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PowerPoint and Blindness

Renae Osowski

Henter-Joyce (1999) has recently written script files that make PowerPoint (1999) very accessible. Access to this software is critical for individuals who are blind. This is especially true in school systems where knowledge of PowerPoint is part of the curriculum. In the past, individuals with blindness relied heavily on sighted peers to participate in, and complete presentations with antiquated overhead projectors. Independent presentations can easily be produced when PowerPoint is made accessible.

The Process

Four students have been selected from four different school districts. They are required to have basic keyboarding skills and a working knowledge of JFW. Visual abilities range from legal blindness to total blindness. All students are Braille readers in junior high or high school.

The process begins by interviewing each student to establish his/her interest in PowerPoint, personal goals, and intended outcomes. Students are encouraged to talk with their teachers about required PowerPoint assignments, or projects they are interested in completing for a grade. Grading systems may vary from teacher to teacher and students must complete the work as assigned. For the purposes of this paper there are five requirements: (a) title page (b) a minimum of five slides of Bulleted Text (c) a minimum of two imported pictures (d) a minimum of three references and (e) a bibliography.

Instruction of PowerPoint will be conducted with the four selected students prior to classroom instruction by their teachers. This will allow for three things: (a) students will learn keystrokes and concepts (b) students will have the opportunity to share any technology expertise they have with other users who are blind (c) students will establish connections for peer support once they leave the group.

Although each student may choose a unique topic, the instruction on how to create a presentation is the same as follows: When PowerPoint is opened there are 4 options presented. Choosing Blank Presentation here is best for a beginning student. At the New Slide dialogue box, select Title Slide (this is default when creating a new presentation) and press enter. Before typing any text, the tab key can be used to move around in the screen. Once text is typed, Insert+ F8 will take the writing select off and open dialogue box that will allow the user to select the next placeholder.

New slides can be selected with Ctrl+M. There are several slide choices, but only 3 will be discussed. The Bulleted List option allows the student to have a centered title and bullet points. No more than 3 lines should be typed here, as the user has no auditory way of monitoring when his text runs off the page. Text and Clip Art also allows for a centered title, and includes text on the left half of the slide with a picture on the right, while Clip Art and Text displays the picture on the left with the text on the right. When adding a picture, press Insert+F8 and select Bitmap Placeholder. Open the Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. Press F1 to Browse Articles, and type the topic. Press F5 to move to Text button. Move the right arrow to Related Media, press enter, then choose a picture. Use the up arrow to check for the type of article. Enlarge the picture with Ctrl+Alt+E. Copy the picture with Ctrl+C, Alt+tab to PowerPoint and Ctrl+V to paste the picture into the slide.

Transitions can be set by entering Alt+D for Slide Show, and T for Transition. The focus lands on Effects. Random Transitions are a nice choice for the beginning student. To get through the options quickly, press W (Wipe Down), then R for Random.

Applying Designs should always occur after the presentation is completed. In order to do this; the student must switch to the Outline format to view the entire presentation. This is the only time the Outline format should be used. Select View on the menu bar with Alt+V, then O for Outline. Select all the slides with Ctrl+A. Enter Alt+O for Format and Y to Apply Design. Enter Shift+Tab to go to the list of Presentation Designs. Use the up/down arrow keys to select a Presentation Design, then Enter to switch back to the Slide View.

The Slide Show can be viewed by entering Alt+D and pressing Enter. The status of the slide show can be monitored to Read Slide Titles Only, Read New Slide, or Don’t Monitor Slide Show by entering Ctrl+Shift+M. Use Ctrl+Insert+Down Arrow to review the screen as needed.

Accessibility Issues

When creating a new slide using bulleted text, the student cannot tell when he gets to the bottom of the slide. To resolve this, the student is encouraged to create an outline of the presentation on index cards. Each card should include a total of 4 lines (3 with pictures) and should be done prior to any work on the computer. The process of organizing thoughts on paper could prove to be highly beneficial in other areas of the student’s academic career as well.

When applying designs, it appears as though the designs that include movement (Blush, Dads Tie, Fans, Fireball, high voltage, Pulse, Ribbons) may be more difficult for JAWS to read than ones that are stationary. Currently this is a theory, and experimentation is necessary to draw direct conclusions.


In summary, students can create PowerPoint presentations independently. Beyond an understanding of the technology itself, students will gain confidence, express creativity and share ideas through the same medium as their sighted peers. Further, teachers will be able to grade students who are blind on the work they produce independently vs. the work they produce with a peer who is not visually impaired. In some cases, it may raise teacher expectations of what students, who are blind, can accomplish.

Equipment Needed

IBM-compatible computer equipped with JAWS vs. 3.3, DoubleTalk speech synthesizer, Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia 2000, Microsoft PowerPoint, JAWS script files for Grolier Encyclopedia.

PowerPoint Keystrokes and Concepts

Placeholder – this is a JFW term used to indicate assigned areas on the screen used for specific information. For example, in the Title Slide, there is a center title placeholder, and a subtitle placeholder. A bitmap placeholder indicates a space for a picture, and a body placeholder indicates space for text. Placeholders can be accessed by using Insert+F8. Scroll through the List Box of placeholders using the up and down arrow keys, then press enter to select.

The following JFW commands can be accessed by selecting Keyboard Manager in the Run JAWS Manager dialogue box – Insert+F2. BoldText Control+B RightJustify Control+R CenterText Control+E SayFont Insert+F CloseOfficeAssistant Control+Insert+F4 SayNextCharacter RightArrow

FollowSelectedHyperlink Control+Enter SayPowerPointVersion Control+Shift+V

Italic Text Control+I SayPriorCharacter LeftArrow

LeftJustify Control+J SaySeletedObject Insert+Shift+DownArrow

NextObject Tab SayStatusInfo Insert+Delete

NextSlide PageDown ScreenSensitiveHelp Insert+F1

PpHotkeyHelp Insert+H SelectHperlink Insert+F7

PriorObject Shift+Tab SelectShape Insert+F8

PriorSlide PageUp SpellCheck Insert+F9

ReadCurrentSlide Control+Insert+DownArrow ToggleSlideShowMonitor Control+Shift+M

UnderlineText Control+U


Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia 2000© [computer software]. (1999). Danbury, CT: Grolier Interactive, Inc.

Job access with speech, version 3.3 [computer software]. (1999). St. Petersburg, FL: Henter-Joyce.

McClanahan, Bruce, & Colleen Lines. Grolier Encyclopedia script file. [Online] Available

http://www.wssb.org, September 9, 1999.

Microsoft® PowerPoint® [computer software]. (1997).

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