All students benefit from an organized, clear, concise and well laid-out PowerPoint presentation. These tips will help you make your presentations accessible to the greatest number of people and limit the amount of work you need to do to accommodate students with disabilities.
An accessible PowerPoint presentation is one that can be followed and understood by any student. Additionally, it can be easily read by a screen reader, has effective alternative text (Alt Text), and contains captioning or transcripts for any embedded audio or video.
Some students use assistive technology to adapt information into a usable format for their learning needs. Some examples of assistive technology are:
Screen readers: These read aloud information on a computer screen, such as written text, or the description of an image provided through alternative text or Alt Text.
Screen enhancement software: This allows users to magnify the computer screen or change the contrast to make the content easier to see.
Mac users should be aware that many versions of PowerPoint for Mac have serious accessibility limitations. For example, you cannot assign Alt Text to images or export the presentation as an accessible PDF file in the versions until and including 2008. Similarly, Apple’s Keynote presentation software is not recommended if you need to create an accessible presentation.
Not everyone will have the software required to view PowerPoint presentations on their computer, so it is best to convert your file to an accessible PDF before sharing via email. (See “Using Word documents and/or PDFs”.)
Alternative text describes an image so that the user’s assistive technology may convey what information is being provided. It appears when you move your cursor over a picture or object. In situations where the reader cannot see the image, Alt Text ensures that no information is lost. For lecture presentations to be accessible, Alt Text must be assigned to all photos, images, multimedia, graphs, charts, text boxes, ClipArt, SmartArt, AutoShapes, etc.
The method for adding Alt Text varies from version to version of PowerPoint, but typically you will start by right-clicking on the image and then making a selection from the menu that appears (for instance, “Format Picture” or “Size and Position”). Earlier versions of PowerPoint for Mac don’t have an option for adding Alt Text to images.
Consult your software manual for detailed instructions.
The WebAIM (Web Accessibility in Mind) site offers detailed information on how to create accessible PowerPoint presentations and effective use of fonts. The article PowerPoint Accessibility was used to compile the “General tips” section of this document.
The Teaching Commons at California State University has guidelines as well as a series of videos on creating accessible PowerPoint presentations. These explain how to add Alt Text and hyperlinks, use the notes pane and format tables and charts.
The Accessible Digital Office Documents project (ADOD), part of the Inclusive Design Research Centre at the Ontario College of Art & Design University, has a number of resources, including step-by-step instructions for Microsoft Office programs such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint. This resource includes information on adding hyperlinks, Alt Text and using other accessibility features.
Microsoft has an online guide, Creating accessible PowerPoint presentations.
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Created September 2012