Link accessibility in PowerPoint

Links in PowerPoint

This post will cover how to create accessible links within PowerPoint.

Video Overview

More PowerPoint accessibility videos available on my YouTube channel (Opens in new tab)


General Link accessibility tips for PowerPoint

Avoid using “click here” or “more info” in your link description. Links should be clear and easy to understand. The link should tell the user exactly where they are going.

While screen readers can read a full page to a user, screen reader users may prefer to instead listen to a list of links. In that case, a screen reader may only read the link text and not the surrounding text.

Speech recognition software allows a user to avoid using a mouse. Users can speak the text of the link that they would like to follow.

Keyboard-only users may not be able to use a mouse to click links. They use a keyboard’s tab button to navigate through a page’s links, buttons, and form inputs. For such users, it is very important for them to see which item has a focus on at all times.

Colorblind users may not be able to perceive color cues. Typically, pages present links in a different color than their surrounding text. Adding underlines or other non-color indicators helps users who may not see color. Users who are not comfortable with technology may also appreciate having links underlined.

Make an Image a link in PowerPoint

Step 1

Select the image that you want to make a link.

Step 2

Right-click and select link

Inserting a link on an image

Step 3

Fill in the link location

Link destination in Powerpoint

Lists and PowerPoint Accessibility

Lists in PowerPoint

Video Overview

This video is going to show users how to apply lists in PowerPoint for accessibility purposes.

Need more accessibility videos? Check out my YouTube channel

Lists are great from an accessibility standpoint because they provide structured order to content in a linear fashion. Lists are recommended as potential replacements for simple tables, as tables can be more difficult to navigate, and sometimes, we provide info in tables that really would be better suited to lists.

You can use lists inside of lists, or nested lists, just check to make sure they are coded properly. Lists should always be checked to make sure that the list items are really contained within one list, check to make sure that spacing does not break a list into multiple individual points, and use the proper techniques described below to create lists. You should never rely on indentation to provide a visual list, use the proper structure instead.

Bulleted lists are for lists where the order is unimportant

Items that can be used for a bulleted list are for when the order does not matter. The example I like to use is that of grocery items, here is an example:

  • Milk
  • Bread
  • Eggs

Lettered lists are primarily for unordered lists were referring to a specific item may be important. 

Numbered lists are for lists where the order is important

Use numbered lists for when order is important. Here is an example:

Directions to Store

  1. Turn left at Walnut Ave
  2. Travel for 1 mile
  3. Turn right at College Street
  4. Travel for .3 miles
  5. Turn right into parking lot

Things to consider with Lists

  • Avoid using nonrich content editor symbols like dashes or x’s to indicate a list
  • Use the proper numbered or bulleted list for the items

Need to review other PowerPoint content? Check out this guide.

Setting the Reading Order in PowerPoint

Setting the reading order in powerpoint

The reading order in PowerPoint is an important criterion for Section 508 and accessibility in general. The reading order will read from the top down, while the arrange panel will read from the bottom up or in reverse order.

This step is much easier if you have already used an accessible slide design theme!

Video Overview

The video below will show how to set the reading order and arrange order in PowerPoint 365 Desktop version. Check out the other videos for Microsoft PowerPoint.

Read order vs. Arrange order

PowerPoint has two options for setting the reading order. On PC, the reading order should be set starting with the top and working down through each element.

Reading order panel in powerpoint with an arrow pointing to the top down read order.

The Arrange panel is similar to the Reading order panel and should also be set. On PC this content will read from the bottom element first moving up to the top. (Reverse order)

In the arrange panel the read order starts from the bottom and moves up. This is reverse order from the reading order panel.

How to set the Reading Order in PowerPoint

The quickest method to open the correct menu item is to simply use the search feature at the top of PowerPoint. Type in Reading Order into the search box and select Display the Reading Order Pane.

Use the search feature in powerpoint to search for reading order. Then select display the reading order pane

Setting the order with the Reading order pane

Use the Reading Order panel to ensure the content matches as intended. If content does not match, use the arrows in the Reading Order panel to move objects to the appropriate location. In this example, the order is as follows.

Example of the reading order panel with sample objects.
  1. The Heading
  2. The content panel
  3. another content panel

Validating the order in the Arrange Panel

After you set the order in the Reading Order pane, ensure everything is also correct in the arrange panel. The arrange panel is in reverse, so the first item that will read is the one on the bottom. To get to the arrange panel – follow these steps:

  1. On the Home ribbon select the arrange button
  2. Select the Selection pane
On the Home ribbon select the arrange button
Select the Selection pane

Unique Slide Titles and PowerPoint Accessibility

Every slide title needs to be unique

Every slide in the slide deck should have a unique slide title.

Video Overview

Why should I have unique slide titles?

People who rely on assistive technology to review presentations will often navigate by the heading or title structure. If you end up converting the document to another format like PDF, the slide titles will come through as headings.

Failing Example

In the example below there are 5 different slides that share the exact same title.

There are 5 different slides that share the exact same title.

Passing Example

In order to apply unique slide titles simply add a number to the end of each slide. The quickest method to change the title of a slide is to edit in outline view.

  1. Select View
  2. Select Outline View

Then simply add a number or change the title altogether. The image below shows an outline view of a presentation with numbers added to make slide titles unique.


The built in accessibility checker within PowerPoint is exceptional at notifying for this error.

