection Pane.
  2. The Selection Pane will display in the right-hand sidebar. Drag the objects into the order you want them to be read. Note: The reading order for objects listed in the Selection Pane is from bottom (first) to top (last). (The numbers indicate the order in which the object was added.)
    Selection pane for arranging the reading order of objects in PowerPoint

2. Use default slide titles.

Missing slide titles are one of the biggest accessibility barriers with PowerPoint presentations.

  • Every slide should have a unique and descriptive title, so that screen reader users know which slide they are on (for multiple slides with the same title, number them--for instance, "Trends, 1 of 4").
  • Always use the title placeholder space (it says "Click to add title") on the default slide layouts. Never use text boxes to create slide titles.
    Slide title placeholder space


3. Add alternative text to images.

All images must have an ALT tag. In addition, images that convey meaningful information must have alternative text that describes them. Alternative text may be added in a caption, within the slide text, or in the image's ALT tag.

To add alternative text to the ALT tag of an image:

  1. Right-click on the image and choose Format Picture.
  2. The Format Picture pane will display in the right-hand sidebar. Select the Size & Properties tab and choose Alt Text.
  3. Enter alternative text in the Description field only (not the Title field).
    The Format Picture pane showing the Alt tag screen and the Description field for added alternative text

Decorative images and images described elsewhere

Decorative images are those used for visual effect only (eye candy). Decorative images and images described elsewhere (for instance, in a caption or in the content of the slide) should have an empty ALT tag. PowerPoint will sometimes incorrectly fill in the image's ALT tag with the image's file name, so you will need to check this. Follow the instructions above. However, instead of adding alternative text to the Description field, add a single empty space.
The Format Picture pane showing the Alt tag screen and the Description field with an single space in place of Alt text.

For more on which images need alternative text and how to write effective ALT text, see "Images: Alt Text."

4. Create accessible charts and graphs.

We recommend always creating charts in PowerPoint to take advantage of an important accessibility feature. Like images, most charts are not accessible to screen readers; however, charts built within PowerPoint have corresponding data tables that are accessible and can be added to the slide.

To create a new chart in PowerPoint:

  1. On the Insert tab, select Chart.
  2. Choose the chart type you want.
    The chart layouts available in the Chart option
  3. When you select the chart type, the Chart Design toolbar opens, the chart is inserted into the slide, and Microsoft Excel opens. Enter your data in the Excel data table, remembering to add labels for rows and columns.
    The PowerPoint slide with the chart inserted and am Excel workspace open to add content to the chart.
  4. Next, insert the data table below the chart so that people who use screen readers can access the data:
    1. On the Chart Design tab, select Quick Layout.
    2. Find and select the layout with the data table. The data table will automatically be inserted onto the slide.
      Adding a data table to a chart slide to make the chart content accessible.

Because charts are images, you must an ALT text to it. For charts that have a corresponding data table, add an empty ALT tag by following the instructions in #3 above. If you haven't supplied alternative text elsewhere on the slide, add alternative text describing the chart to the ALT tag, as explained in #3 above.

5. Create accessible tables.

To add a new data table to a slide, always use Insert Table. Don't use Draw Table and don't use tables for layout.

  1. On the Insert tab, click Insert Table.
    The Insert Table pane for picking the number of rows and columns in the table.
  2. When the new table is inserted, the Table Design toolbar will automatically open.
  3. Make sure Header Row is checked.
  4. Provide column headers for your data table directly on the table.
    The Table Design pane with the header row checked and headers being typed into the table.


6. Provide accessible video.

At ASU, all videos must be captioned. Unfortunately, only QuickTime and Flash can embed captions for video in PowerPoint. For other video file types, you will need to embed the captions directly into the video, which is often not possible.

To make videos accessible in PowerPoint, post a link to a version of the video with captions (for instance, to a copy of the video on YouTube). For short videos, you can add a brief transcript in the speaker Notes pane.

Audio descriptions

For animations and videos that visually demonstrate instructions or information without vocally describing what is being demonstrated, the action should be described in the speaker Notes pane so it is available to people with low or no vision.


7. Create accessible content.

  • Keep content brief and to the point. Slides with too many images or too much text can increase cognitive load and prevent full comprehension and retention.
  • Use standard, non-decorative fonts. For readability, sans-serif fonts, such as Arial, Verdana, and Helvetica, are preferable.
  • Keep the font color foreground-to-background contrast high.
  • Use the bulleted or numbered lists styles provided.


8. Run the built-in Accessibility Checker.

PowerPoint has a built-in Accessibility Checker that is very useful for finding accessibility problems with PowerPoint slides. We highly recommend running the checker over your slides before publishing them. If issues are found, step-by-step instructions are provided for fixing them.

To run PowerPoint's built-in accessibility checker:

  1. On the Review tab, click Check Accessibility.
    Accessibility Checker menu item in PowerPoint
  2. The Accessibility Checker pane will display in the right-hand sidebar. Follow the instructions to fix each issue.
    The Accessibility Checker pane in PowerPoint showing several issues with text on why they should be fixed and how.


9. Save PowerPoints with Adobe PDFmaker.

Because PowerPoint presentations embedded in a webpage often have accessibility issues, it's best to also make a copy available for download. Screen reader users can download and read the file locally using their own PowerPoint software.

  1. Go to File > Save.
  2. Save as a .pptx file.
  3. Upload the file to the web and supply a link to download it.

Because not everyone has PowerPoint, you may want to also distribute the slides as a PDF file. To convert a PowerPoint file to an accessible PDF file, you must use the Adobe PDFmaker. Do not use "Print to PDF" or "Save As" PDF. Please see the instructions in steps 1-2 of "PDFs."

Finally, do not use Save As HTML because it generates non-standard markup that is not accessible.


10. Enable real-time captions in Office 365 PowerPoint.

Because real-time subtitles/captions are not available in the Microsoft PowerPoint for Mac desktop app, if you are on a Mac, you must use PowerPoint for Office 365. You can download Office 365 for Mac (or Windows) from myApps. In Windows, subtitles/captions are available in both the desktop and online versions of PowerPoint.

Below are instructions for enabling subtitles/captions in Office 365 PowerPoint:

  1. On a Mac or Windows machine, log into Office 365.
  2. Build your presentation.
  3. Choose subtitle settings:

    For the simplified toolbar/ribbon, go to the Slideshow tab > Always Use Subtitles.

    For the classic toolbar/ribbon, go to the View tab >Use subtitles.
    Simplified toolbar subtitle settings Classic toolbar subtitle settings
  4. Once in presentation mode, you can control whether or not to display subtitles using the captions icon in the bottom left of the presentation screen.
    Subtitle controls
  5. Enabling subtitles will add real-time captions to the screen that look like this:
    Captions on a Office 365 Powerpoint slideshow




Was this helpful?



Accessibility Connections