PowerPoint Accessibility Checklist

PowerPoint presentations are by their nature highly visible; meaning “designed for viewing by sight”. This inherent visualness can create barriers to both accessing and fully comprehending slide content for audience members who may experience vision impairment, color blindness or cognitive disabilities.

This does not mean that an accessible PowerPoint has to be plain, boring, or all text and bullets. They can be colorful, dynamic, interactive, accessible and usable if the author is willing to take the time and attention to make them so.

Checklist Questions

  1. Does the text/background, or images of text/background have a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1?
    • Users with low vision and color blindness may have difficulty reading documents that do not present sufficient contrast and color difference between background and foreground elements. Exceptions:
      • Large-scale text and images of large-scale text should have a contrast ratio of at least 3:1;
      • Decorative images / images of text; including logotypes
  2. Was a Sans Serif Font of at least 12 point size used?
    • Serif and Cursive fonts often have flares or strokes on the tips or ends of the letters, which may be difficult for some learners to read, and those with vision impairments may have difficulty reading text that is smaller than 12 point size.
    • In addition, screen readers will often interpret symbols or non sans serif font bullets as letters or numbers.
  3. If color/text formatting (bold etc.) was used to convey important information, was the importance of the information conveyed in another manner?
    • Importance of information conveyed by using color/text formatting will be unavailable to users of assistive technology.
    • Importance of information indicated by color alone will be missed by those using non-color/non-visual displays.
    • In addition, those who experience color-blindness may not be able to discern the colors used to indicate the importance of the information being conveyed.
  4. Were single level lists used, or was a combination of letters/numbers/bullets used to indicate list hierarchy?
    • Assistive technology such as screen readers or refreshable braille displays do not recognize nested or multi-level lists in PowerPoint, therefore the user will not be able to identify the hierarchy of the list items being presented.
  5. If hyperlinks were used, were the URL/email addresses also provided as plain text? Were URL destinations and email recipients clearly and contextually indicated?
    • Screen readers do not recognize hyperlinks within PowerPoint, therefore the hyperlink text will be identified and read as plain text to the user.
  6. If flow/organizational charts or other multi-layered images/charts/graphs were used, were they grouped together to create one content item?
    • When multi-layered items are not grouped as one content item, assistive technology will identify and interact with each layer individually causing misinterpretation of the information, which can lead to frustration and confusion for the user.
  7. If meaningful information presented in images, images of text (including branding logos), charts or graphs is not included within the surrounding text, was descriptive alternative text that conveys the meaning and concept of the information being visually presented provided for these types of content items?
    • Those with visual impairments, cognitive/learning disabilities often rely on the text based speech output of assistive technology to describe what is visually being presented.
    • Low-vision users may use screen magnifiers and may have the magnification set to a level which makes it difficult to see an entire image etc. at once.
    • Screen readers interpret data cells within a table as linear data, thus reading the information from left to right, top to bottom inaccurately representing the data relationships to the user.
  8. If notes were placed within the slides notes panel, were screen reader notes panel information and access instructions inserted into a hidden text box on the slide? If so, were hidden text boxes moved away from other slide content?
    • Screen readers do not automatically identify text that is read from within the notes panel as a part of the content of the slide. Additionally, navigating to the notes panel with the keyboard is an advanced screen reader skill which not all users may have experience with.
    • Many times when PowerPoints are uploaded to a website for online viewing and/or downloading, the text boxes unhide automatically and visually reappear behind other content.
  9. Does slide content appear in the correct reading order when tabbing through slide content or when viewed in the selection pane? (Tip: order goes from bottom to top in selection pane)
    • Screen readers will identify and read content based on the order of the content placeholders on the slide, if the reading order is not correct, the meaning and relationship of the content may be misunderstood by users of assistive technology.
  10. If any audio or video content was embedded into the presentation, were text alternatives (e.g., captions/transcripts) provided and are the audio and video controls accessible?
    • Without captions or transcripts for video with audio users with hearing impairments may misinterpret the meaning and context of the visual content being presented. Additionally, if there is an audio file with no corresponding video then they will miss the content entirely.
    • Screen reader users rely on the text based speech output of assistive technology to describe what is visually being presented; therefore although they may be able to hear the corresponding audio the meaning and context of the information being presented may not be clear to them.
    • If the video/audio controls are not accessible (e.g. labeled) then screen reader users will find it difficult to access and navigate through them.
  11. Were all animations or transitions (e.g., content that “flies-in”) removed?
    • Transitions and animations can be distracting for users with cognitive/learning disabilities and may cause assistive technologies to read the slide incorrectly.
    • As we all access and comprehend information at different paces, content or slides that advance on a timer may not provide enough time for some individuals to grasp and retain all of the information being presented.
  12. Have all protection restrictions been removed to allow users to manipulate controls (fonts, colors etc.) used within the presentation?
    • Restricting access limits users to change font, color, and other settings. This may create barriers to the readability of content that can have a negative effect on the user's ability to fully comprehend the topic being presented.
    • Additionally, protection restrictions may limit assistive technology users from accessing presentation content.
  13. Was all text content including content within alternative text fields, hidden text boxes, and notes panel visually checked for spelling and grammar errors?
    • Many times automated spell checkers do not catch all spelling and grammar errors. In addition, sometimes automated spell checkers will substitute words that are spelled correctly for other words intended. For example:
      • “Users should update there account information for accuracy.”
    • In the example above, the words “their” and “for” have been replaced with “there” and “fro” This will make content harder to read and understand for people with various cognitive disabilities.
  14. In the Document Properties, was the presentation given a descriptive title in the Title field?
    • Many organizations use templates created to maintain consistency and branding across company presentations. Oftentimes the title field will be pre-populated with a generic title that will not be reflective of your presentation content.
      • When creating new blank presentations, this field will automatically be populated with the title text from the presentation’s first slide, which again may not be reflective of your presentation’s overall content.
  15. Was the PowerPoint (PPT) file given a descriptive file name?
    • Descriptive file names help all users easily locate, open and switch between documents.
    • File names need to be different from the title set within the document properties. Assistive technology will read the file name when the document is accessed, if the file name and the title are the same it may lead to confusion for the user as they may think they did not actually open the file.
  16. If the document content is not written in the English Language has the appropriate Language for the document been set within the Options - Language tab?
    • The default language within the application is English. If the appropriate language for the document is not set words may be mispronounced by screen readers, which can lead to misinterpretation of both the meaning and overall concept of the information being conveyed.