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Working at Home - Accessing Powerpoint

by Allan Wilson

on Fri Jun 26, 2020

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Teachers in some local authorities have been creating lessons and exercises combining text, images sound and video in Powerpoint for pupils to try at home. This is working well for many learners, but there can be issues depending on the device that is used to view the file, particularly for learners with reading and writing difficulties.

Viewing a Powerpoint on a Windows PC

Assuming the file was created on a Windows PC, there shouldn’t be any problems for most people viewing it. However, PowerPoint doesn’t have the Learning Tools / Immersive Reader support provided by most other Microsoft Office programs, so a learner with reading difficulties will need to use something else to provide text-to-speech support. Most learners will already have the tools they need (e.g. Read&Write, NaturalReader, Ivona MiniReader, MyStudyBar) on their device, but note that you will need to read the text in the slide editor, rather than in the presentation. Sound files should play back without any problems.

Viewing a Powerpoint on an iPad

Microsoft Powerpoint is available as an app for the iPad and can also be used online via Office 365. A presentation created on a PC will generally look OK in Powerpoint on an iPad, and sound / video material will also play back. However, the standard iPad text-to-speech tools (Speak Selection / Speak Screen / Speech Controller) don’t work in either the slide editor, or the presentation.

If the learner needs text-to-speech the best option is to open the Powerpoint file in the iPad’s Keynote app. This allows the iPad’s Speak Selection facility to read the text, but there can be problems with font substitution if the file was created using ‘fancy’ fonts. Sound files will play back from within the slide editor, but there may be a problem with playing multiple sound files back from a slide in a presentation.

Powerpoint slide, saying this is a test  Keynote slide

 

 

 

 

 

Powerpoint (left) and Keynote (right) versions of slide, with text, sound and images. In Keynote, the text font has been changed and the background shading in the text box has been lost. The sound recording icon has disappeared, but you can listen to the recording by tapping on the slide, which is fine for one recording, but won't work for multiple recordings on the slide.                                                  

If all else fails, take a screen shot of the slide (simultaneously hold down the Power switch and the Home button, which may take some practice) and use a screen shot reading app, such as Seeing AI, Claro ScanPen or Microsoft Office Lens to read the text.

Screen with text in fancy font - this is a writing exercise

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seeing AI can quickly read text - even in a 'fancy' font from a screen capture.

Viewing a Powerpoint on a Chromebook

There isn’t a Powerpoint app for the Chromebook, though you can access the online version via Office 365. It can be awkward to get a file into Powerpoint Online, but it provides one of the better viewing experiences. In presentation mode, the slide will be reproduced pretty accurately and the Chromebook’s Select to Speak facility can read from a text box, though it reads out accessibility information as well as the text, which can be annoying for somebody with reading difficulties. Powerpoint Online can also play back a sound recording from a slide. It is less effective with the slide editor as Select to Speak doesn’t work (nor do any of the text-to-speech apps I tried) and it doesn’t play back a sound recording.

A Powerpoint file will usually be opened automatically in the Google Slides app. Some formatting may be lost, e.g. a background colour in a text box, but text will be read accurately (without the additional accessibility information) by Select to Speak in both the slide editor and presentation mode. A sound recording will not be played back.

  

 

 

 

 

 

Powerpoint Online (left) and Google Slides (right) views of an original Powerpoint slide. The Online version looks OK, and text can be read from the text box. Clicking on the sound recording icon, gives an option to play the recording, which works. Sound plays back well, using Select to Speak, but the sound recording doesn't play in Slides.

Viewing a Powerpoint on an Android tablet

The Microsoft Powerpoint app for Android reproduces a slide very well and it can play back a sound file in presentation mode, but reading out text from a text box can be a problem. The Android Select to Speak facility doesn’t work in either the Slide editor or presentation mode, merely, and frustratingly, saying “No text found at that location.” when you try to select very obvious text. You have to get an additional app to read the text back. The best option I have found for this is the free T2S: Text to Voice app, but even this is a bit fiddly and the onscreen keyboard can get in the way.. Make sure you turn on Copy-to-Speak in the app settings. To use it, tap and hold on text to select it and then copy it. A round T2S button will appear near the top right of the screen. Tap on it to read the text. This can only be used in the slide editor. Sound files can be played in presentation mode.

As with the iPad, the Powerpoint presentation can be viewed with Google Slides. This provides a faithful representation of the appearance of the slide, but text can only be read out from the slide editor, using an app like T2S. A sound file cannot be played back in either the slide editor, or presentation mode.

Again, as with the iPad, there is the possibility of taking a screen capture with the Android and using Claro Scanpen or Office Lens to read text out loud from the image. Given the difficulties with some of the other options, this is actually an attractive alternative if you just need to read text out from a slide. To capture your screen, simultaneously hold down the Power button and the Volume down button on most Android devices.

Other Alternatives?

This is not a comprehensive guide to viewing a Powerpoint presentation accessibly on different devices, but just an overview of some of  the alternatives with notes on some of the issues that may arise. There are other options that we have not explored in depth for reading text:

Screenreaders. These are designed to allow people with a visual impairment to hear text read from a screen and are built into the operating system of iPads (VoiceOver),  Chromebooks (ChromeVox) and Android tablets (TalkBack). They could all be used to help a person with a reading difficulty access text, but they all change the way in which the device is controlled and may read additional text, which can be confusing.

PDF. Converting a Powerpoint presentation into a PDF file may make text easier to read, but video and audio material may be lost and the document may lose much of its richness.

No doubt, there are other options that we have not considered.

 

Tags: powerpoint, ipad, android, chromebook, accessibility

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