Date of Current Version: 08 February 2011
Latest Version (HTML): http://inclusivedesign.ca/accessible-office-documents/powerpoint2003
Technique 1. Use Accessible Templates
Technique 2. Set Document Language
Technique 3. Use Built-In Layout and Styling Features
Technique 4. Set a Logical Tab Order
Technique 5. Use Slide Notes
Technique 6. Provide Text Alternatives for Images and Graphical Objects
Technique 7. Use Built-In Structuring Features
Technique 8. Create Accessible Charts
Technique 9. Make Content Easier to See
Technique 10. Make Content Easier to Understand
Technique 11. Check Accessibility
Technique 12. Use Accessibility Features when Saving/Exporting to Other Formats
Technique 13. Consider Using Accessibility Support Applications/Plugins
References and Resources
At the time of testing (January 17, 2011), PowerPoint 2003 provides a set of accessibility features that is sufficient to enable the production of accessible digital office documents. However, PowerPoint 2003 does not include an accessibility checking feature.
You should use these techniques when you are using PowerPoint 2003 to create documents that are:
If you are creating forms, web pages, applications, or other dynamic and/or interactive content, these techniques will still be useful to you, but you should also consult the W3C-WAI Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) because these are specifically designed to provide guidance for highly dynamic and/or interactive content.
The default file format for PowerPoint 2003 is Microsoft Office Binary File Format (PPT).
In addition, PowerPoint 2003 offers many other presentation processor and web format saving options. Most of these have not been checked for accessibility, but some information and/or instructions are available for the following formats in Technique 12 (below):
We have tried to formulate these techniques so that they are useful to all authors, regardless of whether they use a mouse. However, for clarity there are several instances where mouse-only language is used. Below are the mouse-only terms and their keyboard alternatives:
*Right-click: To right-click with the keyboard, select the object using the Shift+Arrow keys and then press either (1) the “Right-Click” key (some keyboard have this to the right of the spacebar) or Shift+F10.
Following these techniques will increase the accessibility of your documents, but it does not guarantee accessibility to any specific disability groups. In cases where more certainty is required, it is recommended that you test the office documents with end users with disabilities, including screen reader users.
The application-specific steps and screenshots in this document were created using Microsoft PowerPoint 2003 (ver. 11.5529.5606, Windows 7, Jan. 2011) while creating a PPT document. Files are also easily saved as other file formats (see Technique 12, below).
This document is provided for information purposes only and is neither a recommendation nor a guarantee of results. If errors are found, please report them to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
All office documents start with a template, which can be as simple as a blank standard-sized page or as complex as a nearly complete document with text, graphics and other content. For example, a “Meeting Minutes” template might include headings for information relevant to a business meeting, such as “Actions” above a table with rows to denote time and columns for actions of the meeting.
Because templates provide the starting-point for so many documents, accessibility is critical. If you are unsure whether a template is accessible, you should check a sample document produced when the template is used (see Technique 11, below).
PowerPoint 2003’s default template for new documents is a blank presentation. If you are connected to the internet, you can access a variety of blank business presentation templates through Office.com. These are all accessible by virtue of being blank.
It is possible to create your own accessible templates from scratch in PowerPoint 2003. As well, you can edit and modify the existing prepackaged templates, ensuring their accessibility as you do so and saving them as a new template.
Note: Only use these steps if you have an accessible template available (e.g. that you previously saved). Otherwise, simply open a new (blank) document.
In order for assistive technologies (e.g., screen readers) to be able to present your document accurately, it is important to indicate the natural language of the document. If a different natural language is used for a paragraph or selected text, this also needs to be clearly indicated.
PowerPoint 2003 does not provide "True Headings" or "Named Styles" as does Word 2003.
Instead of creating each slide in your presentation by starting from a blank slide, check whether there is a suitable built-in layout.
Note: The built-in layouts can be more accessible to users of assistive technologies because technologies sometimes read the floating items on the slide in the order that they were placed on the slide. The built-in layouts have usually taken this into account (e.g., “Title” first followed by other items, left to right and from top to bottom). If you create slide layouts from scratch, it is sometimes difficult to keep track of the order elements were placed.
If a layout must be customized, it is recommended that Master Slides be used.
Every slide layout in a presentation is defined by its master slide. A master slide determines the formatting style for various elements of the slide layout. This includes font styles, character formatting, and the positioning of elements. Essentially, each master slide acts as a design template for the slide layout.
If you edit any aspect of the slide layout in the master slide, the change will affect all slides that were created based on it. For this reason, it is good practice to edit the master slide and use the slide layouts before building individual slides. It is essential that you create and use master slides that meet the accessibility requirements outlined in this document.
Many presentation applications create content composed almost exclusively of "floating" objects. This means that they avoid the transitions between in-line content and secondary "floating" objects (text boxes, images, etc.) that can cause accessibility issues in word processors.
However, when you are working with "floating" objects, it is important to remember that the way objects are positioned in two dimensions on the screen may be completely different from how the objects will be read by a screen reader or navigated using a keyboard. The order that content is navigated sequentially is called the "Tab Order" because often the "Tab" key is used to navigate from one "floating" object to the next.
