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Accessibility in PowerPoint Slide Design

Accessibility in PowerPoint Slide Design


When creating a presentation or a slideshow in Microsoft PowerPoint, many users choose a theme as a template. Be sure to first choose a theme with good contrast and a simple background, particularly if the presentation is being viewed on a projector. If you are searching for a custom theme, add the word “accessible” to your search to increase your chances that the custom theme was created with accessibility in mind.


  • PowerPoint Theme: An established template that uses a set of predefined colors, fonts, and visual elements consistently for a unified look throughout the slideshow. Use simple themes with good contrast.
  • PowerPoint Layout: A slide layout utilizes placeholders for different elements on the page, such as text, graphics, charts, etc.). A single PowerPoint theme will utilize different slide layouts for variation. Using layouts will allow screen readers to navigate the presentation correctly (See “Document Design”)

Minimum Compliance

Choose a simple, high contrast theme. Use slide layout placeholders to ensure proper navigation by screen readers. Set up any tables using proper data table construction. Caption any embedded videos, provide transcripts for any embedded audio and utilize alt text.


Item Arrangement: Using the “Arrange” menu in PowerPoint will move elements to the front or back of the slide. Sending elements to the back (“Send to Back”) will ensure these items are read first by screen readers, as they are on the base level of the slide. Bringing elements to the front (“Bring to Front”) will ensure these items are read last by screen readers, as screen readers read bottom (or base layer) to top.

Adding Alt Text: Since most PowerPoint presentations include pictures, these may need to have equivalent alternative text. This can be added by right-clicking in the image and selecting “Edit Alt Text” (See “Alternative Text for Images”)

Tables: Set up PowerPoint tables as data tables (See “Tables”) making sure that Header Row and First Column are checked in the Table Tools>Design option (PC) or Table Design option (Mac). If using table styles, be sure to choose table style with good contrast.

Hyperlinks: When pasting or using a link in a PowerPoint presentation, be sure to right-click the link and select Edit Hyperlink to enter descriptive link text (See “Creating Accessible Hyperlinks”)

Audio: If your PowerPoint presentation has embedded audio, include a transcript.

Video: If your PowerPoint presentation has embedded video, ensure the video is captioned (see “Video Captioning”)


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