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Checklist: Creating Accessible Presentations

    Creator: Accessible Libraries

    Date of Update: May 4, 2023


    When creating presentations, ensuring the file and the content you present are accessible is essential so everyone can access and understand the information you are discussing.  

    The webinar series focuses on three presentation programs – Microsoft PowerPoint, Apple Keynote, and Google Slides – and will not cover other options (e.g., Prezi, Slides, Visme, Canva). However, most guidelines in the series can be applied to other presentation programs.


    Follow this checklist to create accessible presentations!

    A simple version of the checklist is available below:

    Getting Started

    1. Begin with an accessible template.
    2. Ensure that your slides use pre-formatted layouts and have an accessible structure.
    3. Your presentation should have high colour-contrast ratios between slide elements.
    4. Don’t use only colour to convey meaning.
    5. Use an accessible font and font attributes.
    6. Ensure that your text is readable and understandable by everyone.
    7. Use lists to organize your information.
    8. Define the language of your text (the full presentation and/or chunks of text in a different language).
    9. Ensure that your hyperlinks are informative.

    Feature and Tools

    1. Avoid using tables, transitions, animations, drawings, and annotations.
    2. Use captions and subtitles during your presentation.
    3. If you use presentation notes and comments, make them as accessible as possible.
    4. Create accessible handouts/versions of your presentation and ensure they are available beforehand.
    5. Use the PowerPoint Accessibility Checker.

    Images, Graphics, and Videos

    1. Use quality media in your presentations.
    2. Describe your images, graphics, charts, graphs, maps, and tables.
    3. Provide long descriptions for complex images (graphics, charts, graphs, maps, and tables).
    4. Add captions/subtitles to any audio-visual media.
    5. Create audio descriptions for any undescribed visual information in your videos.
    6. Include transcripts of your videos.

    Checklist Guidelines

    Follow these guidelines when creating presentations so everyone can read and edit them.

    Begin with an accessible template or theme.

    Accessibility starts at the very beginning, with an accessible theme that will make creating accessible slides much easier. For example, we talk about colour contrast later in this webinar. Accessible themes, especially those in PowerPoint, have already factored in the colour contrast between the text and the background.

    How to select an accessible template or theme

    In PowerPoint, you can search for “accessible” presentation templates. Searching for an accessible PowerPoint presentation means the template is tagged with that term. It doesn’t guarantee that it is accessible. Examples of accessible presentation templates in PowerPoint include Universal Presentation, Geometric Presentation, Colourful Abstract Pitch Deck, and more.

    You cannot search for accessible templates in Keynote and Google Slides, so we suggest following the guidelines in this checklist closely to ensure they are accessible.

    Exporting accessible PowerPoint themes

    You can export PowerPoint templates/themes into other presentation programs. This will let you use presentation themes tagged as accessible from PowerPoint in your preferred program.

    How to save a PowerPoint template and open it in Keynote and Google Slides

    You begin by saving the accessible PowerPoint presentation theme as a template. To do this, you select File > Save as Template.

    To open it in Keynote, select File > Open > File Name

    To upload it into Google Slides, open a new Google Slide Document, select Import Theme > Upload > Choose File.

    Note: Downloading a Google Slides presentation in PowerPoint can lose accessibility features.

    Related Resources

    Ensure that your slides use pre-formatted layouts and have an accessible structure.

    Use the preformatted slide layouts provided by PowerPoint, Keynote and Google Slides. This will help ensure the information is positioned correctly on the slide and will adjust to different screen sizes. These should also have correctly formatted slide titles.

    All slides should have unique titles/headings. Screen reader users can use the slide titles to navigate the content, and they visually organize the data. They need to be unique to aid navigation having several slides labelled “Library Collection,” for example, will not be helpful to navigate by.

    Limit the amount of text on each slide, which can be distracting. Some best practices include limiting the number of bullet points on each slide to no more than seven and using short sentences.

    Ensure that the slides’ contents are in the correct reading order.

    What is the slide reading order?

    Each slide element is one item organized into a specific reading order.  The reading order can change as you edit a slide, and the items get out of order.

    How to Edit the Reading Order

    In PowerPoint:

    • In Windows, from the “Accessibility sidebar” (after using the Accessibility Checker) > right-click on the slide with the incorrect reading order > select “Verify Object Order” from the menu to open the “Reading Order Pane.”
    • In Mac, from the “Home” toolbar, click “Arrange” > choose “Selection Pane.”

