When making course resources available to students, instructors need to ensure their class materials are accessible to all. Making course resources accessible will allow students who rely on assistive technologies or those who access course materials in different formats to be able to participate normally in your class. PowerPoints are often overlooked when it comes to making course documents accessible; however, since presentations are often an integral part of online course instruction and students often access slides outside of recorded lectures, PowerPoint documents should receive as much attention as other types of files when it comes to increasing accessibility.
PowerPoint files store slide information as content is added to the document, often making it difficult to improve the accessibility of older PowerPoints, other than adding alternative text to images. To ensure the highest level of accessibility for students, instructors should build PowerPoints from the ground up with accessibility in mind. The best way to ensure accessibility when creating new PowerPoints is to use Microsoft’s templates instead of adding blocks of text to the slide. It is much easier to create a slide deck that is accessible in the first place than to try to increase accessibility in old or inaccessible slides. However, for slides that weren’t made with accessibility in mind, you can follow the tips below to make PowerPoint files as accessible as possible.
Use the Accessibility Checker
Use the Accessibility Checker to quickly view and fix the most common accessibility issues. To open the Accessibility Checker, select the Review tab in the top PowerPoint ribbon and click the Check Accessibility button in the Review ribbon. The Inspection Results pane will open to the right of the document viewer. You may click through each warning or error and either automatically fix the issue, if available, or view steps to fix the issue.
Design Accessibility into Your Slides
Design and create slides and their content in the order that you intend for them to be read. Oftentimes, PowerPoints are designed with the intent to explain the logical flow of ideas during a presentation; however, it is often very difficult to explain this same logical flow to non-sighted users. Since screen readers read elements of a PowerPoint page in the order in which they were added to the slide, ensure that the logical flow of added elements remains the same as the order in which you desire content to appear on the slide.
Add Alternative Text
Include alternative text with all visuals. You can right-click on each added image and select Edit Alt Text… to add alternative text or use the Accessibility Checker to quickly find and fix missing alternative text. To learn more about alternative text, as well as view examples, read the article on Alternative Text.
Use Color Appropriately
Ensure that color is not the only means of conveying information. Individuals who are blind, low vision, or colorblind will have a difficult time understanding the meaning of content if color is required to understand either the information being taught or the context of that information. For example, do not change the color of text to depict comparisons or differences. An alternative to using color to convey information would be tocreate icons and then add alternative text to the icons to help non-sighted users understand the context of the slide and its information.
Use Accessible Hyperlinks
Create meaningful hyperlinks with text that makes sense as standalone information, since non-sighted users may scan a list of links to better understand the document. This is easily done by typing the title of the page that will be linked, selecting the text, right-clicking on the text and selecting Hyperlink… Don’t create hyperlinks using only the internet address, for example, www.utah.edu.
Slide Design Best Practices
Use a larger font size (18pt or larger), sans serif fonts and sufficient white space. Don’t add unnecessary or convoluted design elements that are required to understand the meaning of information on the slide or the logical flow of information.
If you’d like to go above and beyond: After making your PowerPoint document as accessible as possible in Microsoft Office’s PowerPoint application, export the PowerPoint as a PDF and follow the guide on making PDFs accessible to then make the new, exported PDF file even more accessible! PDF documents are often the most accessible type of documents thanks to their enhanced ability for screen reading, file compatibility, and automatic character recognition; this is the preferred route if it is not necessary to distribute course materials as a PowerPoint document.
That’s it! You’ve successfully made your PowerPoint more accessible for students. Making course resources accessible ensures that all students have equitable access to a quality education.