Queen's Accessibility Hub


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Creating Accessible PowerPoint Presentations using MS PowerPoint for Mac

Why make documents accessible?

Making accessible documents ensures that they are usable by the widest range of users, but also ensures your document is easier to edit and navigate. It is important to make these changes to Word documents to accommodate a variety of disabilities. For example, many people with visual disabilities use screen readers which read aloud information on the screen such as text or image descriptions provided through alternative text (Alt Text).

If you plan, format, and structure your document correctly in the beginning, it will ensure the file is not only accessible but can also be converted into a variety of different alternate formats (e.g. PDF or braille) while retaining its accessibility features.


Accessibility Issues with Macs

It is important to note that PowerPoint for Mac has some accessibility limitations. Versions of PowerPoint from 2008 and earlier do not allow users to add alternative text (alt text) but PowerPoint 2011 does. PowerPoint 2011 for Mac does not have the ability to create tagged PDF natively. If you plan to export your presentation to a PDF file please download and install OpenOffice for Mac.

Creating Slide Layouts

Using these built-in layouts and templates will ensure help that your presentations have properly structured headings, lists, and proper reading order. This will not only ensure that your content is accessible but will be better organized and easier to read by everyone.

Select the “Home” tab, then “New Slide”, and a menu of slide types will appear.

screenshot: creating a new slide using built-in layouts and templates.

Appropriate Use of Colour

When using colour, you must make sure that any information conveyed with colour is also conveyed in black and white. For example, if you’re using colour to identify key words in a document, make sure that you also make them stand out in another way (for example, by putting them in bold; italics are not recommended).

Colour Contrast

You must provide high colour contrast to the text in your document. A good example of high colour contrast is black and white; while an example of poor colour contrast is light yellow and white.

WebAIM - Color Contrast Checker

Use of Fonts

  • Use sans-serif fonts such as Arial, Helvetica or Verdana, that are large enough for both projectors and online viewing;
  • Avoid inserting WordArt as they may not be accessible by screen readers;
  • Avoid using text shadow or glow effects for any text as they may not be accessible by screen readers.

Alternative Text

Any pictures, graphs or text boxes within a document must be given alternative text. Alternative text must give an accurate description of what the item is, so that the user’s assistive technology may convey what information is demonstrated by the item. It is a best practice to avoid WordArt and text boxes as they may be inaccessible by screen readers.

screenshot of adding alt text using format picture selection of PowerPoint for Mac

  1. Select the image and right click inside the image. A menu will appear.
  2. Select “Format Picture. A new window will pop up.
  3. Select “Alt Text” at the bottom left corner of the window.
  4. Type the description in the area provided.

screenshot adding alt text to an image

How to Create Good Alternate Text

  • Consider the content and function of your image.
  • If it provides content to your document, make sure that the information the image provides is described in the alt text.
  • If your image only provides a function (for example, providing a portrait of a historical figure described in the text) you need only describe the image. In the case that the image is of a historical figure, write his/her name as the alt text.
  • Try not to use “Image of...” or “Graphic of...” as alt text. That is usually evident to the person reading the alt text.
  • Do not repeat the information which is contained in the document itself into the alt text. If it's already in the document, that should be enough.


Use the Microsoft Word® tool to create tables. If you use the “Draw Table” tool, it will be difficult for your table to be read by assistive learning technology.

Inserting a Table in Microsoft PowerPoint® 2011 for Mac

  1. Go to “Tables” section of the menu.
  2. Under “Table Options” select “New”.
  3. Select the number of columns and rows you want and click OK.

screenshot for inserting a table in Power Point

Table Headings

  1. Click anywhere in the table.
  2. Go to “Tables” on the top menu.
  3. Check the Header Row check box.
  4. Type (or retype) your column headings.
  5. Press the Enter key.


To link your document to a website or another document, you may use hyperlinks. When doing so, make sure that the Hyperlink has context and describes where it leads. It should not just read “click here”, and should make it clear what the destination of the link is (example, the web link www.queensu.ca should be written as "Queen's University").

Inserting a Hyperlink in Microsoft PowerPoint® 2011 for Mac

  1. Using the mouse, select the text you wish to hyperlink.
  2. Right-click or control-click the text.
  3. Select “Hyperlink” then “Edit Hyperlink” from the menu.
  4. Enter the hyperlink text.

Outline and Notes Panels

Both the Outline and Notes panels may be used to enhance accessibility of your presentation.

Outline Panel

By viewing your presentation in Outline view, you can ensure your slides are logically sequenced, that slide titles and content are meaningful, and that reading order is appropriate. To view the Outline simply select the “Outline” tab on the left-hand pane below the menu ribbon.

screenshot on opening the outline panel

Notes Panel

The Notes Panel can be used to input notes to explain and expand on the contents of your slides in text format.  Within PowerPoint the notes can be accessed by screen readers but if the presentation is saved to some other format like a PDF the notes may be inaccessible to screen readers.

  1. Select “View” tab from the ribbon;
  2. In the “Presentation Views” section, select “Normal”;
  3. The “Notes Pane” can be found at the bottom of the window;
  4. Type and format your notes in the “Notes Pane”.

screenshot of the Notes Pane

Embedded Audio or Video

If your presentation has embedded audio or video you should include text transcripts and/or captions.

External Resources

WebAim – PowerPoint Accessibility

WebAIM - Color Contrast Checker

PennState Accessibility - Microsoft Office: Excel, Word, PowerPoint