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I have almost 4,000 PowerPoint slides from which I am asked to make accessible PDFs. I'm working with PowerPoint 2010, and creating the PDFs using the Acrobat X plug-in as I am told that's the "best" way to make accessible PDFs.

Many of the slides have "PowerPoint art," sketches made by putting shapes, arrows, etc. on the slide. I've found that I can use "Arrange -> Group" to make an object of the collection of shapes, and I can assign alternate text to the object with [right click] Format Picture -> Alt text. However, when I then choose Acrobat -> Create PDF the alternate text does not appear as a tool-tip, as it does on images. (I know of no way to test whether a screen-reader can see it.) Edit: OK... I've figured out "Read Out Loud," so I can have Acrobat read to me. It's slow, but it will let me check. To my dismay, I've found that Acrobat X and Adobe Reader X read differently, with Reader X reading some things that are tagged as background.

Further experimentation shows that I can use PowerPoint's "Save as Picture" to make a PNG of the sketch, paste it into the slide, and apply alternate text to the image. This is hideously labor-intensive and leaves something that cannot be edited with PPT. If I paste the image over the PPT art, any alternate text originally assigned to the underlying shapes appears still to be there, which is likely to be confusing to the blind user.

Surely there is an easier way to do this, but I haven't been able to find it.

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It is indeed a hideous labour-intensive method you mentioned. But unfortunately it is the only way as I believe that shapes are not treated as images (more likely they are saved as vectors) and thus may not keep Alt Text property of images. However, you can simply copy a shape and paste it right away as a picture and then attach some Alt Text, reducing some steps in this procedure.

To paste shapes as pictures, select one and copy (CTRL+C). From the Home tab on the Ribbon, click the arrow below Paste and choose the icon with caption Picture (the first button from right, in most cases). You can now add Alt Text on this image and be able to keep it in the exported PDF.

Drawbacks in this method

  1. Shapes pasted as pictures are uneditable; they are no longer grouped shapes. So before you start converting every shape to pasted pictures, keep a backup file with the original editable shapes in case you have some typos to fix.

  2. It is still a long procedure if you have many shapes to convert and then attach each one's Alt Text.

However, keep in mind that you'll get Alt Text at the end. Personally I always prefer to work with pictures in Word and PowerPoint as I can resize them freely as one entity comparing to grouped shapes.

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