Creating accessible Google Slides

An academic presents to a classroom of students

Presentation slides need to made as accessible as possible for your students, whether viewing them on screen in class, independently on a computer and when printed also. Following the tips below you will be able to create Google Slides presentations that are more accessible for everyone.

Slide Layout & Reading Order

When creating presentations in Google Slides, you should strive to use the built in slide layouts. Slide layouts provide correctly structured headings, content boxes and a proper reading order, and are specifically designed to work well with adaptive technologies like screen readers.

To create a new slide, click Slide > New Slide, and then go to the Slide menu and click on Apply Layout to choose one of the slide templates.

Google Slides' slide layout menu, accessed via the Slide menu then by selecting Apply Layout

If the slide layout is modified, the structure of the slide may not be presented accurately to users of assistive technology. You can test your slide's reading order by putting your cursor on the top, left-most content item on the slide and pressing the Tab key. This will cycle through the order that screen readers will read the content of your slides.

To adjust the reading order of a content item, click Arrange > Order, and then either Send backward to raise the item higher in the reading order, or Bring forward to make the item lower in the reading order. You can test the reading order again with the Tab key as before.

Google Slides' reading order menu, accessed via the Arrange menu, then by clicking Order

Where possible avoid adding text to the 'Blank Slide’ slide template, or adding extra text boxes.

Font & Colour

Black text on an off white, or cream background can help those who experience visual discomfort or visual stress. Where possible, avoid using light text on a dark background.

It’s best to avoid serif fonts (such as Times New Roman). Sans serif fonts, such as Arial, Calibri, Verdana, Trebuchet & TUOS Blake are usually clearer to read.

Avoid the overuse of italics, CAPITALS or underlining, as these can be inaccessible for people with a print disability. Bold text is preferred as a method of emphasising text.

Images

Overlaying text on top of images can reduce legibility. The use of relevant images should be encouraged, but using distracting backgrounds, patterns or irrelevant images can confuse learners.

Alt text should be added to images to help visually impaired learners make sense of the image. If an image, table or media has Alt text, screen reading software will read out this text to briefly describe the content. To add Alt text in Google Slides, Right click on an image, and choose Alt text to add a description.

Alt text must always describe the image in the context of the presentation. Access more guidance on creating Alt text for different image types.

Links

Links in Google Slides should use meaningful language. Avoid using phrases like ‘link’ or ‘click’. A better example would be: here are some tips to make your document or presentation more accessible. Descriptive links are easier to understand for learners using assistive technology, such as screen readers.

Create a descriptive link by selecting the text you wish to turn into a hyperlink, and choose Insert > Link. Paste the URL into the Link field.

Title Slides

Students with SpLD’s (Specific Learning Differences) find it really helpful to see what week number the lecture is in. It’s also useful to add staff contact preferences (such as email or office hours information), so students are clear about how the tutor likes to be contacted.

Providing a lecture overview and objectives can provide essential contextual information for students who need to prepare for lectures in advance, and can help students structure their notes.

Access the SpLD Awareness & Inclusion Training

Auto-captioning Presentations

Google Slides offers a feature that will automatically generate captions, displaying your words in real time on the screen. However some caution is advised with this feature. The accuracy of the captioning is variable depending on the quality of your device’s microphone, the clarity of your speech, the presence of background noise, and the use of technical language.

To use captions with Google Slides, your computer microphone must be switched on and working. Settings are typically found in Control Panel on a PC, or System Preferences on a Mac. You must also be using the Google Chrome browser and have a working internet connection.

To turn on captioning, open your Google Slides presentation in Google Chrome and click Present in the top right hand corner to start presenting. Then click on the CC Captions icon to turn on captioning. As you speak captions will appear at the bottom of the screen. The text position and size of captions can be changed in the CC Captions menu whilst presenting.

Please see Google’s slide captioning page for more information about this feature.

Screen Readers, Screen Magnifiers & Voice Typing

Google Slides are designed to work with screen readers, braille devices, screen magnification and more. To enable support, click Tools > Accessibility Settings menu.

Google’s Voice Typing feature is available in Google Slides, however it is only set up to create speaker notes and is restricted to Google Chrome. Click Tools > Voice typing to get started.

Saving & Sharing

Google Slides are primarily designed to be viewed online, and can be shared to others using the Share menu. If you need to distribute the document for offline access, we recommend downloading the document as a Microsoft PowerPoint .pptx file. Click File > Download > Microsoft PowerPoint (.pptx).

PowerPoint presentations are inherently more accessible than a PDF, and PDF’s exported from Google Slides do not contain accessibility elements such as Alt tags, nor do they maintain the Heading structure.

GrackleDocs is a third party extension for Google Slides that does export accessible PDF’s and can be trialled free of charge for 30 days.

Third Party Accessibility Checker

Following the above principles will help you to create an accessible Google Slides presentation. Unlike Microsoft PowerPoint, Google does not have a built in accessibility checker to review your document. However, GrackleDocs is a third party extension for Google Docs that will check documents for accessibility, and can be trialled free of charge for 30 days.

GrackleDocs should not be used to process personal, or sensitive information.