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Tips for Publishing Accessible PowerPoint Presentations

Microsoft PowerPoint is an excellent choice for publishing accessible presentations for all audiences (including people with disabilities). As with most Microsoft products, its important to use the latest version of PowerPoint (i.e. Office 2021 or Office 365) to ensure that you are getting all of the latest accessibility features including:

  • Accessible templates/themes for your presentations.
  • Built-in accessibility checker to quickly identify accessibility errors.
  • Tools and resources for publishing accessible presentations.

Here are some quick tips to help you get started with accessible publishing in PowerPoint

Use PowerPoint Themes to Format your Presentation

PowerPoint includes bundled themes which are pre-formatted for accessibility. Slide design templates include basic formatting for accessibility including: headings, list formatting, etc. You can access PowerPoint themes by selecting the Design tab in PowerPoint and choosing “More” under the Themes panel.

Important Note about Themes – When choosing a theme, some color combinations may not be fully accessible for people with low vision. We recommend selecting a theme with good color contrast (text) or updating theme colors to ensure accessibility for low vision users.

Screenshot showing theme options in MS PowerPoint

Title Your Presentation

Titling your presentation ensures that AT users will hear a description when opening your presentation. You can give your presentation a title by selecting File → File Info in PowerPoint, and adding your title under “File Properties”.

Screenshot showing File Properties in MS PowerPoint

Title Each Slide in Your Presentation

PowerPoint themes include a title box for your slide title. Be sure to enter a title for each slide in your presentation.

Screenshot showing Slide title in MS PowerPoint

Add Alternate Text Descriptions for Images

Alternate text descriptions are read in place of images by screen readers and other assistive technology devices. All images that convey information in your presentation should include alternate text descriptions. You can add alternate text to images in your presentation, by right clicking on the image, and selecting “Edit Alt Text”.

Screenshot showing image properties in MS PowerPoint

Identify Decorative Images

Use the “Mark as Decorative” option in the Alt Text pane to identify images that should be ignored by assistive technology devices.

Screenshot showing image properties panel with decorative image checkbox highlighted

Add a Header Row for Data Tables

Tables can be a challenge for AT users to navigate and understand. We recommend using tables only for displaying tabular data and avoiding table layouts for visual formatting.

To add a data table in PowerPoint, select Insert a Table, and select the number of rows and columns to add.

Screenshot showing Insert Table pane in MS PowerPoint

Once you have added your table, select the table and choose “Table Design” from the main menu. In the Table Design panel, ensure that the “Header Row” option is selected.

Screenshot showing table design properties in MS PowerPoint

Use Bullet and Numbered Paragraph Styles for Lists

Bullet and numbered list styles are included in the paragraph panel in PowerPoint. You can add a new list by selecting a text box and choosing the Bullet or Numbered list option in PowerPoint (under the home tab).

Screenshot showing list formatting options in MS PowerPoint

Use the Built-In Accessibility Checker in PowerPoint

PowerPoint includes a built-in accessibility checker to help you quickly identify and resolve accessibility errors in your presentation. You can run the accessibility checker while editing your document by selecting Review → Check Accessibility in PowerPoint.

Screenshot showing Accessibility Checker in MS PowerPoint

Verify the Order of Elements in Your Slides Using the Selection Pane

The selection pane allows you to arrange the order of elements in your slides to match the visual reading order. You can access the selection pane by selecting the “Home” tab and choosing “Selection pane” under “Arrange”.

Screenshot showing selection pane in MS PowerPoint

Please Note: the order of elements in the selection page is reversed—so items at the bottom of the selection pane will be read first.

More Tips for Accessibility

  • Ensure adequate contrast for slide text. You can check accessible color combinations by using Web-AIMs Color Contrast Checker.
  • Avoid inserting video and audio content directly in PowerPoint files. Instead, provide a link to videos with captions and/or audio description in YouTube, Vimeo or other video hosting platform.
  • Ensure that text is sufficiently large for low vision users. Generally, 24pt is a good starting point for visual presentations.
  • Avoid using slide transitions or animation–as these might confuse AT users.
  • If you intend to distribute your presentation online, be sure to covert your file to tagged PDF format (using the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Professional).

