Learn how to create compliant Word documents in 10 easy steps.
Use Word’s built-in heading styles
- Blind users depend on headings to navigate a document. Screen readers are programmed to find heading styles.
- You can modify the built-in styles, but do not create your own.
- To see if headings are in correct order, go to View > Navigation Pane.
- Microsoft offers a video on accessible headings.
Add Alt Text to images
- To add alt text, right-click any image and select Edit Alt Text.
- Keep the description short. Do not add “Image of” because the screen reader will announce this automatically.
- If the image is a link, the Alt Text should describe the destination.
- Microsoft offers a video on alt text.
- These instructions are for Word 365. Learn how to add alt text in Word 2016.
- Links should be meaningful and describe the destination.
- Highlight the text you want to make into a link, right-click, select Link and then select Insert Link. Add the URL you want into the Address bar.
- Examples of bad links:
- Examples of good links:
- Don’t display the entire URL in your document. Screen readers will read the URL out letter by letter. Use link text instead.
- Microsoft has a video on accessible links.
Add column headings on tables
- Give every column a heading. This helps screen readers make sense of the data contained in a table.
- Then you need to designate a header row. Here’s how: highlight the header row, right-click the table, and select Table Properties. Under Row, check this box: Repeat as header row at the top of each page.
- Don’t split or merge cells.
- Read more on creating accessible tables.
- Microsoft has a video on accessible tables.
Use lists whenever possible
- You must create lists using the built-in tools in Word. If you do not, the list is not detected as a list by screen readers.
- Screen readers announce how many items are in a list, allowing blind users to skip long lists if desired.
Use sans serif fonts
- Use sans serif fonts (e.g. Arial, Calibri). They are easier to read than serif fonts (e.g. Times New Roman).
- Use a minimum font size of 12 pt.
- Use real text rather than text in images. If you have to use an image with text, write the text you see into the alt text.
- Limit the use of font variations such as bold, italics and uppercase letters.
- To add a title and author, go to File > Info > Properties.
- You can also enter tags. Tags are keywords that are used by search engines to rank your document for relevance. Separate tags with commas.
Use colors and contrast correctly
- Don’t use color alone to convey meaning because some users are colorblind or blind users won’t see colors at all.
- Colors need to have enough contrast. Use a contrast checker.
Run the built-in accessibility checker in Word
- To run the checker, click on File > Info > Check for Issues > Check Accessibility
- Microsoft has a video on how to check accessibility in Word.
Save as PDF
- Post documents as PDFs because they are more accessible than Word documents.
- Go to File, then select Save As. Choose a storage location. Then change the file type to PDF (*.pdf) in the dropdown menu.
- Never use “Print to PDF”. This action will convert the document into one large image–losing all text and accessible features.
- Check and correct PDF accessibility using the PAVE tool.
- A general rule is to use the built-in tools in Word to create everything.
- When naming a file, use hyphens not spaces or underscores.
- Here’s a helpful 5-minute video on accessible Word documents from NC State.
- Microsoft has videos on how to make accessible PowerPoint presentations and accessible Excel spreadsheets.