Making MS Word Documents Accessible

Creating Accessible Word Docs

Objective:  

Manhattan College ITS is encouraging employees to begin to take some simple steps that will structure your documents so that your documents are more accessible. When creating documents, spreadsheets or presentations it is important to provide structure to all your documents in a way that allows them to be accessible by people with different abilities. Fortunately many word processing tools such as MS Word are very advanced in the accessibility area and allow you to use features generally available within each tool.

In this challenge we will dive deeper and focus on best practices, incorporating clear layout and design in creating accessible Word Docs. Instructions, video tutorials and links are also included.


How Does Digital Accessibility Impact Manhattan College Faculty, Staff and Students?

  • Faculty creating instructional materials and presenting lessons.
  • Employees creating documents, forms, newsletters and correspondence for distribution.
  • Students writing reports and preparing presentations.
The "Navigation pane" features headers for each section of your document, making it simple to quickly jump from section to section. This only works when you apply headings in the Outline view.

See below for more details on how to use the built in headings in MS Word: 

how to enable the option for the navigation pane

To turn on Outline view, navigate to View in task bar and select Show document outline from the dropdown menu.

1. Include alternative text with all visuals

Visual content

Includes pictures, clip art, SmartArt graphics, shapes, groups, charts, embedded objects, ink, and videos.
Alt text helps people who can’t see the screen to understand what’s important in images and other visuals.
Many text editor environments, including programs such as Word, allow you to include ALT text for images.

Avoid using text in images as the sole method of conveying important information.

If you must use an image with text in it, repeat that text in the document. In alt text, briefly describe the image and mention the existence of the text and its intent.

2. Add meaningful hyperlink text and ScreenTips

To determine whether hyperlink text makes sense as standalone information and whether it gives readers accurate information about the destination target, visually scan your document.

People who use screen readers sometimes scan a list of links. Links should convey clear and accurate information about the destination. For example, instead of linking to the text "Click here", include the full title of the destination page.

  • Example: Avoid writing: "Click here to view our course offerings.”
  • Instead write: “Explore our courses.."
3. Ensure that color is not the only means of conveying information. To find instances of color-coding, visually scan your document. You can also look for text in your document that’s hard to read or to distinguish from the background. People who are blind, have low vision, or are colorblind might miss out on the meaning conveyed by particular colors. If your document has a high level of contrast between text and background, more people can see and use the content.

4. Use built-in headings and styles.

Image demonstrating how to apply headings in MS Word
How to apply headings in MS Word

To preserve tab order and make it easier for screen readers to read your documents:
  • Organize headings in the prescribed logical order.
  • Use a logical heading order and the built-in formatting tools in Word.
Use Heading 1, Heading 2, and then Heading 3, rather than Heading 3, Heading 1, and then Heading 2. And, organize the information in your documents into small chunks. Ideally, each heading would include only a few paragraphs.

5. Use a simple table structure, and specify column header information

Screen readers keep track of their location in a table by counting table cells. If a table is nested within another table or if a cell is merged or split, the screen reader loses count and can’t provide helpful information about the table after that point. Blank cells in a table could also mislead someone using a screen reader into thinking that there is nothing more in the table. Screen readers also use header information to identify rows and columns.

Follow the same format for Excel, PowerPoint & Outlook

Watch this video to gain an understanding about the impact of accessibility and the benefits for everyone in a variety of situations:


Summary:

Improve page readability by using using the Outline view in MS Word to help you set up a clear, easy to read document. Use links that are easily noticeable and understandable.

  • First, don’t make users hunt around the page in search for clickable elements. 
  • Second, don’t force users to read the text surrounding a link to determine where it leads. 
  • Use color, built in headings, styles and simple table structure when creating documents.
Once you complete reviewing the materials from the third topic of the Digital Accessibility Challenge take a few minutes to answer these questions: 

Last modified: Monday, 14 January 2019, 2:53 PM