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PowerPoint presentations

Microsoft PowerPoint is commonly used to create slide show presentations. Typically these include a combination of text, tables, images, charts, and graphics. This content can be accessible to users with disabilities, including assistive technology users, if the author follows the core principles outlined in our Documents page. The following information includes basic steps for applying these core accessibility principles.

UW students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to use the most current version of Microsoft Office on computers owned by the UW. This software can be downloaded with a valid NetID from the IT Connect UWare site.

Use built-in slide templates

Built-in slide layout templates are designed with accessibility in mind. Avoid selecting a blank slide and adding text boxes as these elements may not be recognized by assistive technology, and reading order will be compromised. Instead, select the drop-down “New Slide” option from the Home tab and choose a layout that best fits. For those who use the UW Brand PowerPoints, these were updated for accessibility on May 31, 2023. Please be sure you are using the latest version.

Powerpoint New Slide dropdown menu showing slide templates

Use unique slide titles

People who use a screen reader skim slide titles to navigate; they can quickly scan through a list of slide titles and go right to the slide they want. Using unique slide titles allows users to clearly understand which slide they are on. Avoid using the same title for slides that have spill-over information, consider including additional information such as ‘Slide Title 1 of 2’.

Set reading order of slide contents

Screen readers can read the elements of a slide in the order they were added, this may be very different from the order in which things appear visually on screen. To make sure everyone reads the contents in the order you intend, it is important to check the reading order by using the Selection Pane. To do this, from the Home tab select the “Arrange” drop-down and click on “Selection Pane…” From this new window, you can drag elements to adjust the reading order of the contents on the slide. NOTE: The reading order in the Selection Pane should be arranged from the bottom up: The title should be at the very bottom with subsequent content moving upward.

Powerpoint Selection Pane window showing slide elements in descending order

NOTE:  The “eye” icon to the right of each slide element can be toggled on or off to hide or show the content visually. When considering whether to use this feature, please note that screen readers vary in how they handle it: Some will still read the visually hidden content; others will not.


Since PowerPoint is meant to be a visual medium but also functions as a document archive, the best practice would be to include a smart link within the body of the text and also include the non-linked text of the URL. In this way, the smart link is searchable by screen reader users, and the URL can be referred to during the live presentation for folks to follow.

Slide with an active smart link and an inactive link with URL

Alt text and grouped images

As always, make sure images include alt text. PowerPoint has the ability to group multiple images into a single, flat image. This allows the user to assign alt-text to a group of related images rather than assigning alt-text to each image element. To group images, select all of the items you would like to group by holding the Control key for Windows or the Command key for Mac, and click on each item. From the Graphics Format tab, click on the Group drop-down menu and select ‘Group.’ This will flatten the image and allow the user to assign alt-text to the group image.

Screen shot of the Group image drop down menu from the Graphics Format tab of PowerPoint

For more detailed information on how to create accessible PowerPoint presentations, visit the Microsoft Accessibility Support website, or view WebAIM’s article on PowerPoint Accessibility.