Two PowerPoint Accessibility Features Plus One “Off Label” Use

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People with visual disabilities may use a screen reader to read the screen to them. PowerPoint has features that work with screen readers and you can help to ensure that this experience is useful for people with visual disabilities. Accessibility is the concept of making any software more usable by people with disabilities.

Many companies and governmental organizations require that you make documents, including PowerPoint presentations, accessible.

Here, I’ll discuss a couple of PowerPoint accessibility features and give you a link to more information.

Helping screen readers read in the right order

PowerPoint guides a screen reader to read text on a slide in a certain order. A simple principle you can use is to make sure every slide has a slide title that explains the main point of the slide, whether you show it or not.

What does that mean? If you want to create a slide with nothing but an image, for example, you can use the Title Only layout, type some meaningful text in the slide title placeholder, and then drag it off the screen.

Likewise, if you want to create a diagram, you can use the title placeholder as part of the diagram. Here’s an example:

The rounded rectangle in the middle is actually the title placeholder, which I’ve formatted to look like a regular shape. This lets the screen reader know to read it first.

Using alt text

Alt text stands for alternative text and it is attached to an image. The alt text describes the image. When you insert an image in PowerPoint, you may see (depending on your version) automatically generated alt text at the bottom of the image. You can also right-click an image and choose Edit Alt Text to see the Alt Text pane, as you see here…

You can change the description. Here I would change it to “A bullhorn or megaphone.” The automatically generated alt text is sometimes surprisingly accurate but also sometimes really off. It might give you a good laugh!

Note that you can mark an image as decorative. If it has no meaning — a curlicue border or patterned background — you should mark it as decorative.

An “off label” use for alt textpowerpoint-tips-powerpoint-accessibility-5

Many people don’t need to make presentations accessible because they present verbally and won’t share the document with others. In this case, you can use the alt text for any purpose you want. One way to use alt text is to document the source of your images. In fact, you can do this even for people with visual disabilities so they know the source of an image.

The reason for doing this is in case someone challenges your image source — in other words, as a legal defense. Or you might just want to keep track of where you got your images so you can find the originals again. For whatever reason, since PowerPoint doesn’t give you access to the name of the image you inserted or its source, you can use the alt text box to document it.

I got the keyboard image from So here you can see that I’ve added the source of the image by adding the exact URL I got it from. I could also add the photographer to give him or her credit.

Check accessibility


PowerPoint contains a pane that checks accessibility. Go to the Review tab and click Check Accessibility to open the Accessibility Checker. There, you’ll see suggestions for improving the accessibility of the document, as you can see here.

As you can see, this presentation needs some changes to make it fully accessible!

This blog post has been re-published by kind permission of Ellen Finkelstein – View the original post .


Published On: 28th May 2019

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