    The reading order of items in the PowerPoint Reading Order/Selection Pane is from bottom to top. This means that items at the bottom of the list are read first when going through the slides. You change the reading order in PowerPoint (in Windows and Mac) by dragging and dropping items into a different order.

    You must manually check the slide reading order in Google Slides and Keynote. Click on the top-left item and tab through the slide elements. The order in which the text boxes are highlighted is the reading order of the slide.

    To change the reader order in Google Slides:

    • Select an item and choose > “Arrange” > “Order” > an option (e.g., “Bring to front”).

    To change the reader order Keynote:

    • Click on “Arrange” in the top menu or right-side toolbar > choose an option (e.g., send backwards).

    Related Resources

    Ensure that your presentation has a high colour-contrast ratio.

    Your presentation should have a high colour contrast in both the presentation’s design and the contrast between the font and the slide background. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) state that the contrast ratio should be at least 4.5:1.

    The colour contrast ratio is calculated by comparing two colours’ brightness (or luminance). The higher the contrast, the better, for example, black text on a white background is accessible (and has a ratio of 21:1), but the light grey text on a white background has low contrast (e.g., 1.3:1), and that is difficult to read.

    You can check your colour contrast using sites like with the font, background, design elements, etc., and hexadecimal (hex) colour code.

    How to find the hex code of your presentation elements in PowerPoint, Google Slides, and Keynote

    To use this tool, you must determine your colours’ hexadecimal (hex) colour code, which you can do in each presentation program.

    Determining the hex code in PowerPoint:

    • Click on the font (for example) dropdown menu and select “more colours.”
    • In Windows, then click on the “Custom” tab.
    • In Mac, click on “Colour Sliders” and select “RGB Sliders” from the drop-down menu.

    Determining the hex code in Google Slides:

    • Click on a colour toolbar icon like font and select the “custom” option, which gives you the hex code.

    Determining the hex code in Keynote:

    • Click on the colour wheel, select “Colour Sliders,” and choose “RGB Sliders” from the drop-down menu. At the bottom of this popup is the colours hex code.

    Related Resources

    Don’t use only colour to convey meaning.

    Don’t use colour alone to convey meaning in your text. Using colour only to convey meaning may not be easily seen by those with low vision or those who experience colorblindness. Screen readers or braille displays do not automatically announce the colour changes.

    One option is to use both colours and symbols. For example, the number of books purchased in March 2022 is in purple and enclosed in asterisks.

    Related Resources

    Use an accessible font and font attributes.

    One of the most important things to consider when creating an accessible presentation is the font type, size, and attributes you use. We had our expert accessibility testers with lived experience of a disability (low vision) share their thoughts on different font attributes in presentations. These are just their experiences and do not speak for all people with disabilities, but there are some commonalities that we can use to make great documents/presentations.

    We recommend you use the following:

    • A large font size that attendees can see from the back of the room: at least 20 points or larger.
    • Use sans serif fonts like Arial, Verdana, or Helvetica, as they are easier to read and less cluttered.
    • Ensure adequate line spacing and lots of white space in the slides.
    • Limit or avoid using all caps, which can be difficult to read.
    • Align the text to the left, especially for large chunks.

    Related Resources

    Ensure that your text is readable and understandable by everyone.

    You want the content of your presentation to be understood by all attendees. We recommend using plain and simple language, avoiding jargon, and spelling out acronyms the first time you use them in your presentation. For example, when discussing colour contrast, we wrote “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines” and then the acronym WCAG.

    Use inclusive language in your presentation and determine the language preference of your audience. For example, in this presentation, we use person-first language, which emphasizes the person first (such as a person with a disability), instead of identity-first language, which emphasizes identity first (for example, a dyslexic person). We suggest asking your audience the language they prefer.

    Accessible Libraries use person-first language, as does the Government of Canada.

    Related Resources

    Use lists to organize your information.

    Lists break the information into chunks of consumable content, and screen readers can easily navigate through them.

    Use direct formatting options (found in the presentation programs toolbars) to create accessible lists. Don’t make lists with manually typed characters like dashes, numbers, asterisks, or graphics because screen readers will not recognize that formatting as a list. Screen readers will not identify manually created lists as lists, which makes them very difficult to navigate. We recommend using the ordered list formatting if you have a multi-levelled or nested list.

    Related Resources

    Define the language of your text (the full presentation and/or chunks of text in a different language).

    Text marked up in different language(s) will be recognized by screen readers and pronounced correctly. You don’t need to define the language of singular words or very short phrases. For example, in the sentence “she had déjà vu,” you don’t need to define the language of “déjà vu.”

    However, if you have a larger chunk of text, like one or more sentences in a different language, you should define the language of that text.

