Creating Accessible PowerPoint Templates


Presented at 2:15pm in Denver 1-3 on Wednesday, November 8, 2023.



  • Karen McCall, Accessible Document Design Consultant and Educator, Karlen Communications

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 2-hr
  • Format: Lab
  • Expertise Level: Beginner
  • Type of session: General Conference


We’re all afraid to go into Slide Master view of PowerPoint! It’s not as scary as it sounds! This 2 hour lab guides participants through creating accessible PowerPoint templates and Themes. Once you have a template, creating a Theme that can be used to refresh existing presentations is easy. We’ll walk through the difference between a template and a Theme and add design elements to a slide master that adaptive technology won’t see. Some of the techniques can be used in Normal slide view.


We’ve all tried to create accessible PowerPoint templates. Some of us have been frustrated. As someone who uses a screen reader, I can hear when I’ve encountered an accessible slide placeholder, but how does everyone else know which placeholders are accessible and which ones may not be? This 2-hour lab provides a list of accessible placeholders that can be used on slides. We’ll duplicate slide layouts and customize them for use in a presentation and add design elements in Slide Master view to create visually interesting slides that are accessible. For example, we’ll take the comparison slide layout and create a Subtitle slide layout. We’ll combine graphics and shapes on a slide master to show a fading effect. We’ll also look at taking design elements from PowerPoint Designer to a slide master layout Once we’ve created a PowerPoint template, we’ll save it as a Theme that can be used to refresh existing presentations. Of course, the Accessibility Checker and colour Contrast Analyzer will be used along with human review to make the most of the accessibility of the template.


  1. Understand the difference between Templates and Themes in PowerPoint.
  2. Create an accessible PowerPoint template.
  3. Understand the role that the Slide Master and custom slide layouts have in an accessible PowerPoint template.

Disability Areas

Cognitive/Learning, Vision

Topic Areas

Accessible Course Design, Accessible Educational Materials, Teaching about Accessibility in Curriculum, Uncategorized, Universal Design for Learning

Speaker Bio(s)

Karen McCall

Karen McCall, M.Ed. has been working in the field of accessible document design since 1999. She began her career in website accessibility and auditing and moved to accessible Word, PowerPoint and PDF documents in 2004. Karen is:

A Canadian delegate of the ISO 14289 or PDF/UA (Universal Accessibility) committee and has been for a number of years. A Canadian delegate to the ISO 32000 PDF committee. A Microsoft MVP for Word (Most Valued Professional) since 2009. A Microsoft Accessibility MVP since 2017 when this category of MVP was established.

Karen has written several books on the topic of accessible document design for Word, PowerPoint and PDF documents as well as smaller publications with specific techniques for working with Office applications if you are using adaptive technology and/or the keyboard.

Karen is the president of Karlen Communications.