Accessibility in Microsoft PowerPoint

At The College of Saint Rose, the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities coordinates academic support services for students with disabilities, such as extended time on tests, note taker support, and computer technology. Please seek their guidance and support in choosing texts for your course.

The following is informational only, and is intended to help faculty create more universally accessible content using the tools and technologies already provided by Information Technology Services. It is the responsibility of the course instructor to deliver course content in a way that is accessible by students using assistive technology.

It’s very fun to create vibrant, decorative PowerPoint presentations, but it’s important not to go overboard. Aesthetics are nice, but the end goal of your course is to teach your students. If the color contrast, images, etc. are getting in the way of the content, it’s time to rethink your design. Additionally, although slide transitions can be exciting, they can also trigger epileptic attacks, so flashing content should not be included.

For a short primer on accessibility and Microsoft Powerpoint, check out the following video, made by Microsoft:

Titles

Give every slide a unique title. If you continue information from one slide to the next, use Continued or Cont’d in the second slide’s title.

Order

Make sure that your slides are in the correct order and that the slide contents are read in the order you want. Note: Use the template slide formatting as much as possible, because even with the following precautions, it is possible that a screen reader will not pick up text boxes or other shapes.

Additionally, when you create your own text boxes and convert a presentation to Outline View (displaying plain text only), PowerPoint will not pick up text box information. If you used a slide template, the screen reader is more likely read correctly – but you should still check to be sure!

To check the reading order, find the Selection Pane by clicking the Arrange button in the Home tab’s Drawing group, as shown here in PowerPoint 2010:

The Arrange tab in Powerpoint.

 

The following menu will appear:

the Selection Pane in PowerPoint.

You can re-order the slide shapes by selecting one, then clicking one of the Re-order arrows. Clicking the eye icon will show or hide a shape.

Slide Masters

Like headers and footers in Word, screen readers may or may not read information that is part of a slide master. It’s important to include this information somewhere else in the presentation.

Tables

Screen readers seem to struggle with tables in PowerPoint presentations. It is easiest to leave them out, and present tables in Excel files if necessary.

External PowerPoint services

Services like Nearpod, SlideShare, and Prezi are mostly inaccessible (Prezi admits it is not ADA compliant). It’s important to look for Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates (VPATs) or other tools to gauge the accessibility of tools you’d like to use. Again, aesthetics should not come before accessibility. Any website that converts a PowerPoint into image files (like JPEGs) is running a risk of making the slides inaccessible to users on screen readers.

If you want to host a PowerPoint somewhere other than Blackboard, try sharing it as a downloadable file or as a rich text file in Outline view.

 


Note:

I tested using three screen readers: NVDA, VoiceOver, and JAWS.

Further Reading:

Sources:

“Creating Accessible PowerPoint Presentations.” Microsoft Office Supporthttps://support.office.com/en-us/article/Creating-accessible-PowerPoint-presentations-6f7772b2-2f33-4bd2-8ca7-dae3b2b3ef25