Accessibility in Presentations

This Elgin Community College Accessibility in Presentations Guide is an independent publication and is neither affiliated with, nor authorized, sponsored, or approved by, Microsoft Corporation. For permission to use content from this presentation or link to this document, please contact Elgin Community College Web Team at


This learning guide introduces accessibility to PowerPoint presentations for people living with disabilities. PowerPoint presentations are widely used, from classrooms to business meetings, and should be made accessible to all participants, including those using assistive technologies. This extensive guide will show you how to apply the basic accessibility requirements to PowerPoint presentations. This guide includes the following topics:

Slide Layouts

Slide: a single page in the presentation.

Slide layouts: templates that include formatting, placement, and placeholder boxes for content.

Placeholder: a container that holds different types of content, such as text, graphs, charts, images, videos, etc.

PowerPoint provides some basic layouts by default. You can also create your custom layouts. The slide master section describes custom layouts in detail. Add all content to only content placeholders. Do not insert text boxes because they are not accessible to assistive technologies. This will be discussed in detail in the outline view section of this document. Use the templates provided by PowerPoint because they are designed with accessibility in mind.

Learn how to use and create slide layouts.

Slide Titles

Make sure all your slides have unique titles. Without proper titles, the screen reader users will not know what the slide is about. Slide titles are headings in the presentation. If you have more than one slide for each topic, you can number the slides. For example,

Slide 1: Accessible PDF documents (1 of 3)
Slide 2: Accessible PDF documents (2 of 3)
Slide 3: Accessible PDF documents (3 of 3)

Slide 1: Accessible PDF documents (Continued 1 of 3)
Slide 2: Accessible PDF documents (Continued 2 of 3)
Slide 3: Accessible PDF documents (Continued 3 of 3)

This will tell the screen reader users that there is more than one slide for the topic.


Use lists to organize information. Use ordered lists where the order matters; otherwise, use unordered lists.

To use lists:

  1. Go to Home > Bullets (unordered list) or Home > Numbering (ordered list).

  2. Click on the little arrow button beside the lists to choose the type of symbols/numbers.
    Lists dropdown menus


Insert proper hyperlinks in your presentation. Visit the accessible content page to learn about how to write proper link text.

To add a hyperlink:

  1. Select the text you want to attach the link to.
  2. Right-click on the text and click on Hyperlink.

  3. Insert correct Text to display. Insert the URL in the address.

    Add hyperlink

PowerPoint automatically creates a link when you add/paste a URL to the slide. If your presentation already includes links, here is how to edit the link text:

  1. Select the link text.
  2. Right-click on the link text, and select Edit link.

    Edit hyperlink
  3. Edit Text to Display. This will change the link text in your slide.
    Edit hyperlink text

Tables, Charts, and Graphs

Learn how to create accessible tables, charts, and graphs.

Alternative Text

This section includes a step-by-step process of adding alt text to images, charts, and graphs in PowerPoint. The alt text is crucial for screen reader users. Without the alt text, users will not know what the image is about. Visit the accessible content page to learn about how to write proper alt text. Learn how to add alt text to your content.


In PowerPoint, you can add notes to each slide. Keep in mind that the notes section is accessible to the screen readers. You can access the notes section at the very bottom of the slide. People with dyslexia have a hard time reading excess information on the slide, so please make sure you limit the amount of text on the slide. Include important information on the slide, and add the in-depth information in the notes section.

Reading Order

The screen readers read the slides based on the reading order set in the presentation. It is essential to manually check the reading order of your slides and content to be sure it is logical. To do so:

  1. Go to Home > Select.
  2. Click on the dropdown by Select button and click on Selection Pane.

    Selection pane
  3. A new panel will appear on the right side.

    Reading order in selection pane
  4. The panel will show all the contents in the slide you are on. The reading order starts from bottom to top. So in the image above, the screen reader will read the content in the following order:
    Picture 11 → Text Box 5 → Text Box 6 → Picture 1

Correct the reading order for all the slides if necessary, which is why it is beneficial to use slide layouts. You can modify the content’s reading order in the layouts so that when you use that layout, all the content will have the correct reading order.


Animations are sometimes used in presentations to add visual interest. Keep in mind that animations are ignored by the screen readers. Graphics sliding in from the left or right or bullets appearing one at a time are difficult for screen readers and are also a trigger for people living with some neurological conditions. Avoid blinking and flashing animations. Flashing animations can cause seizures in people living with epilepsy. The number of flashes should not be greater than 3 in one second. Avoid fast-moving animations for people living with vertigo. Animations can also be very confusing for people with cognitive disabilities. That is why it is a best practice to avoid animations.

Video Captions

For more information on audio and video captions, see the video accessibility page. If your presentation includes a video, it is essential to add captions to each video and audio description augmentation. To do so,

  1. Select the video.
  2. Go to Video Tools > Playback > Insert Captions.

    Insert captions
  3. Click on the Insert Caption button.
  4. It will open another window where you can browse for your caption file and insert the file.

You can also utilize the Notes section to add the audio transcript.

Additional Resources

Following are the additional resources that discuss accessibility in Microsoft PowerPoint.