Creating Accessible PowerPoint Documents with Office 2010


Creating PowerPoint documents that are usable by all students mainly comes down to using built-in slide templates properly and providing descriptive alternative text for images.

Downloadable Guides

If you prefer to use a downloadable, printable version, a guide for PowerPoint 2010 is available in Word and PDF format below. (The guide for version 2013 is forthcoming).

  • Creating Universally Designed PPT 2010 Documents Download Word Version of Universally Designed PowerPoint 2010 Download PDF Version of Universally Designed Powerpoint 2010

Use Built-In Slide Layouts

The slide templates provided within PowerPoint add structure that makes them easier to navigate with screenreading software. Choose a slide layout from Home > New Slide.

PowerPoint New Slide Menu

Various types of slides are available, some with place-holders for images and multimedia:

PPT Slide Layout Menu

When using slide layouts, make sure to add the matching type of information in each of the fields included in the layout.

It is especially important not to not skip the title, as a blank title field is a red flag for the Accessibility Checker.

PPT Slide Field Example

Add Descriptive Text to Images

Providing alternate text for images helps screenreading software to give a meaningful description of what is visible on the page. If you include any pictures in your document, add a short text description to the properties of the image.

Right-click on the image, then select "Format Picture" from the menu:

PPT Image Properties Menu

In the box that pops up, choose the "Alt Text" menu option at the bottom left. The description goes in the box at the right. Leave the "Title" field blank, and type your description in the "Description" field:

Alt Text Input

When describing an image, the key is to make the description meaningful to the context. Think about what purpose the image serves. Does it add meaning to the text, or is it merely decorative? If the picture is only decorative, it is fine to leave the description blank. Otherwise, attempt to say in words what you expect students to glean from the image.

Run the Accessibility Checker

Finally, Microsoft has a built-in tool that will check your document for you. The tool is located under File > Info > Check for Issues > Check Accessibility.

PPT Accessiblity Checker Location

The checker will tell you if you missed any alternate descriptions on images, or if a slide is missing a title. It will also tell you how to fix any other issues that it finds, including those not covered on this page.

These are the most important steps you can take to make sure all students can use your PowerPoint documents. If you are including tables or more complex information, there is more you can do. See the tutorials at the links below for more information.

Further Resources

In-depth tutorials on these steps and more can be found here:

Microsoft PowerPoint, Universally Designed by CSU's ACCESS Project

PowerPoint 2010 Accessibility Tutorial by Microsoft

PowerPoint 2010 Tutorial by WebAIM

Video Tutorials by Atomic Learning