Need Help?

Aurora provides training and direct support to help you reach your accessibility compliance goals. Contact us today for a free consultation, or request a quote for training and professional development solutions.

Quick Tips for Publishing Accessible Word Documents

When publishing documents for the Web or electronic distribution, its critical to ensure that they are fully accessible for assistive technology (AT) users. Accessible documents work well with AT devices such as screen readers, braille displays, etc., and are free from accessibility barriers such as reading order problems, missing alternate text descriptions, and other errors. Check out the tips below for more information about accessible publishing techniques for MS Word.

Please note: the instructions and screenshot provided are for the latest version of Microsoft Word for Windows. If you are using MacOS or an earlier version of MS Word, please consult documentation for the version of Office/Word that you are using.

Add a Title for Your Documents

The document title is the first thing that is read when an AT user opens your document. To ensure that the purpose of your document is clear, it’s important to include a descriptive title for AT users.

You can add a title for your documents in Word by selecting File → File Info and adding a descriptive title under Properties.

Screenshot of MS Word with File Properties highlighted

Use Heading Styles to Structure Your Documents

Headings are important to help AT users understand the structure of your documents. Complex documents may include many heading levels including: Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, etc. When using headings, it’s important to ensure that they are nested correctly. Heading 2 should be used for subheadings under Heading 1, Heading 3 should be used for subheadings of Heading 2, and so on.

Microsoft Word includes predefined styles for headings in the Styles panel that are easily customizable. Check out the screenshot below for more information.

Screenshot from Microsoft Word with styles panel expanded

Provide Alternate Text Descriptions for Images

Images that convey information should include an alternate text description for assistive technology users. Alternate text should be short (if possible), but sufficiently descriptive to fully explain the purpose and context of images in your documents.

To add alternate text for an image, right-click on the image and select “Edit Alt Text”. Add a description in the Alt Text Task pane, or check the box “Mark as decorative” for decorative images.

Screenshot from Microsoft Word with alt text panel highlighted

Format Lists using Paragraph Styles in Word

List formatting is essential to ensure that AT users understand the structure and relationship of lists in your document. When lists are formatted correctly, AT users are alerted to the structure of lists including the type of list, number of list items, etc.

MS Word includes paragraph styles for ordered and unordered lists. Please see the screenshot below of the Paragraph styles panel with Bullet and Numbered lists.

Screenshot of Microsoft Word with Bullet list styles highlighted

Avoid Using Tables for Layout and Include a Header Row for Data Tables

Tables can be difficult or impossible to navigate for assistive technology users. To ensure that AT users can navigate your tables, its essential to reserve table layouts for data tables, and use appropriate markup for AT users.

Microsoft Word includes formatting options for data tables. For simple tables, ensure that the option to make the first row a header row is checked under Table Properties. Also, we recommend unchecking “Allow row to split across pages”.

Screenshot from Microsoft Word with Table properties dialog highlighted

Use Columns Instead of Text Boxes to Preserve Reading Order

Documents with many text boxes can be difficult to understand, as the reading order of your document might not match the visual reading order for sighted users. To ensure the correct reading order for your documents, we recommend using columns (wherever possible) to ensure the correct reading order for AT users.

You can format your document using columns, by selecting Layout → Columns in Word.

Screenshot from Microsoft Word with column layouts menu expanded

Use the Accessibility Checker in MS Word to Scan Your Documents for Accessibility Errors

Microsoft Word comes with a built-in accessibility checker that can help you quickly and easily identify accessibility errors in your documents. The accessibility checker is an automated tool which scans your documents for accessibility errors and presents errors and warnings in the accessibility Task pane.

