Image shows a statistical slide on a laptop and cell phone

UDL Principles for Designing Accessible Slideshows

Quick tips for making slideshows accessible to viewers through choices or styles, color, fonts, and more

Designing Accessible Slideshows

Use templates 

In a slide design program such as PowerPoint or Google Slides, start with a template. Often, less is more: choose a high-contrast template theme with easy-to-read fonts (24 point or larger, sans-serif fonts are generally preferred) and simpler backgrounds. Avoid having too much text on each slide.

Title slides

Create a descriptive and unique title for each slide. Enter it in the “Title” placeholder for each slide (in PowerPoint, use View > Outline View). Slide titles are key for those using screen readers and are also beneficial for anyone reviewing the slides.

Use styles

On each slide, use built-in styles consistently (ex. Heading 1, Heading 2, Body Text, List etc). To create structured documents that screen readers can navigate, it’s important to use styles, rather than manually adjusting font size to be large like a heading, or typing your own list numbers/bullet points.

Logical reading order

Generally, if you use a template’s pre-set layouts and text boxes, a screen reader will read the text in the correct order. However, if you add text outside of the template’s presets, you may need to adjust the reading order manually (in PowerPoint, Home > Arrange > Selection Pane).

Alt text for images

In PowerPoint, choose Tools > Accessibility > Alt Text and select each image. Alternative text is read aloud by screen readers, so it should be concise (no more than a couple of sentences), focusing on what makes the image relevant to your content. (Unimportant images can be marked “decorative” so that screen readers skip over them.)

Sufficient color contrast

When choosing a color scheme, keep in mind that the most common form of colorblindness is red-green. Off-white may also be preferable to stark white backgrounds for viewers with dyslexia. PowerPoint’s Accessibility Checker may help identify insufficiently contrasting colors, or you can use a color contrast analyzer tool

Indicating emphasis

Since your students may be colorblind or using screen readers, if you want to highlight something or emphasize its significance, avoid using purely visual indicators alone (bolding/italics/underline or color). Add a word or a phrase such as “Note” or “Important.”

Simple transitions/minimal animations

Slide animations can be useful (for example, when you want to introduce one point at a time so you don’t overwhelm an audience with too much information on a slide at once). That said, avoid excessive and unnecessary motion effects or animations.

Descriptive links

Some screen readers pull out links from a document and present them as a separate list, so whenever links are included, the linked words should be descriptive and meaningful (ex. “Assignment 2 Instructions”). Avoid linking unspecific, non descriptive words/phrases such as “click here,” or writing out long raw URLs, since screen readers will read them aloud (very brief URLs are okay).

Run the Accessibility Checker

In PowerPoint, you’ll find this under the Review tab or Tools > Check Accessibility. In Google Slides, go to Tools > Accessibility and check “Turn On Screen Reader Support”; the Accessibility tab will appear in the menu. Accessibility checkers will flag issues for you and walk you through the steps to fix problems. Though these checkers are far from perfect and do not guarantee an accessible final product, using them consistently will help you fix many basic issues and, over time, master the software’s accessibility capabilities.

Sources and Further Reading

CAST’s Accessible Educational Materials site: Creating Accessible Documents

Digital Accessibility. Write Helpful Alt Text to Describe Images. Harvard University. 

Microsoft Office Support: Best Practices for making PowerPoint Presentations Accessible

WebAIM on PowerPoint Accessibility (walkthrough with screenshots)

This resource was created by Amy Bennett-Zendzian, Lecturer, College of Arts & Sciences.

Last updated 2/24/2024