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How to Create 508 Compliant Microsoft PowerPoint Presentations

By using the built-in features within Microsoft Office, to include PowerPoint, you can avoid many of the most common mistakes related to accessibility. It is just as easy to build a 508 compliant document as it is to create a non-compliant one. In fact, using many of these built-in features makes creating a document much easier and faster. Follow the below guidelines and then visit the links on the right for more information and some video tutorials. The blue italicized items in the left table apply to all Microsoft Office documents, to include Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Learn once and apply it to all. When you click on the tutorials and checklists, those links open in a new tab in your browser window. This will allow you to view that content and then click back to this page in the original tab. Click on any image to see a larger version of the image and then the back arrow in the browser to return to this page.

PowerPoint 2013 & 2016 Requirements to Make a PowerPoint Presentation Accessible Part 1

This module tells you how to build structure into your presentation and also how the different visual components should be formatted (15:48 mins).

PowerPoint 2013 & 2016 Requirements to Make a PowerPoint Presentation Accessible Part 2

This video describes the requirements that are essential to making a PowerPoint presentation accessible (9:02 mins).

Best Practices and Most Common Issues Related to PowerPoint Presentations

Topic ​DOs ​DON'Ts ​Visual Example (click images to enlarge)
LayoutsUse PowerPoint's standard layouts. When you use these layouts and create your content in a placeholder, screen readers will follow the correct order as they advance through each slide. To choose a layout for a slide, right-click in a blank area of the slide. When the menu opens, click Layout. Every layout has a title placeholder. Use it to give a unique title to each slide.​Do not create your own text boxes and layouts, as this makes it difficult for the screen readers to follow.PowerPoint Layout for slides
Designs​Use an accessible slide design. On the Design tab, in the Themes group, select Office Theme. The Office Theme is designed for accessible colors, contrast, and fonts. It’s also designed so that screen readers can more easily read slide content.​Do not create your own theme with mismatched shapes, colors, and designs. Always put text on a plain colored backgroud. Do not use content or effects that blink or flash.

Design PP.jpg

Notes​When you are presenting to your audience, bring handouts for each member. Create a notes section ensuring that people who read these notes will get the same information as people who listen to your presentation. ​Do not write everything you say down in the notes section. The notes should contain the gist of your message for that slide.PowerPoint Notes Section
Fonts​Format text for accessiblity. Select your text, select the Home tab, in the Font group, which provides options for font type, size, style, and color, select your formatting choices.​Do not use small fonts, light-colored fonts, or cursive fonts.PP Font.jpg
Lists​Use the built-in list feature for bulleted and numbered lists. Lists can be found from the Home tab within the Paragraph panel.​Do not create a list by typing the number at the beginning of every line or typing a hyphen as an example.Lists Menu Item
Hyperlinks​Create hyperlinks using descriptive words for the hyperlink. Hyperlinks can be inserted from the Insert tab and then Hyperlink on the Links panel. Always double-check that your hyperlinks work.​Do not use "Click here" or "More" as hyperlinks.

DAU Homepage (link states where it goes, not just Click Here)

  Inserting a hyperlink

Tables​Only use tables to represent tabular information. Ensure there are row or column headings, or both. In the Table Style Option group, be sure the Header Row option is checked if your table will have colum headers. If your table will have row headers, be sure the First Column option is checked. The table should be a simple grid, with predictable rows and columns.​​Do not use a table for aligning text or non-tabular data. Do not merge cells.Table Headings PowerPoint.
Track Changes
​Finalize your document by removing all comments and accepting or rejecting track changes. Under the Review tab, ensure you are seeing all markup and that none display in the document.​​Do NOT have comments, annotations, or tracked changes within your final document.Accepting Changes
​ALT Text Insert Alternative Text (ALT text) and captions for informational images and tables. For Images, right click on the image and choose Insert Caption. Right click on the image and choose Format Picture, and then click the third icon over and click on ALT TEXT. For tables, right click on the table and choose Format Shape.  The third icon to the right has the option to insert ALT text. You can do the same to add ALT TEXT to a chart area. You can do the same to add ALT Text to a picture area. ​Do not provide ALT text or captions for non-informational or simply decorative images. When you run the accessibility checker this error should be ignored. The checker can only identify that the image does not have a tag. It does not know that it is a non-informational image.

Images If you have multiple images or objects that are layered over one another combine them into one image. You may be able to do this using the Group option or using a third party tool such as SnagIt.​Do not overlay or group several objects next to one another so they appear as one object.​no example
ColorWhen using color to convey meaning, add a non-color method as well such as text as shown in the visual example column.Do not use color alone to convey meaning.​


Ready for Release





​Color Contrast Use a strong color contrast between text and backgrounds. Black and white is always a good choice. This is not usually checked via Microsoft applications. It requires a visual check. The video in the right column under Videos on color and contrast has a brief but good explanation.Some examples for Don'ts: Do not use white text on a light gray background. Do not use red and green text and highlighting together. Do not use red text on a black background. For more details, see the short video.​​no example
Always run the accessibility checker when you are finished with your document to see if any issues are identified, then remediate those items prior to publishing your document. You access the checker by clicking File, the Info menu option will display and then select Check for Issues drop down and select Check Assessibility.Don't assume your document is good, always run the checker as a double check. PowerPoint Accessibility Checker


MS Office Accessibility Checker - Understand the inspection results

After Accessibility Checker inspects your content, it reports the inspection results based on the severity of the issue found, categorized as follows:

  • Errors. Issues that are reported as errors include content that is very difficult or impossible for people with disabilities to understand.

  • Warnings. Warnings, in many cases, mean that the content is challenging for people with disabilities to understand.

  • Tips. Tips let you know that, even though people with disabilities can understand the content, it could be better organized or presented to improve their experience.


For a more detailed checklist of the items to review in your presentation:

PowerPoint Presentation 508 Checklist

Accessibility Checker

Microsoft has a built in accessibility checker.  The checker only works in Microsoft PowerPoint 2013 or 2016. It does not work on presentations that open in Compatibility Mode.  The Accessibility Checker can be accessed at DAU with your PowerPoint presentation open, click File from the ribbon, click Info from the drop down menu on the left. Under Inspect Document click the drop down arrow Check for Issues then choose Check Accessibility. This will bring up the Accessibility Checker panel up on the right side of your document.


For more detailed tutorials on how to create 508 compliant PowerPoint presentations:

PowerPoint 2013 & 2016 Requirements to Make a PowerPoint Presentation Accessible Part 1 (15:48)

This module tells you how to build structure into your presentation and also how the different visual components should be formatted.


PowerPoint 2013 & 2016 Delivering Accessible PowerPoint Presentation Part 2 (9:02)

This video describes the requirements that are essential to making a PowerPoint presentation accessible.