Tips for setting a logical “tab order” for "floating" objects
A useful aspect of presentation applications is the facility to add notes to slides, which can then be read by assistive technologies. You can use these slide notes to explain and expand on the contents of your slides in text format. Slide notes can be created as you build your presentation.
When using images or other graphical objects, such as charts and graphs, it is important to ensure that the information you intend to convey by the image is also conveyed to people who cannot see the image. This can be accomplished by adding concise alternative text to of each image. If an image is too complicated to concisely describe in the alternative text alone (artwork, flowcharts, etc.), provide a short text alternative and a longer description as well.
Alternatively, you can include the same information conveyed by the image within the body of the document, providing the images as an alternate to the text. In that case, you do not have to provide alternate text within the image.
When using tables, it is important to ensure that they are clear and appropriately structured. This helps all users to better understand the information in the table and allows assistive technologies (e.g., screen readers) to provide context so that the information within the table can be conveyed in a meaningful way.
At this time, PowerPoint 2003 does not include an option for manually indicating or assigning table header rows. [Tested: January 17, 2011]
When you create lists, it is important to format them as “real lists”. Otherwise, assistive technologies will interpret your list as a series of short separate paragraphs instead of a coherent list of related items.
Use Columns feature for placing text in columns. However, because columns can be a challenge for users of some assistive technologies, consider whether a column layout is really necessary.
In case the document is ever converted into HTML, it should be given a descriptive and meaningful title.
Charts can be used to make data more understandable for some audiences. However, it is important to ensure that your chart is as accessible as possible to all members of your audience. All basic accessibility considerations that are applied to the rest of your document must also be applied to your charts and the elements within your charts. For example, use shape and color, rather than color alone, to convey information. As well, some further steps should be taken to ensure that the contents are your chart are appropriate labeled to give users reference points that will help them to correctly interpret the information.
Note: This will open the Excel document titled “Chart in Microsoft Office PowerPoint”, where you can input the data you would like to include in the chart. When you have done this, simply close the Excel window and the data will appear on the chart in the PowerPoint presentation.
When formatting text, especially when the text is likely to printed, try to:
But can’t users just zoom in?Office applications do typically include accessibility features such as the ability to magnify documents and support for high contrast modes. However, because printing is an important aspect of many workflows and changing font sizes directly will change documents details such the pagination, the layout of tables, etc., it is best practice to always format text for a reasonable degree of accessibility.
The visual presentation of text and images of text should have a contrast ration of at least 4.5:1. To help you determine the contrast, here are some examples on a white background:
Also, always use a single solid color for a text background rather than a pattern.
In order to determine whether the colors in your document have sufficient contrast, you can consult an online contrast checker, such as:
Color should not be used as the only visual means of conveying information, indicating an action, prompting a response, or distinguishing a visual element. In order to spot where color might be the only visual means of conveying information, you can create a screenshot of the document and then view it with online gray-scale converting tools, such as:
The instructions provided for understanding and operating content should not rely solely on sensory characteristics such as the color or shape of content elements. Here are two examples:
Before you use an image to control the presentation of text (e.g., to ensure a certain font or color combination), consider whether you can achieve the same result by styling “real text”. If this is not possible, as with logos containing stylized text, make sure to provide alternative text for the image following the techniques noted above.
Transitions between slides and elements in each slide (e.g., bullets in a list flying onto the screen) can be distracting to users with disabilities. It can also cause assistive technologies to read the slide incorrectly. For these reasons, it is best to avoid transitions altogether.
By taking the time to design your content in a consistent way, it will be easier to access, navigate and interpret for all users:
Hyperlinks are more effective navigation aids when the user understands the likely result of following the link. Otherwise, users may have to use trial-and-error to find what they need.
To help the user understand the result of selecting a hyperlink, ensure that the link makes sense when read in the context of the text around it. For example, while it would be confusing to use “more information” as a link by itself on a page, it would be fine to use “more information” as a link in the following sentence: “The airport can be reached by taxi or bus (more information).”
To make the address of hyperlink clear when printing, you may wish to include the address in brackets following the descriptive text of the hyperlink.
It is important to consider accessibility before, during, and after presentations. Below is a helpful link with guidance on how to make presentations accessible to all:
At this time, PowerPoint 2003 does not offer a mechanism to check for potential accessibility errors in your document prior to publishing. [Tested: January 17, 2011]
In order to get some indication of your document or template (see Technique 1), then you may consider saving the file into HTML or PDF in order to perform an accessibility check in one of those formats, as described below.
Another option is to save the document into HTML format and use one of the web accessibility checkers available online. Such as:
In some cases, additional steps must be taken in order to ensure accessibility information is preserved when saving/exporting to formats other than the default.
Disclaimer: This list is provided for information purposes only. It is not exhaustive and inclusion of an application or plug-in on the list does not constitute a recommendation or guarantee of results by the IDRC.
The following accessibility related plug-ins and support are available for PowerPoint 2003:
If you are interested in what features are provided to make using PowerPoint 2003 more accessible to users, documentation is provided in the Help system:
This document was produced as part of the Accessible Digital Office Document (ADOD) Project (http://inclusivedesign.ca/accessible-office-documents).
This project has been developed by the Inclusive Design Research Centre, OCAD University as part of an EnAbling Change Partnership project with the Government of Ontario and UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).
Copyright © 2011 Inclusive Design Research Centre, OCAD University
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