You can activate the checker in Word by selecting Review → Check Accessibility in Word.

Screenshot from Microsoft Word with accessibility checker highlighted


Microsoft Word includes many great features for authoring accessible documents. By taking a few minutes to add formatting and scan your documents for accessibility, you can make your documents more accessible for AT users.

The list of techniques above is not exhaustive but is a great starting point for publishing accessible documents in MS Word. If you are interested in a comprehensive training on document publishing techniques, please check out our training solutions for more information.

Need Help?

Aurora provides training and direct support to help you reach your accessibility compliance goals. Contact us today for a free consultation, or request a quote for training and professional development solutions.

Blind advocates challenge state’s failure to provide accessible forms of communication to blind Medi-Cal consumers

Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) – October 22, 2018

A coalition of blind advocates today filed a class action lawsuit in Federal Court against the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) and three counties for failing to provide Medi-Cal notices in accessible formats, such as Braille. The plaintiffs are the California Council of the Blind and three individuals.

Getting Started with Document Accessibility

Inaccessible documents can be a major accessibility barrier for assistive technology (AT) users. At worst, some document accessibility errors can make online documents completely inaccessible for people with disabilities. Some common accessibility problems for documents include:

  • Scanned documents that contain no data for assistive technology devices
  • Untagged PDF documents that lack structure to be interpreted properly by assistive technology
  • Documents with images missing alternate text descriptions, headings, and other semantic information for AT users

Learn more about common document accessibility errors and applicable standards

To ensure that documents are accessible for people with disabilities, it’s important to test and verify document accessibility. Here are some steps to address document accessibility in your organization:

  1. Take an inventory of electronic documents on your website – be sure to note the types of documents, and locate source documents (if available).
  2. Remove documents that are no longer needed – the easiest way to address accessibility errors is to remove documents that are no longer needed.
  3. Use the built-in accessibility checkers in MS Word and Adobe Acrobat to identify and address accessibility errors.
  4. Request a Document Accessibility Audit – a document accessibility audit is invaluable to document and characterize accessibility errors, and develop a remediation plan to achieve compliance with Section 508 and WCAG 2.0.
  5. Explore Professional Development Opportunities for your teams – professional development is the best way to proactively address document accessibility, and ensure that future documents are published in accessible formats.

Document Accessibility Solutions

Aurora provides document accessibility solutions for businesses and organizations looking to achieve compliance WCAG 2.0.

Document Accessibility: Everything You Need to Know

Documents are often overlooked when considering website accessibility—yet inaccessible electronic documents can be a significant barrier for people with disabilities.

Common Types of Document Accessibility Errors include:

  • Documents scanned to PDF format that contain no data for assistive technology devices
  • Documents authored using older versions of Microsoft Word, Adobe InDesign, or other software that is missing critical accessibility features (i.e. alternate text for images)
  • Documents authored using Apple pages or other software that is not accessibility supported
  • Documents authored using the latest publishing tools, but missing key accessibility features (i.e. structured headings, alternate text, etc.)

What Standards Apply to Documents

The Word Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) apply to documents published on the web and distributed in electronic formats. Specifically, WCAG 2.0 checkpoints that apply to documents include:

Identifying Inaccessible Documents

Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat both include an automated accessibility checker to help you identify errors in your documents. Automated accessibility checkers can help identify basic accessibility errors such as: missing alternate text descriptions, reading order problems, and more.

To get a complete picture of document accessibility, we recommend testing documents with a screen reader to identify barriers and determine compatibility with assistive technology devices. A screen reader can catch accessibility errors that automated scanners might miss including:

  • Alternate text that does not fully describe the content on an image
  • Documents with reading order problems caused by text boxes or table layouts
  • Tab delimited pseudo tables that are missing formatting for assistive technology devices

FREE Document Accessibility Audit

Aurora offers free document accessibility testing for MS Word, PPT, and PDF documents.

Request a Quote