PowerPoint

PowerPoint is commonly used software for presentations. However, projected slides are inaccessible to those who are blind or visually impaired. Some barriers can be overcome by providing the presentation in digital and or text format or in handout form; other barriers can be minimized by utilizing effective and corrective presentation strategies.

Should your participants need a format other than those discussed here, please see Accessibility Guide Alternative Format page for more information.

Design

Power Point makes creating presentations very easy to be accessible or inaccessible given the use of slide designs and layouts. When creating your PowerPoint, there are a few important considerations:

  • Slide design should be high contrast, ideally black on white with no background image
  • Fonts should be clear, crisp fonts (not scripts)
  • Avoid distracting backgrounds and multicolor fonts
  • See Accessibility Guide Documents page for more information on choosing fonts, colors, and backgrounds

Text should be placed in areas provided by the template. Do not add text boxes to slides as those can be difficult (or impossible) for screen reader users to navigate.

To see what text is available to screen reader users, choose Outline View (versus Slides) by going to View > Outline View. Text boxes, images and speaker notes do not show up in the outline view, but it will show you if text included on slides is visible to screen readers.

Images

Many PowerPoint presentations use images and graphics for slides. It's critical that you make those images accessible by adding alternative text to them before you distribute your presentation. See Accessibility Guide Images and Graphics (link) page for information on adding alternative text to your images.

Handouts

Two ways to provide handouts are electronically or in hard copy. Either way, you need to ensure that they're appropriate for your audience's needs.

Hardcopies

PowerPoint allows you multiple options for printing your presentation. Distributing the Power Point on paper allows participants to take notes and retain information. Also, for people with vision or cognitive impairments, advance distribution can allow better participation.

  • Full Page: Print one slide per page with no notes.
  • Notes Pages: Print one slide per page, with slide at top of page and notes at the bottom. This is the best choice since it provides a large image accompanied by a written explanation of slide content and relevance
  • Outline View: Print your slides as an outline. However, notes are not shown and slides that have images appear blank. You are also unable to control the font style or size. If you want a text version of your PowerPower point see How to convert PPT to Text below.
  • Slides: Print each slide as full page
  • Handouts: Frequently seen at trainings, this allows you to print slides in various layouts, with up to 9 slides per page. Drawback is that slides are quite small and may be hard to see or read and do not include the information in the notes section

The same adaptive measures recommended for documents should be employed when preparing accessible handouts. See Accessibility Guide Documents page.

 

Preparing PowerPoint for electronic distribution

An electronic version of your PowerPoint can provide better access to your material for people needing a large print version or using a screen reader. There are two ways to provide a PowerPoint presentation electronically: slide presentation and text only.

Slide presentation

This is providing the original Powerpoint presentation, the same as the one you would use to show your participants (with speaker notes describing the content of each slide). Before sharing it, you need to be sure it is formatted correctly so a screen reader can read it

  • Be sure that your slide backgrounds and text has sufficient contrast.
  • Be sure all text is not in text boxes, text must be available to screen reader which can be verified by viewing Outline view. Correct as necessary
  • All images, graphs and tables need alternative description
  • For directions on how to add ALT text to your presentation, go to Accessibility Guide Images and Graphs

Export to PDF

You can export your presentation to any of the layouts described in the hard copy section of this page. You can do this by selecting your desired format and changing your printer to a print to pdf tool. Exporting your presentation in this manner prevents your participants from viewing it in the layout which best suits them. Unless you have a strong reason for limiting the layouts, this should be used sparingly.

Effective presentation

When presenting to an audience, it's important to consider all of your participants. Make use of the "speaker notes" feature in PowerPoint when preparing your presentation (located below the slide image box). A written explanation of each slide will enable people with visual impairment to access electronic copies or handouts of the presentation by assistive technologies such as screen readers.

Your presentation and notes should clearly describe the content of each slide for the audience. It's generally considered bad form to read your slides aloud but ensuring that you communicate verbally all information on your slide is necessary and important for those who can't see it.

Remember, if your slide is too complex to describe, it is probably too complex visually for your audience.

Text-only version

A text document of your PowerPoint presentation can be modified quickly and easily, can be read by a screen reader, modified for large print, or used to make a Braille version.

This will require four simple steps:

  1. Convert the Power Point to text only
    • Open the PowerPoint in the create and edit mode
    • Go to File > Save As
    • You will get a dialog box
    • At the bottom of this box, change the file type from Presentation (*.ppt) to Outline (*.rtf)
    • Once saved as rich text format, compare the converted document to your original slides to ensure all text was converted properly
  2. Include Image or Graph information
    • Insert text descriptions of each image or graph
    • See Accessibilty Guide Images and Graphs page for information on converting pictures to text
  3. Add Notes
    • Cut and paste your notes into the text document
    • These notes should have explanations for your bullets and descriptions and explanations of your images, charts and graphs
    • Resizing: To make all text the same size select all the text by using Ctrl + A, then choose your desired font and size

See the Accessibility Guide Documents and Word page for information on font choices and how to use Styles and Formatting to improve readability of your document

Effective presentation

Make use of the "speaker notes" feature in PowerPoint when preparing your presentation (located below the slide image box). A written explanation of each slide will enable people with visual impairment to access electronic copies or handouts of the presentation by assistive technologies such as screen readers.

Your presentation and notes should clearly describe the content of each slide for the audience.
Remember, if your slide is too complex to describe, it is probably too complex visually for your audience.