How to Make Your PowerPoint Presentation Accessible and Compatible

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  • 0:01 Overview
  • 1:41 Accessibility Check
  • 4:38 Compatibility Check
  • 6:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Karen Sorensen

Karen has a Bachelors in Communications. She has 25 years of experience in Information Systems, Adult Learning and Virtual Training.

In this lesson, you will learn the purpose of making your presentation accessible and compatible. Both PowerPoint features are important when sharing your presentation.

Purpose of Accessibility and Compatibility

PowerPoint has many options for adding visual content to your slides. This is why PowerPoint is such a favorite among presenters. The ability to add images, videos and audio clips will help your audience stay engaged. For example, a good video clip can quickly get the attention of your audience. And did you know that images can be processed by the brain quicker than text?

Let me share a story. About a year ago, I had created a presentation that was going to be shared via email. The audience was about 50 potential customers, and the PowerPoint had several images of our products. About one week after sending out the presentation, I received a call from a recipient letting me know that he was visually impaired and the images were no help to him. Now, don't worry; I was able to help him. It's actually a feature I will be showing you in this lesson!

But making sure your presentation is accessible and compatible is crucial. Many times, you will create a presentation that people will receive and view, not necessarily for you to use as a visual aid while you are presenting.

This lesson will cover two PowerPoint features, Check Accessibility and Check Compatibility. Accessible, meaning someone with disabilities can read (or hear) your content, and compatible, meaning if someone has a different version of PowerPoint than you, they can still open, view and edit the slides. Let's take a look at both of these PowerPoint features and review the steps to checking accessibility and compatibility.

Accessibility Check

We'll start with the accessibility check. This feature is a bit like your Spell Check. The Check Accessibility option alerts you when PowerPoint finds potential issues in your presentation and gives you the opportunity to either fix or ignore. Now, fixing some issues might require that you change, reformat or otherwise update your content. However, this will also help you make sure that your presentation is more relevant to those with accessibility impairments, such as those that may be visually impaired. So, let's check out the steps:

  1. First, open the presentation and go to the File menu.
  2. And then click on the Check for Issues command.
  3. Next, select Check Accessibility.
  4. And if the Accessibility Checker finds issues, a panel will open on the right-hand side of the screen. This will show you each issue and how many occurrences there are of that issue. At the bottom of the panel, PowerPoint will explain why you should fix it and how to fix it.

And a quick hint: There may be issues that you choose not to fix, since your audience may not have people with certain disabilities. But in that case, highlighted issues may be more informative. You can fix/change only the issues that you consider significant.

One of the most common issues that the accessibility check will find is that you don't have text associated with your images. The Alt Text option allows you to convey the same information as the image when the viewer either has their images turned off in their web browser or perhaps because the reader has a visual impairment. Some viewers may not see your slides but hear them. Let's review the steps to adding alternative text to an image:

  1. First, select the image.
  2. Then, right-click on the image.
  3. Next, choose Format Picture from the drop-down list.
  4. Then, click on the Size and Properties icon (it's in the right pane of the screen).
  5. Then, choose Alt Text.
  6. And then, add a title and a description for the image.

Alt text is added to an image to provide a textual alternative to visual information.

Now that we have added the text to the image, a viewer will be able to hear the title and description that is added. In the lesson video, you can hear how it will sound to the viewer (please see the video at 04:15). If you are creating slides and want to add alternative text and then test the feature on your computer, you will need to enable the Windows narrator accessibility function.

Compatibility Check

So, let's move on with the check compatibility feature. Now, each time Microsoft comes out with a new version of PowerPoint, they add more whistles and bells, functionality and options. For example, the SmartArt command, which is one of my favorite features, came out in 2010. If the client has 97-2003 versions of PowerPoint, it might look different when they open the presentation, or they might not be able to open and view it at all. The compatibility check can help you look for content that may function differently in older versions of PowerPoint. Let's start by reviewing the steps to running a compatibility check:

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