Accessible Presentations – Readability

Whether you’re giving a live presentation or distributing a PPT or PDF presentation online, you need to make sure it’s easy to see and understandable. It should also have a logical reading order for everyone.

Victoria College Editorial Style Guide

Depending on what type of presentation you are making, you may need to consult the VC Editorial Style Guide.  Go to Pirate Portal > Employee Resources > Marketing & Communications > VC Editorial Style Guide.

Easy to see

Your document should be easy to see, especially if you expect people to print the document, too.

  • Use at least 20 point fonts for text and at least 36 point fonts when presenting in classrooms. (Slide Titles will obviously be larger.)
  • If you’re presenting in a classroom, your content should be large! (Try 36+ point fonts for text and titles will need to be 56+ point fonts.)
  • Be judicious in use of CAPS and/or italics in the body text.
  • Stick with simple, sans serif fonts. (Avoid “flowery” fonts for text.)
  • Use standard fonts and avoid WordArt.
  • Provide sufficient contrast between your background and text.
  • Don’t use color alone to convey information.
  • Use left justification for text.
  • Chunk information on slides and use mnemonics to help people remember main points.
  • Complete sentences are not necessary on slides.
  • When possible, limit the number of lines of text per slide and the number of words per line (i.e. max 5-6 lines for slide and 5-6 words per line).

Note: Think about how you will be delivering your presentation.

  • Will participants be viewing the presentation live in class? If so, think about the lighting in your classroom. Also, think about the people sitting at the far edges of the room. Ideally, you should test out your presentation on your classroom equipment beforehand so that you can make any necessary adjustments.
  • Will you be providing handouts?
    • Slide handouts: If you plan to print multiple slides on a page, be sure that the smaller slides are still readable. Backgrounds and smaller fonts are often very difficult to deal with and you’ll need to see what the slides look like in grayscale. Or, if you just want participants to have access to the text, you can print out handouts using the plain Office Theme instead of your “fancier” presentation theme. If you have URLs that participants need to access later, be sure that full URLs are visible. You may provide participants with the option to print their own handouts ahead of time. This way each person can make the adjustments that work for him or her.
    • Other handouts: It may be best to use handouts that are separate from your actual PPT slides. Especially if you are making a presentation face-to-face, the presentation is different from your notes and handouts. Your face-to-face slides may be much more visual and not text heavy – they should be complementary to your presentation, not just a repeat of everything you plan to say.
  • Will you be posting the presentation online (web, portal, Blackboard, Canvas)? Be sure that any links included in the presentation link to their designated resources properly. Be advised that embedded media does not work when PPT slides are converted to PDF.


  • Use the clearest and simplest language appropriate to the content and be sure to double check spelling and grammar.
  • Create navigation that is clear and consistent and use the concept of chunking for logical order.
  • Introduce acronyms, explain any jargon, and spell out at least the first instance of abbreviations.
  • Be consistent with repeated content so that the reader is not confused.
  • Allow white space and avoid too much busyness. (Avoid too many different colors, fonts, images, etc.)
  • Be sure the reading order matches up with the visual order. (This is important to double check once the presentation is converted to PDF.)

Reading Order

Proper reading order will depend on whether you are distributing your presentation as a PowerPoint presentation (.pptx) or a PDF. If you are converting to PDF, double check the Outline View. If you are providing your file as PPTX and you anticipate a student who uses a screen reader will be accessing your file, you’ll need to check reading order in the Selection Pane.

Outline View

Check the reading order using Outline view. Outline view is found in the View Ribbon > Presentation Views > Outline View.

Screenshot of PPT 2013 View ribbon with Outline View highlighted

Make sure that each slide has a unique title and that all titles and body text are in the correct reading order. Be sure to double check the Outline View if you are converting to PDF! However, Outline View does not accurately reflect the reading order if you’re distributing as a PPT(X).

Selection Pane

For some reason, PPTs reading order (with screen readers) is from bottom to top.

To check reading order for PPTX distribution: Go to Home > Editing > Select > Selection Pane.

Screenshot of PPT 2013 Selection pane

We’ll discuss live presentations a bit more in November, and we’ll cover a few notes on STEM content and the Notes Panel next week.




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