Accessible PowerPoint

Content Placeholder- Little known features of PowerPoint

Reading presentations without vision!

Up until I met Leona I had never thought that a blind person can access a PowerPoint Presentation. Leona works as an investor banker. She works with a leading financial institution and I met her to seek investment advice. She was seamlessly working with her presentation and was going through the slide content flawlessly. She told me about screen readers and accessibility support built in to PowerPoint presentations offered by Microsoft which helps her to work with presentations with ease. This excited me, so much that I had to learn more about Accessible PowerPoint!

What goes in making PowerPoint presentations accessible?

PowerPoint presentations are highly visual in nature and to make them accessible for people with visual as well as other types of impairments there are lots of features built in to Microsoft Office PowerPoint. PowerPoint provides a wide range of options to make the presentations accessible including:

  • Add description for images.
  • Add slide titles.
  • Specify a logical reading order for the slide’s content.
  • Add descriptive text for hyperlinks.
  • Define headers for tables.
  • Add captions, sub titles and audio descriptions for videos etc.

Tip: PowerPoint also includes Accessibility Checker that helps to check a presentation for accessibility!

When we talk of Accessible PowerPoint, the above options are what everyone talks about. Yes these options help significantly to make presentations accessible, however placeholder is a feature that never gets the lime light but it plays a key role in making PowerPoint presentations accessible.

In this article, we shall understand how placeholders play a major part in making presentations accessible.

What is a Placeholder?

A placeholder is a container that is used to display content, such as text, table, picture, movies, sound, clip art, chart, SmartArt etc. A placeholder can be resized, moved and edited. In a PowerPoint placeholders are displayed in the form of a dotted rectangular box and are found in all the built-in slide layouts.

The built-in slide layouts of PowerPoint include different types of content placeholders. One can opt to use the default placeholders or modify the slide layouts via the slide master.

Tip: Placeholders can only be added to slide layouts and not to specific slides of a PowerPoint presentation.

Screenshot of a slide displaying empty content placeholder.

So let’s find out how to add a placeholder?

How to add a placeholder?

To add/insert a placeholder in master slide follow the steps:

  1. Go to View
  2. Click on Slide Master.
  3. In the Slide Master tab click on Insert Placeholder.Screenshot displaying types of placeholders available in the insert placeholder option.
  4. Select text Drag the placeholder on the slide and position it as required.

Screenshot of the slide with placeholder added.

Woohoo! We just added a text placeholder!

Apart from text placeholder, PowerPoint contain several other type of placeholder that can be used while creating presentation.

So let’s understand the different type of placeholders in PowerPoint!

Types of Placeholders

Content placeholders are already formatted areas within in the slide layout where we can place different types of content such as, text, tables, charts, SmartArt, pictures, clipart or video.  A Content placeholder is a placeholder you see on the typical Title and Content slide layout.

Following are the different standard types of placeholder available in PowerPoint:

  • Text
  • Picture
  • Chart
  • Table
  • SmartArt
  • Media
  • Clip Art / Online Image

A screen reader will read out the content that we add inside the placeholder as well as identify the type of placeholder for their users. Isn’t that cool?

Tip: The order in which placeholders are added on a slide is the order in which a screen reader will read the slide’s content for their users!

For example, if we add following placeholders on a slide as per the order listed below, the screen reader will read the content of each placeholder in that sequence:

  1. Text placeholder
  2. Picture placeholder (1)
  3. Picture placeholder (2)

Screenshot displaying order of placeholder first is the text placeholder and next two are picture placeholders

Reading order is very crucial feature when it comes to making presentations accessible for users with visual impairments who use a screen reader. Content placeholders determine the reading order of a slide and thereby play a significant part in making presentations accessible.

We can add placeholders on a slide and the content makes perfect sense when looked at it visually but the sequence in which it is read out for screen reader users might not necessarily be meaningful. It is therefore essential to arrange the order of placeholders to ensure that content of the slide is read out in a logical order.

So let’s find out how to arrange the order of different placeholders on a slide.

How to arrange placeholders?

To arrange placeholders, perform the following steps:

  1. Go to Home
  2. Click on Select.
  3. Click on Selection Pane.


  1. Go to Home
  2. Click on Arrange.
  3. Click on Selection Pane.

In a PowerPoint Presentation reading order sequence starts from bottom to top. If we want the content of a placeholder to be read out first, make sure that it is placed at the end in the selection pane.

Screenshot displaying selection pane with different types of placeholder with Bring forward and Send backward button highlighted.

Select the placeholder which you want to move then use up/down arrows to move the placeholder.

Tip: To edit/add/remove any placeholder or styles in the entire presentation just make changes in the master slide!

Make use of content placeholders and take an important step towards authoring accessible PowerPoint presentations!


By Janaki Konar

Associate Quality Analyst

1 reply on “Content Placeholder- Little known features of PowerPoint”

The most important part of PowerPoint accessibility is the use of slide layouts. Used correctly, these will ensure information on the slides have the correct heading structure and reading order.

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