Hello, welcome and happy new year!

It’s now 2022 and there have been some accessibility updates to PowerPoint in Office365. We thought we’d start off the new year by checking out some of these updates which we hope will make it easier for you to create more inclusive digital content for every audience.

Let’s get started?

What’s new?

There’s probably a bunch of new things, but we want to focus on the Accessibility Tab! (New)

Microsoft have released a new Accessibility Tab in PowerPoint where you can access all things to do with accessibility in one place. It’s nicely laid out and different elements of the tab come to life depending on the content you have on screen and/or have selected at any point in time.

That said, it’s a tad quirky to make the accessibility tab active on the ribbon. When we tested this, we simply did an Accessibility Check (Review | Check Accessibility) and then the Accessibility tab became available:

MS PowerPoint Accessibility Tab
MS PowerPoint Accessibility Tab

We do like how each accessibility feature is available on the tab and opens a panel on the right hand side of the screen. It’s a little more intuitive instead of the Checker opening items and offering up different options for different elements to be checked on each slide of your presentation.

So what does each thing do?
Check Accessibility
PowerPoint Check Accessibility icon
PowerPoint Check Accessibility icon

This allows you (the user) to run an accessibility check on the content within your PowerPoint slides. It will list any items with issues which need fixed. You will also be able to interrogate the issues and find out more about accessibility per item type.

Font colour / highlight colour
PowerPoint Font Colour and Text Highlight Colour icons
PowerPoint Font Colour and Text Highlight Colour icons

The font colours should sufficiently contrast against the background colour of slides. Sometimes audience members may have colour issues (i.e., colour blindness) and/or contrast issues (i.e., monochromacy, low vision, etc.). PowerPoint now gives you the option to change the font colour as part of the accessibility tab.

Similar consideration should be given to the highlighting of text. This is a visual indicator, so remember not everyone who is sighted may notice a text highlight if its colour-based. Another consideration is users of screen readers. How can you make the content ‘stand out’ for this group of audience members?

Having the font / highlight colour options in the Accessibility Tab is a time saver as you don’t need to access any formatting tabs to change the font colour.

Shape Fill / Shape Outline
PowerPoint Shape Fill and Shape Outline icons
PowerPoint Shape Fill and Shape Outline icons

Sometimes we might use a shape or an outline to highlight something of interest in our presentations. The shape fill / outline icon is handy. Remember that colour is important, pick colours that contrast well. Outlines need to be sufficiently thick to be seen as well.

Having these icon options in the Accessibility Tab is a time saver as you don’t need to access any formatting tabs to change the font colour.

Slide title
PowerPoint Slide Title icon
PowerPoint Slide Title icon

Sometimes we create content and if it doesn’t all fit on one slide, we may continue with a second slide but not use a slide title. It’s good practice to use titles even for the overflow of information. Microsoft offer the workaround of providing a hidden title.

Hidden titles will be picked up by screen readers for non-sighted users. The benefit of this: it allows screen reader users to navigate structured content.

Also, it might be you have a title on your slide but it’s not in the title container. In the Slide title icon, you can choose which content holder is the title of the slide. Note: If the slide is just one large content holder and filled with text, do not use this as a title. Title content should always be separate from body content.

Reading order
PowerPoint Reading Order Pane icon
PowerPoint Reading Order Pane icon

We feel this is very important. In the UK, we read from left to right and top to bottom. Sighted users can see the content. However, users of screen readers need the sequence to be in a logical order.

At times, we encounter teaching slides where the title, whilst at the top of the slide, is not the first item in the reading order where screen readers are concerned. The reading order pane shows the sequence of the content on the slide and this can be re-sequenced to ensure it’s logical.

You can see from the image below, the title (1) is the first item in the slide sequence, then the content (2) (username & password), followed by the image (3). This is how a screen reader would read the content.

Example PowerPoint slide showing the reading order pane and sequence of content
Example PowerPoint slide showing the reading order pane and sequence of content

If the reading order is out of sequence, it is important to re-order it for audience members that use screen readers.

ALT Text
PowerPoint ALT Text icon
PowerPoint ALT Text icon

ALT text or Alternative text is a description that should be attached to any visual content. Visual content can be photos, diagrams, charts, etc., any visual communication.

Why? Well that’s an easy answer. ALT Text benefits users of screen readers and describes to those audience members the content of the visual. This is why it’s important for the title and description of ALT text fields to be completed. It’s inclusive.

Spelling Icon
PowerPoint Spelling icon
PowerPoint Spelling icon

The Spelling icon we felt was self-explanatory. This checks spelling and grammar within the presentation. Again, having the relevant icons for accessibility within the Accessibility Tab is a time saver and allows you as content creators to remain focused on creating accessible content.

Best practice in content design

We don’t want to recreate the wheel here as we’ve blogged about best practices before. You can see some best practices on these blog titles:

We still don’t advise inserting video into your PowerPoint presentations for a number of reasons:

  • it increases file size
  • videos don’t always have subtitle files available
  • recordings can be linked into MS Stream / Mediasite and embedded in the Canvas VLE (other VLEs are available) and MS Stream / Mediasite auto-generate the subtitles for these recordings

Evidently, it’s really helpful to have these icons blocked together in the Accessibility Tab. It save a lot of to’ing and fro’ing around the other PowerPoint tabs and it keeps you focused when creating content.

Next time

Next week, we will look at some other PowerPoint functions. This includes inserting video and subtitles into presentations.

Remember, the DigiKnow blog posts are released at noon on a Monday.

Please do join us then to learn more and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter: @MDBSelearn.


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