Making Microsoft PowerPoint Presentations Accessible

Accessibility checker

Microsoft PowerPoint (2016 version for Windows and Mac) has a built-in accessibility checker. The tool is designed to aid an individual in determining a presentation’s accessibility issues. It does not cover all accessibility topics however, it does cover most of them and can be a time saver.

The tool will scan a presentation and present a series of errors and warnings. Any issue can be reviewed by clicking on it, allowing the user to be presented with information on why and how to fix. 

The accessibility checker can be accessed through the ribbon by going to File -> Check for Issues -> Check Accessibility.


Titles & headers

Presentations should always begin with an initial title slide, and each slide should have a unique header or slide title. These are often the first slide shown when creating a completely new PowerPoint presentation. These can also be added by generating a New Slide with a Title Slide layout. 

Titles on individual slides help your documents stand out, allowing a reader to quickly scan it for desired content. These titles should always be unique as it aids in individuals knowing where they are located within a presentation. Slide titles are a default field on any of the standard PowerPoint layouts.


Font size and selection

In typical presentation style, do not use a font size below 18 points in a presentation or it may become unreadable by most of the room. Typically use a font size of 22 points or larger, but 18 may be possible in smaller rooms or on larger screens. Font sizes can be adjusted on any slide in a presentation by clicking on it, then Home on the ribbon, followed by adjusting the font size within the Font section.

Additionally, use fonts that are considered to be sans-serif fonts. Examples of such fonts are Arial, Calibri, Franklin Gothic Book, Helvetica, and Segoe UI.


Slide layout

When creating a presentation, make use of the pre-made slide layouts available in PowerPoint. This helps to ensure that each slide is set up in a readable fashion for all individuals, especially those using screen reading or narration technologies.


Reading order

As elements are added or modified on a slide, the reading order of the slide may be disrupted. This typically occurs if an item is added then moved, or if content is added in a non-linear fashion. In PowerPoint, it is possible to review a slide’s reading order by accessing Home on the ribbon, followed by Arrange in the Drawing section, then Selection Pane. This will reveal the Selection Pane, which contains functions to adjust the reading order of a slide.


Images and charts

Images and charts need descriptive alternative text (alt text) to ensure that a non-visual method of representing an image is available for those who need it. PowerPoint provides a method of creating an alt text title and description. For an image, select an image chart within a document, right-click, then select Format Picture. The Format Picture pane will appear. Toggle to the Layout & Properties section, then select Alt Text. When working with a chart, right-click in a blank area of the cart, then select Format Chart Area. The Format Chart Area pane will appear. Like with images, toggle to the Layout and Properties section, then select Alt Text.

Additionally, charts should have text large enough to be seen from a distance, as well as appropriate visible colors.



Using lists in a presentation help to give it structure. Ordered, or numbered, lists are typically used for processes like steps of a task, a series of assignments to complete, or anything that follows a sequence. Unordered lists, like bullet points, are used for items without a sequence. Most PowerPoints follow a text structure incorporating an unordered list on many slides.



Links to any external website should be descriptive for a presentation read on a computer or mobile device. This allows an individual to know the purpose of the link before actually accessing it. A fully visible link is needed for a printed presentation, preferably with the context of its purpose.



Tables are best used for data purposes and not document layout. Data tables allow for data to be displayed as a grid or matrix, or simply delineate data by relevant rows and columns.


Color contrast

Color selection should be considered when creating a presentation. A high level of contrast between text color and slide background is helpful for everyone. This similarly can effect charts, as chart elements may not have a high level of contrast. The general rule of thumb: If it’s hard to read for the person writing it, then it’s hard to read for the person reading it.

A general rule of thumb: If it’s hard to read for the person writing it, then it’s hard to read for the person reading it.

Additional resources