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 Nipissing Logo Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities (AODA)


Microsoft PowerPoint (v.2010)

Use Built-In Layout and Styling Features

PowerPoint 2010 does not provide "True Headings" or "Named Styles" as does Word 2010.

Use Built-In Slide Layouts

Instead of creating each slide in your presentation by starting from a blank slide, check whether there is a suitable built-in layout.

Note: The built-in layouts can be more accessible to users of assistive technologies because they technologies sometimes read the floating items on the slide in the order that they were placed on the slide. The built-in layouts have usually taken this into account (e.g., “Title” first followed by other items, left to right and from top to bottom). If you create slide layouts from scratch, it is sometimes difficult to keep track of the order elements were placed.

To apply “true layout” to a slide
  1. Go to menu item: Home
  2. In the Slides section, select the Layout button
  3. Select the layout you would like to use from the drop down menu

Customize Using Master Slides

If a layout must be customized, it is recommended that Master Slides be used.
Every slide layout in a presentation is defined by its master slide.  A master slide determines the formatting style for various elements of the slide layout.  This includes font styles, character formatting, and the positioning of elements.  Essentially, each master slide acts as a design template for the slide layout. 

If you edit any aspect of the slide layout in the master slide, the change will affect all slides that were created based on it.  For this reason, it is good practice to edit the master slide and use the slide layouts before building individual slides.  It is essential that you create and use master slides that meet the accessibility requirements outlined in this document.

To create or customize a master slide
  1. Go to menu item: View
  2. In the Master Views section, select the Slide Master icon
  3. The current slide master with its associate layouts appears
Note: If you have the Normal view open, the slide master is the larger slide image in the slide thumbnail pane. The associated layouts are positioned beneath the slide master.
  4. Customize the existing master slide and its associated layouts to suit your needs (e.g., apply a design, theme-based colors, fonts, effects, backgrounds) ensuring that your changes meet accessibility requirements
  5. Go to menu item: File > Save As
  6. In the File name box, type a file name
  7. In the Save as type list, select PowerPoint template
  8. Select Save
  9. On the Slide Master tab, in the Close section, select Close Master View

Set a Logical Tab Order

Many presentation applications create content composed almost exclusively of "floating" objects. This means that they avoid the transitions between in-line content and secondary "floating" objects (text boxes, images, etc.) that can cause accessibility issues in word processors.

However, when you are working with "floating" objects, it is important to remember that the way objects are positioned in two dimensions on the screen may be completely different from how the objects will be read by a screen reader or navigated using a keyboard. The order that content is navigated sequentially is called the "Tab Order" because often the "Tab" key is used to navigate from one "floating" object to the next.

Tips for setting a logical “tab order” for "floating" objects

  • The tab order of floating objects is usually from the “lowest” object on the slide to the “highest”.
  • Because objects automatically appear “on top” when they are inserted, the default tab order is from the first object inserted to the last. However, this will change if you use features such as “bring to front” and “send to back”.
  • The slide’s main heading should be first in the tab order.
  • Headings should be placed in the tab order immediately before the items (text, diagrams, etc.) for which they are acting as a heading.
  • Labels should be in the reading order placed immediately before the objects that they label.
  • For simple slide layouts, it may be possible to simply insert objects in a logical tab order.
  • For more complex layouts, it may be easier to simply to create the slide as usual and then set the tab order (see below).
To set the tab order using the ‘Selection Pane’
  1. Go to menu item: Home
  2. In the Drawing section, select Arrange > Selection Pane…
  3. In the Selection and Visibility pane, all the elements on the slide are listed in reverse chronological order under Shapes on this Slide
  4. Elements can be re-ordered using the Re-order buttons located at the bottom of the Selection and Visibility pane

Note: The tab order of elements begins at the bottom of the list and tabs upwards.

Use Slide Notes

A useful aspect of presentation applications is the facility to add notes to slides, which can then be read by assistive technologies.  You can use these slide notes to explain and expand on the contents of your slides in text format.  Slide notes can be created as you build your presentation.

To add notes to your slides
  1. Go to menu item: View
  2. In the Presentation Views section, select Normal to ensure that the notes panel is in view
Note: You can then select menu item Home, to access text formatting options
  3. The Notes Pane can be found at the bottom of the window, below the slide
  4. Type and format your notes within the Notes Pane below each slide

Provide Text Alternatives for Images and Graphical Objects

When using images or other graphical objects, such as charts and graphs, it is important to ensure that the information you intend to convey by the image is also conveyed to people who cannot see the image.  This can be accomplished by adding concise alternative text to of each image. If an image is too complicated to concisely describe in the alternative text alone (artwork, flowcharts, etc.), provide a short text alternative and a longer description as well.

