Making a Word Document Accessible

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Windows: Best practices for making Word documents accessible

The following table includes key best practices for creating Word documents that are accessible to people with disabilities.

What to fix How to find it Why fix it How to fix it
Include alternative text with all visuals.Visual content includes pictures, SmartArt graphics, shapes, groups, charts, embedded objects, ink, and videos. To find missing alternative text, use the Accessibility Checker. Alt text helps people who can’t see the screen to understand what’s important in images and other visuals.Avoid using text in images as the sole method of conveying important information. If you must use an image with text in it, repeat that text in the document. In alt text, briefly describe the image and mention the existence of the text and its intent. Add alt text to visuals in Office 365Add alt text to visuals in Office 2016
Add meaningful hyperlink text and ScreenTips. To determine whether hyperlink text makes sense as standalone information and whether it gives readers accurate information about the destination target, visually scan your document. People who use screen readers sometimes scan a list of links. Links should convey clear and accurate information about the destination. For example, instead of linking to the text Click here, include the full title of the destination page.

Tip: You can also add ScreenTips that appear when your cursor hovers over text or images that include a hyperlink.

Add hyperlink text and ScreenTips
Ensure that color is not the only means of conveying information. To find instances of color-coding, visually scan your document. People who are blind, have low vision, or are colorblind might miss out on the meaning conveyed by particular colors. Use accessible text format
Use sufficient contrast for text and background colors. To find insufficient color contrast, use the Accessibility Checker.You can also look for text in your document that’s hard to read or to distinguish from the background. If your document has a high level of contrast between text and background, more people can see and use the content. Use accessible text color
Use built-in headings and styles. To find headings that are not in a logical order, use the Accessibility Checker. To preserve tab order and to make it easier for screen readers to read your documents, use a logical heading order and the built-in formatting tools in Word.For example, organize headings in the prescribed logical order. Use Heading 1, Heading 2, and then Heading 3, rather than Heading 3, Heading 1, and then Heading 2. And, organize the information in your documents into small chunks. Ideally, each heading would include only a few paragraphs. Apply built-in heading stylesUse bulleted listsUse ordered lists
Use a simple table structure, and specify column header information. To ensure that tables don’t contain split cells, merged cells, nested tables, or completely blank rows or columns, use the Accessibility Checker. Screen readers keep track of their location in a table by counting table cells. If a table is nested within another table or if a cell is merged or split, the screen reader loses count and can’t provide helpful information about the table after that point. Blank cells in a table could also mislead someone using a screen reader into thinking that there is nothing more in the table.Screen readers also use header information to identify rows and columns. Use table headers

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