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Summary: Microsoft Word documents are everywhere. Learn the basics of creating an accessible Word document and you'll be contributing to a much more accessible campus (and on your way to an accessibility black belt). BONUS: Accessifying your Word documents improves your documents for everyone.
Accessible Word documents
Many course materials begin as digital texts. Syllabus documents, assignment descriptions, and other resources often begin as a Word document. While the practice of making documents accessible for screen readers is vital for teachers and learners requesting accommodations when we draw on accessibility guidelines in setting up documents, we also improve “scannability” for readers who visually review a page looking for cues about main points, location of resources, and key deadlines in their preview reading of a document.
Unfortunately not every version of Word runs the same way (did you know Word on a PC has a built in accessibility checker you can run?) so if you find that your Word document doesn’t have the same features as what is described here, feel free to contact the DRC for guidance. We also have a tutorial specific to Google Docs.
1. Use “Styles” to format text
Key points to review within the Microsoft Word tutorials listed below include the following: Headings, Normal text, Lists (bulleted and numbered), and Hyperlinks. Draw on the tutorials to adopt or modify an existing Styles template for your personal use in development of your teaching and learning documents.
- How to Make a Word Document Accessible, from Portland Community College.
- Microsoft Word Tips, from Penn State University.
2. Develop practices to support images, graphics, and data tables
Through links provided below, learn about effective practices for embedding “alt text” – alternative, word-based text – that will allow assistive technologies like screen readers to convey descriptions of images and graphics, SmartArt and tables.
- Supporting Images via Alt Text – to learn more about titles, captions, incorporation of short, apt alt text descriptions, and empty alt text tagging, see the Penn State’s “Image ALT Text in Microsoft Office” page.
- Smart Use of SmartArt – to develop SmartArt objects with alternative text as part of creating your document, review the University of Minnesota resource Add Alternative Text to SmartArt Graphic.
- Creating Tables with Proper Headers and Reading Order – to ensure a proper reading order in tables, review the Tables sections within the Portland Community College overview document on “How to Make a Word Document Accessible.”
3. Keep the LIST checklist in mind
The acronym LIST provides a rubric that serves to remind document creators to make Links, Images, Structure, and Tables accessible. The “Is My Document Accessible?” rubric is made available by San Jose State University.