Tips for writing alternative text (“Description” in PowerPoint 2010)

  1. Try to answer the question "what information is the image conveying?"
  2. If the image does not convey any useful information, leave the alternative text blank
  3. If the image contains meaningful text, ensure all of the text is replicated
  4. Alternative text should be fairly short, usually a sentence or less and rarely more than two sentences
  5. If more description is required (e.g., for a chart or graph), provide a short description in the alternative text (e.g., a summary of the trend) and more detail in the long description, see below
  6. Test by having others review the document with the images replaced by the alternative text

Alternatively, you can include the same information conveyed by the image within the body of the document, providing the images as an alternate to the text. In that case, you do not have to provide alternate text within the image.

To add alternative text to images and graphical objects
  1. Right-click the object
  2. Select Format Picture…
  3. Select the Alt Text option from the list
  4. Fill in the Title. If more description is required (e.g., for a chart or graph), provide a short description in the Title (e.g., a summary of the trend) and more detail in the Description.

Note: If the document is ever saved to HTML, the Title and Description fields are combined into a single HTML <alt> tag. 

Use Built-In Structuring Features


When using tables, it is important to ensure that they are clear and appropriately structured. This helps all users to better understand the information in the table and allows assistive technologies (e.g., screen readers) to provide context so that the information within the table can be conveyed in a meaningful way.

Tips for tables
  • Only use tables for tabular information, not for formatting.
  • Use “real tables” rather than text formatted to look like tables using the TAB key or space bar. These will not be recognized by assistive technology.
  • Keep tables simple by avoiding merged cells and dividing complex data sets into separate smaller tables, where possible.
  • If tables split across pages, set the header to show at the top of each page. Also set the table to break between rows instead of in the middle of rows.
  • Create a text summary of the essential table contents. Any abbreviations used should be explained in the summary.
  • Table captions or descriptions should answer the question "what is the table's purpose and how is it organized?" (e.g., "A sample order form with separate columns for the item name, price and quantity"). 
  • Table cells should be marked as table headers when they serve as labels to help interpret the other cells in the table.
  • Table header cells labels should be concise and clear.
  • Ensure the table is not “floating” on the page (see Technique).
To add a table with headings
  1. Go to menu item: Insert
  2. In the Tables section, select the Tables icon
  3. Select the number of rows and columns you would like your table to have
  4. Select the table and a Table Tools menu item should appear
  5. Go to menu item: Table Tools > Design
  6. In the Table Style Options section, select the Header Row check box
Note: Whenever possible, keep tables simple with just 1 row of headings.


When you create lists, it is important to format them as “real lists”. Otherwise, assistive technologies will interpret your list as a series of short separate paragraphs instead of a coherent list of related items.

To create an ordered or unordered list
  1. Go to menu item: Home
  2. In the Paragraph section, select the Bullets icon for unordered lists or select the Numbering icon for ordered lists
  3. To select a different list format, select the arrow beside the icon
  4. Select a format from the format Library that appears in the drop-down menu
To modify list styles
  1. Go to menu item: Home
  2. In the Paragraph section, select the arrow beside the Bullets icon for unordered lists or select the arrow beside the Numbering icon for ordered lists
  3. Select Define New Bullet… to create a new unordered list format
  4. Select Define New Number Format… to create a new ordered list format
  5. In the New Bullet dialog or the New Number Format dialog, select the list characteristics
  6. Select OK


Use Columns feature for placing text in columns. 
Note: Because columns can be a challenge for users of some assistive technologies, consider whether a column layout is really necessary.

Document Title

In case the document is ever converted into HTML, it should be given a descriptive and meaningful title.

To change the title of the current document
  1. Go to menu item: File
  2. Select Info from the list in the left window pane
  3. In the right window pane, select the Title text box
  4. Enter the Title

Note: The Title defined in the properties is different than the file name. It is also unrelated to the template name, discussed above.

Create Accessible Charts

Charts can be used to make data more understandable for some audiences.  However, it is important to ensure that your chart is as accessible as possible to all members of your audience.  All basic accessibility considerations that are applied to the rest of your document must also be applied to your charts and the elements within your charts.  For example, use shape and color, rather than color alone, to convey information.  As well, some further steps should be taken to ensure that the contents are your chart are appropriate labeled to give users reference points that will help them to correctly interpret the information.

To create a chart
  1. Select a Slide Layout that contains a placeholder for a chart (see Technique, above)
  2. Select the Insert Chart icon from the center of the placeholder
  3. Select a Chart Type from the Insert Chart dialog
  4. Select OK

Note: This will open the Excel document titled “Chart in Microsoft Office PowerPoint”, where you can input the data you would like to include in the chart. When you have done this, simply close the Excel window and the data will appear on the chart in the PowerPoint presentation.

To add titles and labels
  1. In the Chart Tools menu section, go to menu item: Layout
  2. In the Labels section, select the type of title or label you would like to define (e.g., Chart Title, Axis Titles, Data Labels)
To apply a predefined Chart Layout
  1. In the Chart Tools menu section, go to menu item: Design
  2. In the Chart Layouts section, select a Quick Layout from the scrolling Chart Layouts gallery
To change to a different predefined Chart Type
  1. In the Chart Tools menu section, go to menu item: Design
  2. In the Type section, select the Change Chart Type icon
  3. In the Change Chart Type dialog, select a chart type from the left pane
  4. Select a Chart Design from the right pane
  5. Select OK

Other Chart Considerations

  1. When creating line charts, use the formatting options to create different types of dotted lines to facilitate legibility for users who are color blind
  2. When creating bar charts, go to menu item: Chart Tools > Format and in the Shape Styles section select Shape Fill to apply a texture to help distinguish the bars
  3. Change the default colors to a color safe or gray-scale palette
  4. Use the formatting options to change predefined colors, ensuring that they align with sufficient contrast requirements (see Technique, below)

Make Content Easier to See

Format of Text

When formatting text, especially when the text is likely to printed, try to:

  1. Use font sizes between 12 and 18 points for body text.
  2. Use fonts of normal weight, rather than bold or light weight fonts.  If you do choose to use bold fonts for emphasis, use them sparingly.
  3. Use standard fonts with clear spacing and easily recognized upper and lower case characters. Sans serif fonts (e.g., Arial, Verdana) may sometimes be easier to read than serif fonts (e.g., Times New Roman, Garamond).
  4. Avoid large amounts of text set all in caps, italic or underlined.
  5. Use normal or expanded character spacing, rather than condensed spacing.
  6. Avoid animated or scrolling text.

But can’t users just zoom in?Office applications do typically include accessibility features such as the ability to magnify documents and support for high contrast modes. However, because printing is an important aspect of many workflows and changing font sizes directly will change documents details such the pagination, the layout of tables, etc., it is best practice to always format text for a reasonable degree of accessibility.

Use Sufficient Contrast

The visual presentation of text and images of text should have a contrast ration of at least 4.5:1. To help you determine the contrast, here are some examples on a white background:

  • Very good contrast (Foreground=black, Background=white, Ratio=21:1)

    Example Text

  • Acceptable contrast (Foreground=#767676, Background=white, Ratio=4.54:1)

    Example Text

  • Unacceptable contrast (Foreground=#AAAAAA, Background=white, Ratio=2.32:1)

    Example Text

Also, always use a single solid Colour for a text background rather than a pattern.
In order to determine whether the Colours in your document have sufficient contrast, you can consult an online contrast checker, such as:

Avoid Using Color Alone

Color should not be used as the only visual means of conveying information, indicating an action, prompting a response, or distinguishing a visual element. In order to spot where color might be the only visual means of conveying information, you can create a screenshot of the document and then view it with online gray-scale converting tools, such as:

Avoid Relying on Sensory Characteristics

The instructions provided for understanding and operating content should not rely solely on sensory characteristics such as the color or shape of content elements. Here are two examples:

  • Do not track changes by simply changing the color of text you have edited and noting the color. Instead use Google docs: Spreadsheet’s review functionality features to track changes, such as revision history.
  • Do not distinguish between images by referring to their appearance (e.g. “the bigger one”). Instead, label each image with a figure number and use that for references.

Avoid Using Images of Text

Before you use an image to control the presentation of text (e.g., to ensure a certain font or color combination), consider whether you can achieve the same result by styling “real text”. If this is not possible, as with logos containing stylized text, make sure to provide alternative text for the image following the techniques noted above.

Avoid Transitions

Transitions between slides and elements in each slide (e.g., bullets in a list flying onto the screen) can be distracting to users with disabilities.  It can also cause assistive technologies to read the slide incorrectly.  For these reasons, it is best to avoid transitions altogether.

Make Content Easier to Understand

Write Clearly

By taking the time to design your content in a consistent way, it will be easier to access, navigate and interpret for all users:

  1. Whenever possible, write clearly with short sentences.
  2. Introduce acronyms and spell out abbreviations.
  3. Avoid making the document too “busy” by using lots of whitespace and by avoiding too many different colors, fonts and images.
  4. If content is repeated on multiple pages within a document or within a set of documents (e.g., headings, footings, etc.), it should occur consistently each time it is repeated. 

Provide Context for Hyperlinks

Hyperlinks are more effective navigation aids when the user understands the likely result of following the link. Otherwise, users may have to use trial-and-error to find what they need.

To help the user understand the result of selecting a hyperlink, ensure that the link makes sense when read in the context of the text around it. For example, while it would be confusing to use “more information” as a link by itself on a page, it would be fine to use “more information” as a link in the following sentence: “The airport can be reached by taxi or bus (more information).”

To make the address of hyperlink clear when printing, you may wish to include the address in brackets following the descriptive text of the hyperlink.

To change link text
  1. Highlight the link and right-click
  2. Select Edit Hyperlink (Ctrl + K)
  3. Change the text in the Text to display box to something descriptive

Accessible Presentations

It is important to consider accessibility before, during, and after presentations.  Below is a helpful link with guidance on how to make presentations accessible to all:

  1.  “How to Make Presentations Accessible to All” (Source: W3C-WAI Draft)


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