Preparing An Accessible Presentation

Participants can hear, see, and understand the material presented and can participate in the event/process.

PowerPoint slides and projected material have two primary concerns, that they are accessible and understanded during the presentation. Projected material should be visible from the back of the room. This includes texts and important visuals such as charts and graphs. Individuals who are blind or have low vision should have access to digital copy of the presented material to access through their screen reader or preferred formating. This will also benefit individuals who need more time to process information.

Slide layout and formatting suggestions:

  • Font: a sans serif font such as Arial, Calibri, Tahoma, or Veranda.
  • Slide title size should be at least 44.
  • Slide text should be 24 -36.
  • Limit the amount of information on each slide, ideally to a maximum of 8 lines per slide.
  • Leave space at the bottom for captions to show in the recording.
  • Text at left margin, not full justified.
  • Simple backgrounds are preferred that have high contrast between text and background.
  • Use Microsoft Accessibility Check before recording and share slides. Click here to access Microsoft Accessibility Check instructions.

Describe charts, tables, and any important visuals in presentation within flow of your comments. You can add descriptions to all of these within presentation by right-clicking on ‘alt text’ and add simple description.

Handouts: San serif font size 12, 17 for large print. 

Accessibility Check Common Issues

Check the accessibility of a PowerPoint, in Windows select “File/Info/Check” for Issues and choose ‘Check Accessibility.” On a Mac, select the “Review tab, then ‘Check Accessibility.’ It will note slides with issues. 

Screen readers need to understand correct reading order.  The items furthest to the back are read first. NOTE: Microsoft products interpret reading order based on the order the text is entered, so using the accessibility checker is important.

Captioning for videos and PowerPoint presentation helps people who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing understand audio content, reading learners better understand and remember content, and non-native speakers to follow and understand content. Click here for more guidance on recommendations for accessible videos.

To provide captioning for PowerPoint presentations, select ‘always use subtitles’ in Slide Show options. Then select ‘Subtitle Settings’ to specify layout. Unfortunately, the captioning isn’t stored in the PowerPoint recorded presentation.

Handouts – Distributed and online.

Printed handouts should be clear, dark text on white or light-colored background.  San serif, such as Arial 12 typically and 17 for large print. Text at left margin, not full justified.

Digitally, as noted, may not need to print.  However, they should be available before the event. 

Digitally accessible means accessible to people who are blind, Deaf or Hard of Hearing, have low vision.

Are they understandable by people who process better through pictures and visuals?

Recording presentation that includes good descriptions of all visual material can be posted later as an audio file.

It’s easier to correct accessibility in PowerPoint and Word before converting to PDF.  This means using style elements, noting heading levels, alt text for all visuals.  In Word, Windows, “Save as Adobe PDF” will maintain formatting.  On a Mac, select “Create and Share Adobe PDF.” The accessibility should carry through to your PDF document. Unfortunately, an accessible PDF can’t be created from PowerPoint on a Mac at this time, but it can in Windows. Click here for more information on PDF accessibility. 

Resources for more information on presentations and handouts:

Full range of accessibility guidelines summarized succinctly with links for more in depth information, including captioning options, demystifying screen reading accessibility, and best practices for audio description, using simple language, and Microsoft applications, etc.. Ass. Of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD)

Microsoft resources for creating accessible Office resources:

Web Accessibility in Mind, PowerPoint, Word, and PDFs: PowerPoint  Acrobat/ Word

Microsoft, Word Spanish:

Web Accessibility Initiative, Audio and Video Media:

Web 3 Accessibility Initiative for more on all stages of planning accessible events and presentations:

Videos: Reviews of different captioning products: