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Guidelines: Accessible
 Distance Education

Guidelines: Accessible PowerPoint Files

Categories: MUST Should May

The "Must Items" are critical to basic access for people with disabilities.

  1. Do not use the "Save as HTML" feature in PowerPoint to present documents in distance learning courses. The "Save as HTML" feature creates HTML code that uses untitled frames, which makes navigating the presentation very difficult for students who are blind. This can cause further problems for presentations viewed through courseware products that use frames. Additionally, this automatic feature often results in overly long and complex HTML code, which can cause slowdowns for some dialup users.

  2. Provide a text equivalent for all images. This can be done through providing text captions for images or by using the "Format Object" or "Format Picture" dialog boxes in PowerPoint. The text gives accessibility devices such as screen-readers a way to describe the contents of the image to a user who is blind or has some other disability that prevents him or her from gaining all of the information that the image has to offer.

  3. Provide a text equivalent for any audio with lyrics or speech that is included in the file.If the PowerPoint file contains a video or sound clip that contains spoken language, provide a transcript with the PowerPoint file that contains everything that was said in the audio. The transcript itself should be in a .txt format, so it can be read in notepad in Windows or Text Edit on Macintosh computers. Both of these programs come with the operating system, so there would be no need to install Word or a similar program to view the transcript. This standard benefits those that are hearing impaired, and can thus read everything that was said through these transcripts.

  4. Make sure all links are clearly visible and are not hidden behind other objects, such as images or text.In PowerPoint it is possible to make "links" that open up sound clips, video clips, or help navigate through the slides. It is important that these links are not hidden behind other objects, because it makes that information inaccessible to anyone viewing the PowerPoint presentation. Also, make sure that the links have descriptions or captions explaining the function of the links.

  5. Clearly identify changes in the natural language of a document's text and any text equivalents.If the language changes somewhere on one of the slides, it is necessary to put the name of the language and a translation into the primary language in parentheses or captions. If it is a shift in language for a single word, place the name of the language and a translation immediately after the word. For example, au revoir (French, meaning "good-bye"). If the language changes for a sentence or more, place a disclaimer immediately before the language has changed that names the changed language and translates the section.

  6. If using a video presentation, include synchronized subtitles for any sounds or speech that occurs.If video is used, it is important to provide some sort of synchronized captioning for those that are hard of hearing. As a supplement to transcripts, synchronized subtitles allow users who are hearing impaired to be able to understand what is being said WHILE the media is being played as opposed to after or before while they read the transcript.

  7. Ensure that presentations that use color to transmit information are understandable for people who cannot perceive color. Most PowerPoint presentations use color extensively, but color should not be the only way to provide information. It may be necessary to provide a captions for images or graphs that contain color to display information, describing what the color(s) represent. A bar graph, for example, in which the different bars each have their own color representing information, may need a textual equivalent to be valuable to a user who is blind or colorblind.

  8. Use a high contrast between background colors and text colors. Students with low vision may not be able to read text that does not have a high degree of contrast between text and background. Use light text on dark backgrounds and dark text on light backgrounds.

  9. Avoid the use of flashing images in Word documents.Flashing images may cause seizures for students with photosensitive epilepsy, and may be distracting for students with learning disabilities.

  10. Use the clearest and simplest language appropriate for the PowerPoint presentation.In a PowerPoint presentation, it is especially important to keep text on each slide as concise as possible, because of the limited room on each slide. Keeping presentations short and precise also keeps a viewer's attention for longer and avoids those with cognitive disabilities from getting distracted.

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