Make Accessible Word Documents
Creating accessible Word documents helps students using screen readers access and navigate your content. Many of these features will also help visual users find what they need in long documents quickly.
Address the five major areas below to make your Word documents more accessible.
All links go to MSU Web Access tutorials, unless otherwise noted.
Who are We?
We are the Accessible Course Design Learning Community. We are a group of faculty and staff that meets once a month and takes a practice-based approach to exploring accessibility and Universal Design for Learning.
Do your Word documents properly use headings?
Use headings to designate major sections of your document. Headings provide context and a way to navigate quickly for users of assistive technologies like screen readers. Well-structured headings also make it easier to generate a meaningful table of contents for your document.
Do all images use alternative text?
Alternative (alt) text describes visual images, charts or graphs within the context that they appear. It helps individuals that rely on assistive technology, such as screen readers, to understand the provided content.
- