9 Creating Accessible Presentation Slides

Presentation slides are usually a helpful visual which marks topics within a presentation or lecture. Traditionally, it is highly encouraged to use a visual when presenting information. Whether we know our audience or not, it is important to create these slides with accessibility in mind. First, choosing a platform that allows you to add accessibility is important, as not all platforms provide this opportunity as a feature which can add work to the creator in the long run. There are specific standards for accessibility when creating slides. Monitoring these standards is important when working towards compliance and support of those with disabilities.

Standard Accessibility Features

PowerPoint – PC

PowerPoint – Mac

Google Slides


Standard Accessibility Features

Use of Slide Layouts and Titles

When creating accessible slides, focusing on the layout of a slide is important as all slides should have a different title, which allows a screen reader to search the presentation as those with sight may do when scanning. Preset slides allow content boxes to already be appropriately and placed in an appropriate reading order (from top to bottom, left to right). By using the preset slide layouts, accessibility is already a part of your slide (PowerPoint Accessibility, 2019). Should you choose to use a blank slide and add in text boxes, this may require additional work, such as adding alternative text to the text box, checking and adjusting the read order of a slide, and adjusting a text box to be the heading by converting your slides to PDF and tagging appropriately through the use of specialized software, such as Acrobat Adobe Pro.[1]

Use of List Structure

Similar to using a heading structure, bulleted or numbered lists add a layer of structure to your document. When lists are included, this allows screen reading software to notify non-sighted users that they will be listening to a list of some kind. Bulleted lists should be used when listing information, whereas numbered lists should be used when explaining a step-by-step process.

Use of Alternative Text for All Images, Charts, and Graphs

Alternative text is required for any visual picture that provides a user with meaningful information. If an image is present in a document but does not have alternative text, or is not tagged appropriately, a will not have any information to provide to a non-sighted user. This user will then not know if the information on the screen is important. Alternative text should be clear, concise and descriptive in nature. If information about the image is already within the text, it may not need to be added again through the alternative text process.[2]

Use of Meaningful Text for Hyperlinks

All active links within a document should include meaningful text, especially if this document will be or could be shared electronically. URL’s are only appropriately used for documents that will be printed. Hyperlinks (activated links) should use descriptions of the page, or the web-page title to provide information to non-sighted users. Screen reading software allows non-sighted users to tab through all hyperlinks. When a link is activated, a screen reader will state link before reading the meaningful text, or URL if not changed.[3]

Microsoft PowerPoint

PowerPoint is the preferred method of presenting materials to an audience as it can be created to be accessible to all audience members. Should you find that your file size is too large to upload, an accessible PowerPoint can be converted into a PDF, which will transfer all the accessibility from PowerPoint to the PDF.

PowerPoint – PC

Creating Accessible PowerPoint Document (PC) for Version 2016 [4]

Creating an Accessible PowerPoint Tutorial for Version 2019

Screen Cast, Creating an Accessible PowerPoint – PowerPoint 2019

PowerPoint- Mac

Creating Accessible PowerPoint Document (Mac)

Screen Cast, Creating an Accessible PowerPoint for Mac

Google Slides

Google Slides is a great alternative to PowerPoint! It allows the creator to create with accessibility by following similar structure and guidelines as PowerPoint; however, as it is online, it doesn’t matter if a user has a Mac or a PC when creating the slides or viewing them. Google Docs does not currently have a built-in accessibility checker, but you can use the Chrome add-in Grackle to check the accessibility of the document. Google Slides has a closed caption feature that will transcribe spoken word during the presentation. There are some accessibility concerns about the closed caption feature, find them below: 

  • Does not meet current requirements for 99% accuracy.
  • Does not meet current requirements for grammar.[5]

Creating Accessible Google Slides

Screen Cast, Creating Accessible Google Slides


Although many enjoy Prezi, it is not considered an accessible way in which to provide visual aids or electronic handouts when wanting to or expected to provide accessible materials. Currently, Prezi is not ADA compliant. Some accessibility concerns are as follows:

  • Not accessible by a screen reader.
  • It is not possible to add alternative text to any images, charts or graphs.
  • Does not allow for keyboard navigation.
  • Visuals/animations can negatively impact individuals with certain chronic illnesses, such as cause seizures or physical illness.

When using Prezi, in order to provide an accessible copy, the user will need to convert their Prezi presentation into a PDF (which would require the user to have the plus or premium Prezi contract), then completely remediate the whole document appropriately through the use of software such as Acrobat Adobe Pro. Prezi does not have the ability to build in accessibility that will transfer to a PDF, as found with PowerPoint.

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  1. w3c_wai. “How to Make Your Presentations Accessible to All.” Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), 24 May 2018, www.w3.org/WAI/teach-advocate/accessible-presentations/.
  2. “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1.” W3C, W3C, 5 June 2018, www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/.
  3. “Hyperlinks | Accessible U.” Accessible U. Design for All People. All Devices, University of Minnesota , 2019, accessibility.umn.edu/core-skills/hyperlinks.
  4. “PowerPoint Accessibility.” WebAIM Web Accessibility in Mind, WebAIM, 2020, webaim.org/techniques/powerpoint/.
  5. “Google Slides - Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT).” Google Slides VPAT, Google, 2014, www.google.com/slides/about/accessibility/.


Access for All Copyright © 2020 by Alison Grimes and Danielle Smith. All Rights Reserved.

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