Creating Accessible Documents

As content creators, it is important to create documents that are accessible using built-in features in each of the word processor platforms. An accessible document means it should have a heading structure, use of numbered or bulleted lists, alternative text for images, charts, and graphs, and meaning text for hyperlinks. A document that contains these features allows for individuals using assistive technology to access and navigate information effectively.

Standard Accessibility Features

Using the styles menu, paragraph menu, and the accessibility menu along with other features will when creating documents in a word processor will allow both sighted and non-sighted users access to the materials, whether it is provided to them in the original format, or converted to PDF.  The following areas should be addressed within a document:

Use of a Heading Structure

By utilizing the headings within the styles menu in sequential order, not only can you control the look of your document for signed users, but this allows a structure to be tagged within your document for non-sighted users. When using the styles menu (heading 1, heading 2, heading 3, paragraph, etc.) these labels will also convert, should you save your document as a PDF. When the PDF with the structure above is viewed by a non-sighted user, their assistive technology will allow them to view all the heading 1’s or all the heading 2’s within your document.

Use of Lists

Similar to using a heading structure, bulleted or Numbered lists add a layer of structure to your document. When lists are included using the paragraph menu in Word, this allows screen reading software to notify non-sighted users that they will be listening to a list of some kind. Bulleted lists should be used when listing information, whereas numbered lists should be used when explaining a step-by-step process.

Use of Alternative Text for All Images, Charts, and Graphs

Alternative text is required for any visual picture that provides a user with meaningful information. If an image is present in a document but does not have alternative text, or is not tagged appropriately as decorative (in Word) or artifact (in PDF), a screen reader will not have any information to provide to a non-sighted user. This user will then not know if the information on the screen is important. Furthermore, if the visual image does not have appropriate alternative text or be labeled as decorative or as an artifact, it may not allow the user to move onto other information provided within your document. Alternative text should be clear, concise and descriptive in nature. If information about the image is already within the text, it may not need to be added again through the alternative text process.

Use of Meaningful Text for Hyperlinks

All active links within a document should include meaningful text, especially if this document will be or could be shared electronically. URL’s are only appropriately used for documents that will be printed. Hyperlinks (activated links) should use descriptions of the page, or the web-page title to provide information to non-sighted users. Screen reading software allows non-sighted users to tab through all hyperlinks. When a link is activated, a screen reader will state link before reading the meaningful text, or URL if not changed.

Microsoft Word 2016- PC

Word is a commonly-used application that offers many ways in which to create an accessible document. Using the built-in structure can allow individuals using Assistive Technology (screen readers, braille machines, and text-to-speech) access your document.

Video Series on Creating an Accessible Syllabus

Guide for Creating Accessible Microsoft Word 2016 Documents

Microsoft Word 2019- PC

Word 2019 is very similar to Word 2016 in which it continues to offer the best way in which to create accessible documents, as long as the user is engaging with the software accessibility features such as styles (heading structure), lists features, Alternative Text for Images, and table features. Word 2019 has added additional accessibility features, which enhance document accessibility when converted to PDF.

Guide for Creating an Accessible Word 2019 Document

Screen Cast, How to Create an Accessible Word Document – Word 2019

Microsoft Word- Mac

Word is a commonly-used application that offers many ways in which to create an accessible document. Using the built-in structure can allow individuals using Assistive Technology (screen readers, braille machines, and text-to-speech) access your document.

Guide for creating Accessible Microsoft Word Documents (Mac)

Screen Cast, How to Create an Accessible Word Document – Word for Apple

Google Docs

Google Docs is commonly used to create documents that can be easily shared with others. By using the built-in accessibility features in Google Docs, you are ensuring that the document can be accessed by all. Google Docs does not currently have a built-in accessibility feature but you can use the Chrome add-in Grackle to check the accessibility of the document.

Guide for creating accessible Google Docs

Screen Cast, How to Create an Accessible Word Document – Google Docs