    How to define the language of text and/or your presentation.

    Here is how you define the language of your text in the presentation programs.

    In PowerPoint:

    • Highlight the text and select “File” > “Tools” > “Language” > Choose a language.
    • Click on the default language at the bottom-left of the presentation window > choose a language.

    In Google Slides:

    • Highlight the text and select “File” > “Language” > choose a language.

    In Keynote:

    • Highlight the text and select “File” > “Advanced” > “Language & Region” > choose a language.
    • Note: you can only define the language of the entire presentation in Keynote.

    Related Resources

    Hyperlinks need to be informative for users of assistive technologies who navigate using links. For example, having a bunch of “read more” links will not let screen reader users know where the link will take them from the link text alone.

    Recommendations for creating accessible hyperlinks in your presentations:

    • For the presentation display, use the shortest URL and Pascal Case (also known as camel case) format (capitalizing the first letter of each word). Long URLs are generally not read correctly by screen readers.
    • For digital handouts of your presentation, use informative text.

    Also, when adding a hyperlink to the slides, it should be highlighted in a different colour and underlined so you are not using only colour to convey meaning.

    Related Resources

    Avoid using tables, transitions, animations, drawings, and annotations.

    Here are some features and tools that presentation programs offer that we suggest you avoid.


    We recommend that you avoid using tables in your presentation. They can be difficult to navigate with screen readers, and the table information is small and difficult to read on slides. If you must use tables, keep them simple. Some of the things you can do to make them more accessible include:

    • Mark up the header row. This tells screen readers how to read the table and lets them know which column they are in.
    • Don’t use a fixed layout; it won’t adjust to different screen sizes.
    • Don’t merge cells.
    • Don’t have blank cells. If you need to leave cells blank, add a dash or n/a.
    • Use the largest text possible and a sans-serif font.

    You must also describe any tables you include in your presentation, which we will discuss below.

    Transitions and Animations

    Avoid using elaborate transitions and animations as they don’t communicate anything important in the presentation and can be distracting and make some viewers sick.

    Sometimes, animation can help viewers focus on the slide’s text, especially when there is too much text. We recommend using less text on the slide instead of animations.

    Drawings and Annotations

    Avoid using drawings, both in creating your slides and during your presentation. These are inaccessible and often difficult to see, especially when done during the presentation.  And depending on their creation, they use only colour to convey meaning. If you use them, you need to add alt-text descriptions, which we discuss below.

    Related Resources

    Use captions and subtitles during your presentation.

    Google Slide and PowerPoint let you add captions/subtitles to your presentations. When presenting in a room of people, use the captions in Google Slides or PowerPoint. If your presentation is virtual, use only one type of captioning. For example, you would not use Zoom and PowerPoint captions during your online presentation.

    Enabling Subtitles in PowerPoint

    • Begin the slide show and click on the ”CC” icon on the bottom left of the screen.
    • You can adjust the subtitle settings under the “Slide Show” option in the PowerPoint toolbar.

    The caption settings in PowerPoint include selecting the language, the location of the subtitles on the screen, how they visually appear, and much more.

    Enabling Captions in Google Slides

    • Begin the slide show and click on the more options (three vertical dots) at the bottom left side of the screen.
    • Select “Captions Preferences” and choose “Toggle captions.”
    • Or use “Command + Shift + C” (on Mac) or “Ctrl + F5” (on Windows).

    The captions in Google Slides are currently only available in English.

    Related Resources

    If you use presentation notes and comments, make them as accessible as possible.

    If using notes in PowerPoint, Keynote, and Google Slides, we recommend you:

    • Use a large text size.
    • Use a sans serif font.
    • Consider the colour contrast between the text and background. The PowerPoint and Google Slides background is light grey; the Keynote background is white.

    Comments can be accessible but avoid them if unnecessary. Comments use very small print that needs to be magnified.

    When exporting your slides into another format (e.g., PDF), comments and notes can be inaccessible – either they are not exported, or screen readers cannot access them.

    Related Resources

    Create accessible handouts/versions of your presentation and ensure they are available beforehand.

    Create accessible handouts of the slides and other supporting documents for your presentation. For each webinar in this series, we created HTML, PDF, DOC, and PPT formats for the slides. An HTML version is generally the most accessible.

    We note that unless properly marked up, PDFs are not accessible. Creating Accessible PDFs is an entire webinar series of itself. For example, when creating the PDF version of these Features and Tools presentation slides, the reading order was incorrect so that a screen reader would read the title of slide five before the information on slide 3. This must be corrected so a screen reader can read the PDF correctly. Creating Accessible PDFs is a webinar series all by itself!

