Accessible Word Document

Microsoft Word is the most common used word processor on the market today. Accessible Word documents benefit not only the people with disabilities, but also the people without. Accessible Word documents also make you easier to convert them into other accessible formats like PDF or html. Next we will discuss how we can make Word documents accessible.

Headings

Using heading style (Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3...) can let you build up a good and accessible document structure. A good structure document with headings will make screen reader users much easier to navigate through your document. Microsoft Word has its built-in feature to allow you to create heading structure in your document. Click on Home and choose your heading style.

Numbered or bulleted lists

Numbered or bulleted list will provide a good visual layout for your list items and make your document more readable for assistive technology users.

Paragraph Spacing & column tool

Using paragraph spacing feature of Word to do the spacing between paragraphs will avoid generating empty paragraphs by hitting Enter key. Also creating column with column tool will make your regular document, newsletter, flyer and so on more readable in a consistent reading order. Click on Page Layout and choose Spacing.

Font size for body text at least 12 and 18 for title

It is recommended people use font size at least 12 for body text and 18 for title. This will benefit the people with visual impairments, especially for low vision.

Alternative text for non-text elements

Provide alternative texts to all non-text elements such as images, pictures, photos, etc. if such non-text elements convey information. The alternative texts should convey the equivalent information with non-text elements. Right click the image, choose Format Picture, and then add alternative text under Description instead of under Title.

Tables

It is impossible to assign table headers to a table created in Word. Word provides you with an option to choose Repeat as header row at the top of each page under Table Properties and this only affects tables which extend beyond one single page. If you convert your table to PDF format, the PDF will treat the first row of table as table header.

Table of contents

You'd better consider a table of contents if you have a long document. Once you have a good heading structure, it will be easy to create your searchable table of content. Click on References and choose Table of Contents.

Links

In order to make a meaningful hyperlink text other than just a URL address, provide a text description which best describes your URL address. Right click on your link, choose Edit Hyperlink and then insert your description text after Text to display.

Color use

Ensure the background and foreground colors have sufficient contrast, e.g. white and black. Do not use the color as an exclusive means to convey information.

Use simple language

This will benefit people with learning disabilities.

Word 2016 Accessibility Checker

Microsoft Word 2010 and above includes a new feature, Check Accessibility (File - Info - Check for Issues - Check Accessibility) , which allows users to identify and fix the possible errors on the documents and also provide you with tips and explanations.