Accessibility Guide

Designing Microsoft Office Documents to be Accessible

This document provides information to help you create Microsoft Office documents that are accessible for everyone. Links to various resources have been included throughout as well as under the Accessibility Resources at the end of the document.

Visit the PCC Creating Accessible Webpages in D2L page ( and Improve Your Course with Brightspace Accessibility Checker ( to read more about creating accessible content in D2L.

Microsoft Word


Headings are used to create structure for content within a document, allow screen readers to quickly navigate through a document, and improve the overall appearance and readability of the content for all users.

They are divided into levels usually ranging from 1-6. Heading 1 should be used for the document title. The next level should be heading 2, and so on. Heading 3 is bold/black in this document. Avoid skipping levels (for example, do not jump from a heading 2 to a heading 4).

Use the headings in the Styles toolbar within Word to create headings instead of making the text bold or ALL caps and making the font size bigger.

1. Create the text for the header within your Word document and then select the text you just created.

2. Then click on the appropriate heading style within the Styles toolbar (Heading 1, Heading 2, etc.) Refer to Figure 1

3. Format the size and font color to black and center text after the heading style is applied

Figure 1: Styles Toolbar

Font and Text Styles

Be sure to use a font size that is large enough to read, at least 11 or 12 points. Since sans serif fonts tend to be easier to read, use sans serif fonts such as Arial, Tahoma, Verdana, or others in your Word documents. Please do not use colors/text font to convey meaning.

Add “important” and/or bold text at the beginning of the sentence so the information will stand out for everyone. Refer to the example below on page 2.

Important: Assignment 1 Due on Wednesday, November 8 at 11:59 pm.

You can also use spacing by adding a blank line/ press enter after important information so that it stands out from the rest of the text.

Use underline for hyperlinks only. Refrain from adding numbers and symbols . ) and spaces manually in your document as the screen reader will read those out loud.


Lists provide structure to a document, which helps make the document accessible and visually appealing. There are three types of lists; ordered (numbered), unordered (bullet), and nested (multilevel).

You can add a list to a Word document by using the ordered list, unordered list, or multilevel list buttons on the Formatting Toolbar or in the Paragraph area on the Home tab. Refer to Figure 2 below titled “Add Lists”.

Figure 2: Add Lists

Descriptive Links

Descriptive links are links in which the user can determine the purpose of the link based on the text itself. It’s important to use descriptive links so the people that use screen readers and other assistive technologies will know where the link will take them.

Examples of descriptive links:

· Visit the BGSU CFE’s Find a Workshop ( page to see what workshops are available and to register for them.

· Visit the BGSU Accessibility Services ( office website for more information.

· You can view the BGSU CFE’s calendar of events ( on their homepage.

Avoid using words like “click here” that don’t give the user a clear idea of where the link will take them.

Alternative Text for Images

It’s important to add alternative text or alt text to every image included in the document. Alt text is used to provide a way of explaining the content and function of each image non-visually for screen reader software to read out loud and in cases where the image doesn’t display properly.

If the image is decorative, then a description is not necessary.

Add alt text to the following types of Word document images:

· Images[TB1] ; Images of text

· Illustrations; SmartArt

· Shapes

· Charts

· Math symbols/Equations

Tips on using alternative text with your Word documents:

· Avoid lengthy alt text by keeping it short using no more than 120 characters.

· Image file names should not be used as the alt text.

· Provide enough information to describe the image, but do not simply repeat the information that is provided within the surrounding text.

· You do no need to include words such as "image of" or "picture of" in the alt text since screen readers will automatically announce this information.

To add alt text to an image in Word:

1. Right-click on the image and select “Format Picture” from the short-cut menu

2. Select “Alt Text” in the left-hand list in the dialog box

3. Enter the alternative text in the “Description” section only. Do not enter text into the title area.

4. Then click the “OK” button

Data Tables

Tables can be helpful to organize and present data in a way that the learner can better understand the information. This also helps the listener to better understand the organization of the table and the data it contains.

1. Adding table headings help screen readers to better navigate through the table. Set table header to “Header Row” or “Header Column”, which will change the data cells <td> to header cells <th>.

2. When creating tables, do not merge cells. This causes confusion for the screen reader and will then confuse the listener.


When creating columns in Word, always use true columns. Do not use columns created by using the tab key.

You can create true columns by selecting “Columns” on the Layout tab and then select the number of columns you would like to be added to your document. Refer to Figure 3 below titled “Add Columns”.

Figure 3: Add Columns

Microsoft Word Resources

· NCDAE Cheetsheets Microsoft Word (

· WebAIM Microsoft Word Creating Accessible Documents (