Program 7: Creating Accessible PowerPoints


So far, everything we’ve talked about has strictly revolved around creating accessible electronic documents. In this we’re going to change gears a little bit and we’re going to talk about creating accessible PowerPoint slides.

PowerPoint slides play a very important role in presentations as they allow your audience to focus on your important points while you’re speaking. Because of that we’re going to provide you with some design tips to help make sure that the slides you create are accessible.

It’s also good practice to provide notes of your PowerPoint slides to your audience.

We’re also going to take a look at how to make sure those notes you provide are accessible to all potential audience members as well.

Now, some of the stuff that we’re going to talk about is going to seem basic, but it is very important to keep in mind to make sure that you do have an accessible PowerPoint presentation.

Alright, let’s get started. But before we even consider the design of the slides, we need to take into account the idea that you only want the number of slides necessary to get your point across.

There’s no suggested maximum number of slides, but too many slides could cause your audience members, especially those with learning disabilities or ADHD, to start losing attention or start drifting away and not get the point of your presentation.

Once you’ve considered the number of slides, it’s time to start moving on to the design.

The first thing you need to think about is choosing a solid background. As illustrated in this slide, pictures as backgrounds may look creative, but it can be very difficult for your audience to see your important points. Thus using solid backgrounds is the most accessible design. Choosing your text color goes hand-in-hand with choosing the background color. The text color should contrast well with the background. Thus if you choose a dark background, you should use light text color and if you choose a light background, you should use dark text color.

Next, when choosing a font, choose something that’s sans serif like Arial or Verdana. Serif font, like the one on this slide, is a font that has decorative endings or tails to the letters. That can be very difficult for students with disabilities to recognize, especially students with dyslexia.

And if you’re using smaller text, it can be difficult for anybody as the words will tend to run together a little bit more. So, as illustrated on this slide, sans serif fonts make text easier to read for all.

On this slide, we have good background color, good contrast with text, and the proper font.

However, we still have an issue, we have way too many words. Slides should be used as notes, thus words should be limited to only those needed to get your point across. Here’s a better example of a slide with limited wording. Another thing to note on this slide is the font size.

Your font size should be, at a minimum, 24 point font, but it should change with the number of people in your audience.

If you have 40-99 people, you should use 28 point font like this slide does. If you have more than 100 people, which would be a typical class in the size room we’re in, you should use 48 point font. Using font at that point is something that even people in the back of the room are going to be able to see.

There are also issues to consider with tables and graphics. Often, to indicate important information, you may change the color of the font on the slide for just that information. That can make things inaccessible for students who are color blind. You can change the color to indicate important information, but as on this slide, you would also want to provide something like an asterisk or an underline to help drive home that important piece of information. That’ll make the table accessible to all students, but it’ll also make that important information stand out that much more to everyone.

Graphics can be very powerful in PowerPoint slides, especially when we talk about limiting the number of words you use on slides. However, they can be inaccessible to people with visual impairments.

To make graphics accessible, you must provide a detailed audio description of this during your presentation. Not only does that help students with visual impairments, but it also helps everyone see the perspective you’re coming from when you present that graphic.

Finally, when presenting a PowerPoint presentation, it’s good practice to provide electronic copies of your PowerPoint slides to your audience as notes. This will help your audience follow along with your important points as you speak. This is especially helpful for students with disabilities that may struggle with focus.

To create accessible PowerPoint handouts, it’s important to make sure that all of the text you have on the PowerPoint, is also placed in the notes section in the PowerPoint design area. What this is going to do is we can take it and turn it into an accessible handout.

It’s also important that if you have a graphic on your PowerPoint slide, you use the note part of the PowerPoint design area to provide an alternative text description. This is just like the alternative text you’d put in a PDF or Word document picture, but you’re going to describe the text image thoroughly there so that a user with a visual impairment, when they see this handout is going to know exactly what this image is about even though the image does not contain descriptive text.

The descriptive text all in this note section.

To create, then, an accessible handout once you’ve added those notes, you go up to the Office button, you select, publish and create handouts in Microsoft Office Word. What you’ll do here, is you will then choose how you want the notes laid out with the slides.

Most people choose slides on the left, notes on the right. When you hit Ok, it’s going to publish your slides to Word along with notes from the notes section.

So, you can then take and post this on your class website and anybody that needs to use a text reader will be able to find out exactly what’s going on on your slide via the notes section that’s printed next to it.

Following all of these steps will result in PowerPoint slides that everyone in the class will be able to benefit from.

Creating Accessible Documents