On this page: Background and Purpose | Instructions | Automated Accessibility Check (HHS) | Guidelines and Standards

Creating a Tagged Document with a Logical Reading Order (MS PowerPoint)

Background and Purpose

All PDF document accessibility standards and guidelines include language regarding the logical reading order of PDF documents.  This language includes various components/ wording such as:

  • Documents shall be organized so that they are readable without requiring an associated style sheet.  In other words, the reading order of the document can be determined based on the structure of the document by itself.
  • The presentation of content by assistive technology shall follow the logical order as it is presented visually.
  • If the sequence in which content is presented affects its meaning of that content then a correct reading sequence must be able to be programmatically determined.

The Purpose of this checkpoint is to assure that the generated PDF document will be read by assistive technology in the same logical sequence by which it would be read in print format.


When CommonLook Office GlobalAccess opens on this checkpoint, on the left side of the wizard a panel will list all of the slides used in the presentation.  When a slide is selected, the panel on the right will list every element on that particular slide. The reading order of the elements on the slide will be set to follow the order in which the slide elements are listed.

  1. Click the arrow to the right of “Task” to scroll down through the elements, making sure that their placement in the reading order is correct.
  2. If needed, use the “Down” or “Up” arrows to change the reading order of the elements on the slide. The “Order Objects” button will automatically order the elements on the slide to be read from top-to-bottom and left-to-right.
  3. When finished with the first slide, click the arrow to the right of “Task” to check the reading order of the next (and subsequent) slides.

Screen shot of the panel in CommonLook Office Global Access in which users can verify and, if necessary, correct the reading order of the elements on a PowerPoint slide.

Headers and Footers

CommonLook Office GlobalAccess will automatically artifact content in the header and/or footer sections of PowerPoint slides (such as slide numbers) and this content will not be read by assistive technology.  If header or footer content should be read, move it to a logical place on the slide so that it is included in the tagged content.

References and Footnotes

PowerPoint does not include the functionality for creating references and footnotes that other Microsoft products (such as MS Word) do.  When creating references and footnotes manually, be sure to check the reading order of these elements as well, following the instructions listed above.

Return to the Instructions section.

Automated Accessibility Check (HHS)

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) asks, in their PDF file 508 checklist, “If there is an automated accessibility checker in the program used to create the PDF, has that been run and does it pass?”  As a plug-in to MS Word, CommonLook Office GlobalAccess can be considered the “built in accessibility checker.”  By running through the other checkpoints in CommonLook Office Global Access, this checkpoint is satisfied as well.

Guidelines and Standards

This checkpoint is relevant to the following regulations, guidelines and standards:

DocumentPublishedScopeConformance Criteria
Section 508 – 2001 Regulations (USA)2001“Web-Based Information & Applications”(d)
W3C WCAG 2.02008Web ContentSC 1.3.2
Health and Human Services – HHS (USA)2013PDF File 508 ChecklistID 2.5
ID 3.1
ID 3.2
ISO 14289 (PDF/UA)2012PDF TechnologySection 7.1
Section 7.8
Section 7.9

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