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Word Accessibility

Whether you are making a Word document or preparing a PDF, the easiest way is to make the document accessible when you create it. Here's how:

Quick Tips

  1. Title - Set a Title.
    • Click File, Info, look under Properties, and enter a clear, meaningful Title.
  2. Headings - Use "Styles" for headings.
    • Find "Styles" on the Home menu. Right-click a style and use "Update to Match Selection" or "Modify..." to customize it's appearance.
    • Use Heading 1 for the title of the document, Heading 2 for main section headings, Heading 3 for sub-section headings, etc.
    • Check "Navigation Pane" on the View menu to see the headings in your document.
  3. Lists - Use "Bullets" or "Numbering" for lists.
    • Don't insert blank lines between list items.
    • Go to Paragraph settings, uncheck "Don't add space between paragraphs of same style," and change before/after spacing if needed.
  4. Columns - Use "Columns" for columns.
    • Find "Columns" on the Layout menu. Don't use spaces, tabs, or tables to make columns.
    • Insert "Column Breaks" to control where new columns start.
  5. Pictures - Add "Alt Text" to Pictures (and Shapes, Smart Art, etc.)
    • Right click a picture, select View Alt Text, and enter the Alt Text (for older versions, select Format Picture, Alt Text).
    • Don't describe the picture; enter alt text that communicates what the picture communicates:
      • If there are words in the picture, put them in the alt text.
      • If the picture doesn't communicate anything, check "Mark as decorative".
    • Position pictures "In Line with Text." (Decorative pictures may be positioned "Behind text" or "In front of text").
  6. Tables - Use "Table" for tables.
    • Find "Table" on the Insert menu. Don't use spaces, tabs, or columns to make tables.
    • Keep tables simple, with column headers in the first row and row headers in the first column.
    • Don't merge cells or use blank cells for spacing; adjust border styles and/or cell margins instead.
    • When pasting a table from Excel, paste it as a table rather than an image, link, or object.
    • For tables that run on to additional pages, set "Repeat Header Rows" on the Table Layout menu.
  7. Text Boxes & WordArt - Avoid using them.
    • Use Paragraph indents, spacing, and borders instead of text boxes.
    • Copy WordArt, paste as "Picture", and add Alt Text.
  8. Check Accessibility - Use Word's accessibility checker.
    • Find "Check Accessibility" on the Review menu. Click the bottom half of the button to show its menu:
      • Check Accessibility - review and fix any errors and warnings the accessibility checker finds. 
      • Alt Text - with the Alt Text pane showing, click on each image in the document to check (and if necessary correct) its alt text.
      • Navigation Pane - check that all the headings in your document show in the Navigation pane at the correct level.
    • Be aware that the Accessibility Checker can find many but not all accessibility issues and sometimes makes mistakes.
  9. Check Color Contrast - See our guide on Color Contrast.
    • Check that all text/background color combinations "Pass (AA)".

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