    How to create an accessible HTML document from your presentation slides.

    In PowerPoint:

    • You cannot create an HTML document directly from PowerPoint.
      • Export the presentation in Rich Text Format (RTF) and open it in your preferred Word Processor (reformatting may be required).
      • Save as “Web Page” or HTML option.

    In Google Slides:

    • You can publish your slides on the web.
      • Select “File” > “Share” > “Publish to the Web” > ”Embed Link”
    • You can share a link to the HTML version of your presentation using keyboard shortcuts:
      • In Windows: Ctrl + Alt + Shift + p
      • In Mac: Command + Options + Shift + p
      • Then copy and paste the URL from the browser and share it.

    In Keynote:

    • You can export your slides as HTML. It downloads a file with multiple components.
      • Select “File” > “Export To” > “HTML” > click on ”Next” > “Save”
      • To open the HTML version of your slides, click on the index.html file.

    Related Resources

    Use the PowerPoint Accessibility Checker.

    PowerPoint provides an Accessibility Checker for your presentation, which is a great starting point but doesn’t catch everything.

    The Accessibility Checker checks for:

    • Errors – like missing alt text, images that are not inline, missing slide titles, etc.
    • Warnings – insufficient colour contrast, captions are included in the media, and the reading order of the slides is correct.
    • Tips – like slide titles, which need to be unique and marked up as headings.

    To use the Accessibility Checker, click the “Review” toolbar and select “Check Accessibility.”

    What the Accessibility Checker doesn’t check for.

    • A large amount of text on the slides.
    • Using only colour to convey meaning.
    • Accessible font, font size, and attributes.
    • Using plain, simple, and inclusive language in your presentation.
    • Using lists to organize your information by applying direct formatting.
    • Defining the language of the text.
    • Using accessible hyperlinks with informative text or the shortest URL possible in the camel case.

    Related Resources

    Use quality media in your presentations.

    Any media used in your presentation should be of good quality media with high resolution, so the media isn’t blurry or unclear and can be large enough for magnification.

    If the media has text, like a table or graphic, ensure it uses a large sans-serif font size with good colour contrast.

    Avoid using complex charts or comics, especially in-person presentations, as audience members will have difficulty viewing them.

    Related Resources

    Describe your images, graphics, charts, graphs, maps, and tables.

    If your presentation has images (simple and complex), you must add alternative text (alt text), which is a textual description of an image for people who can’t see the image (blind/deafblind). Screen readers will read an image’s alt text, if available, as they navigate the presentation.

    Why add alternative text?

    If alt text is not added, screen reader users will be excluded from accessing the full meaning of your images and graphics. If you don’t add alt text, that field could include:

    • Auto-generated alt text can be, at best, undescriptive and, at worst, incorrect and confusing. For example, “may be a picture of indoor” is auto-generated alt text for a photograph of a library interior.
    • The image’s file name.
    • Nothing at all. When screen readers read nothing, they tell the user there is an “image” or a “graphic” with no label, or they will try to create alt text for the image (depending on the screen reader used).

    Here are some tips to follow when creating alt text.

    • Do not include the phrase “This is an image/graphic of…” in your alt text, as screen readers will announce that it is graphic.
    • If there is text within an image, write it in the alt text.
    • Your alt text should not include information available in the surrounding text.
      • Like using text from the image caption.
    • Write for your audience.
      • For example, you would describe an image meant for children (like a photo of the newest children’s book), then you would an image meant for adults.
    • Use present tense and action verbs.

    Ensure your alt text is inclusive and descriptive.

    • Use inclusive language in your descriptions. For example, avoid gendering a person unless you know their preferred pronouns.
    • Describe the physical characteristics of people in images.
      • Physical characteristics include hairstyle, skin tone, facial features, clothing, etc.
      • For skin colour, we recommend using the emoji scale: Light Skin Tone, Medium Skin Tone, Dark Skin Tone etc.
    • Descriptions should be objective and free from censorship. People who use screen readers should receive equal access to the information conveyed in images.

    How to describe images, charts, graphs, maps, and tables in PowerPoint, Google Slides, and Keynote?

    In PowerPoint:

    • Right-click on the image or graphic.
    • Select “View Alt Text”
    • A text box pops up on the right side of the window.
    • Edit or add the alt text.

