On this page: Background and Purpose | Instructions | An HHS Consideration | Guidelines and Standards

Font Substitution Checkpoint (MS PowerPoint)

Background and Purpose

There are a number of reasons why it is best for the content authors themselves use CommonLook Office GlobalAccess to create accessible PDF documents.  One such reason is that the author should have on his or her machine all of the fonts being used in a particular presentation.  The Font Substitution checkpoint is triggered when the computer being used to generate the PDF does not have all of the fonts installed that where used during authoring.

If the original presentation’s fonts are not available, CommonLook Office GlobalAccess prompts the user to choose appropriate substitute fonts before creating the PDF.  Important Note:  Any font substitution has the potential to significantly change the appearance of the PDF document. In general, font substitution should be avoided.  Of course, the easiest way to avoid font substitution problems is to create the PDF on the same computer used to create the PowerPoint presentation.

The Purpose of this checkpoint is to alert the user to potential font issues in the PDF and to provide an opportunity to substitute appropriate fonts for those that are missing.


  1. Click on the “Show Font Substitutions” button to display the “Font Substitution” dialog.
  2. Install the missing fonts, close and re-open the presentation.
  3. Alternatively, confirm that the substituted font is appropriate and Click “Convert Permanently.”

An HHS Consideration

The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in their PDF File 508 Checklist (2013), under ID 1.4 asks, “Does the document utilize recommended fonts (i.e., Times New Roman, Verdana, Arial, Tahoma, Helvetica, or Calibri)?”  PowerPoint presentations, and PDF documents generated from them, should adhere to this guideline as well.

Guidelines and Standards

Although Section 508, WCAG 2.0, and PDF U/A do not specify font substitution, there are basic requirements pertaining to readability.  For example WCAG 2.0, Guideline 3.1 states that content should be “readable and understandable.”  Clearly, font selection and issues with font substitution could be a factor.

DocumentPublishedScopeConformance Criteria
Section 508 – 2001 Regulations (USA)2001“Web-Based Information & Applications”Not Specified
W3C WCAG 2.02008Web ContentNot Specified
Health and Human Services – HHS (USA)2013PDF File 508 ChecklistID 1.4
ISO 14289 (PDF/UA)2012PDF TechnologySection 7.21