Alternate Text and Decorative Images in PowerPoint

Yes. Every image needs alternate text

Video Overview

What exactly is alternate text?

Images need accurate descriptions for students who rely on screen readers. Avoid using text-heavy photos and the description should provide enough information within the context of the topic. Keep in mind the context of the picture, which may change the scope of the needed explanation.

Images should never start with a “picture of” or “image of” as the screen reader will identify it as an image. The one exception to this rule is if the context of that information actually matters.

Is this a photography course? Is this an art course? If so, then it might be ok to use “image of” in the description.

Image Context

Image context will change based on the audience and what you want them to learn about the image. The same image could have different descriptions depending on its intent.

Special Notes

Be sure to check all images as sometimes the file name is inserted as the alternate text area. For example, jordison.png might be the default value in the alt text area for an image – be sure to spot-check all images to ensure that the file name did not get inserted.

Keep alternate text less than 100 – 150 characters. If there is more text needed – be sure to include it next to the image on the page. You can also link to a longer description using a separate document!

When do I mark an image decorative?

When images are used that do not convey any meaning and are just for visual effect, it is possible to mark these elements as decorative with the latest versions of PowerPoint. After selecting the image and opening the Alt Text panel, select the checkbox “Mark as decorative”. This has the effect of making the image “invisible” to assistive technologies.

If an image does not include any alternate text information and is not marked as decorative, then assistive technologies may try to read out a file name or will announce the presence of a graphic, but with no additional information. This has the effect of informing the student there might be content, but the student does not have access to that information.

If sufficient information is described through text and images are used, consider marking the graphics as decorative to improve screen reader readability. 

So how do I actually apply alternate text to images in PowerPoint?

  1. Right click the image
  2. Select Edit Alt text
Right click the image
Select Edit Alt text

Then, enter a description.

  1. Enter an engaging alternate text description
  2. OR – Mark as decorative
Enter an engaging alternate text description
OR - Mark as decorative

Additional Posts on PowerPoint

Outline View and Textboxes in PowerPoint

Get Your Content in Outline View

Video Walkthrough

PowerPoint Accessibility Best Practices

In order for content to be the most accessible to people who use screen readers it is recommended that all content appears in outline view of PowerPoint. Outline view shows a text-based version of the content with your file.

Additionally, the outline view offers a snapshot of all of the major content types in your presentation. It is an excellent method for organizing and chunking your information. It is also a great way to create a quickly accessible version for people with disabilities!

To view outline view

  1. Select View
  2. Select Outline view
  3. Review titles and content to ensure all content from slide is located in outline view
Select View
Select Outline view
Review titles and content to ensure all content from slide is located in outline view

Avoid using added textboxes

The textbox feature will allow you to add extra content to a slide but it might not be accessible and it will not appear in Outline View properly. Additionally, it will cause extra problems when adjusting the reading and arrange order.

How do I ensure my content is in outline view

This is purely based on using a theme and a slide template.

  1. On the home ribbon, select Layout
  2. Select the template you would like use

The last step of this process is to actually use the content boxes to place your content. Do not add additional text boxes in this step. Simply click into one of the content boxes to add the desired information. Using a template will not only add all content to the outline view, but it will also be in the correct reading order!

Additional Information

Edit the slide master theme in order to develop custom templates and ensure all the content is in order and available in outline view.

Using a theme in PowerPoint

Yes. Use a theme in powerpoint

PowerPoint Accessibility Overview

A theme is the easiest method for applying accessibility to a PowerPoint. A theme allows for quick and easy access to predefined accessibility elements using slide design.

Any element that is entered into the slide design theme boxes will be much more accessible. If you enter content without using the theme or slide design; it will need to be edited to ensure that it is accessible with assistive technology.

Video Overview

This video will walk participants through how to apply a theme to an existing PowerPoint presentation. View time is 4 minutes and 36 seconds.

Creating a new PowerPoint

Microsoft created a handful of accessible powerpoint templates that are available for free! Start with one of these templates are simply search the templates for “accessible” when creating a new presentation.

How to apply a theme to an already created PowerPoint

This method is ideal if you already have a PowerPoint created and are looking to make it more accessible.

  1. Select the Design button
  2. Choose an appropriate theme
Step 1: Select Design. step 2: Select a theme

Ensure you are adding content to the slide design theme

Once you have a theme selected you can verify with a couple of methods.

  1. Select the Home Tab
  2. Select the Layout Dropdown menu
  3. Choose the appropriate slide layout

This will change the current slide selected to the predefined slide layout.

Editing the slide itself

Once you have selected a template you can verify if it is the right type based on what you need to enter. In the image below, we have a few different options of what we can add and they include a title and two text boxes underneath it.

Sample theme slide from the slide deck

Other slide design templates allow for the insertion of tables, images, charts, and other information. If we add anything with the insert feature like an additional textbox, we are setting ourselves up for problems with the reading order, arrange order, and outline view. Make sure you stick to using the theme!

Check out the other videos and blog posts for more information on making PowerPoint files accessible.

Yes. Every image needs alternate text

Alternate Text and Decorative Images in PowerPoint

Video Overview What exactly is alternate text? Image Context Special Notes When do I mark an image decorative? So how do I actually apply alternate text to images in PowerPoint? Then, enter a description. Video Overview What exactly is alternate text? Images need accurate descriptions for students who rely on screen readers. Avoid using text-heavy … Continue reading Alternate Text and Decorative Images in PowerPoint