    In Google Slides:

    • Right-click on the image.
    • Select “Alt text” from the drop-down menu.
    • A popup appears.
    • Add the title and description for the image.
    • Keyboard shortcuts:
      • Ctrl + Alt + Y (Windows)
      • Command + Option + Y (Mac)

    In Keynote:

    • Click on the image.
    • On the right toolbar, select the “Image” tab.
    • Add the description.

    Related Resources

    Provide long descriptions for complex images (graphics, charts, graphs, maps, and tables).

    If your presentation has complex images, you need to include longer descriptions. A complex image includes:

    • Graphs
    • Tables
    • Infographics
    • Maps

    What are Long Descriptions?

    A Long Description is a detailed text description of an image that can be several paragraphs long. They describe all the information readers need to know to understand them. Long descriptions are used in conjunction with alt text.

    Add a link to the long descriptions, using informative hyperlinks, in your presentation. They should be included in the supporting documents as well.

    How to create long descriptions?

    Write descriptions with a clear structure, working from the general to the specific:

    • Describe the overall image.
    • Break the image up into chunks of content and describe each separately logically.
    • For example, in a chart, you would describe the overall chart and data it presents and then text like the y and x-axis labels, the percentages of each option, etc.

    You should repeat the alt text in the long description to refer to the image used in your presentation, following the above tips for creating alt text.

    Related Resources

    Add captions/subtitles to any audio-visual media.

    Captions/subtitles are a text version of the audio users need to understand the content. It includes the speech in the audio, like character dialogues and narration, background noise, and sound effects, like birds chirping or a door slamming. Captions/subtitles created by programs and not a person should always be edited.

    Creating/adding subtitles on YouTube

    There are many ways to create and edit captions/subtitles. We use YouTube to create and edit the subtitles of recordings.

    • On YouTube, select “Upload videos” to add your recording.
    • Once YouTube has processed the video (which can take a day or so), click the “Subtitles” menu option.
    • Select the video title that you would like to edit the subtitles of.
    • Click on “Duplicated and Edit” to access the subtitles.
    • You can edit the captions on YouTube or download them to your computer.

    Related Resources

    Create audio descriptions for any undescribed visual information in your videos.

    You need to add Audio Descriptions to videos if there are undescribed visual information users need to understand the content. Audio descriptions provide context to persons who are blind and have low vision. They describe any visual information needed to understand the content, including text displayed in the video. It is also known as described video or video descriptions.

    Creating audio descriptions

    • Audio descriptions should be concise.
      • The audio description track needs to be audible on top of the video but not overlap with the video’s dialogue.
    • Aim to be objective, so only describe what you see in the video.
      • Do not reveal key information (e.g., character names or actions) before they are shared with everyone else on the screen, and only describe what is occurring.
    • Describe the physical characteristics of people in the video.
    • Do not censor your audio descriptions.
    • Consider the video context to decide what is important to describe.
      • You need to describe the important visual elements of the scene, information that cannot be understood solely through dialogue and sound effects (e.g., costumes, expressions, actions etc.).

    How to add audio descriptions to your audio-visual media?

    • Integrate them into your video script by describing aloud what you are doing when recording.
      • You can integrate them into your video scripts by describing aloud what you’re doing in the video when you record it.
    • In post-production:
      • Add the audio description between characters speaking.
    • In YouDescribe:
      • This website lets you pause the video and quickly describe the action of the previous scene.

    Related Resources

    Include transcripts of your audio-visual media.

    Provide transcripts of any audio-visual content you use in your presentations. Transcripts are a text version of the audio in video, podcast, etc. These should be included in the supporting documents you provide before your presentation.

    You can create transcripts by downloading and editing the subtitles you created on YouTube in your preferred Word Processor.

    Related Resources


    Accessible Libraries. (2023, January 10). Checklist: Creating Accessible Social Media Posts.

    American Anthropological Association. (2023, June 13). Virtual Presentation Accessibility Guidelines. The American Anthropological Association.

    Apple Support. (2023, October 12). Create accessible documents, spreadsheets, or presentations with pages, numbers, or keynote.

    Brochu, L. (2022). Guide to Image Descriptions.

    Google Docs Editors. (2024). Make your document, presentation, and sheets more accessible. Google Docs Editors Help.

    Microsoft. (2024). Make your PowerPoint presentations accessible to people with disabilities.

    Shortt, R. (2021, August 11). Presenting Practices. BCcampus.

    W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), Abou-Zahra, S., Williams, M., & EOWG Participants. (2022, August 31). Making Events Accessible: Checklist for meetings, conferences, training, and presentations that are remote/virtual, in-person, or hybrid. Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).

    WebAIM. (2021, February 26). Powerpoint Accessibility.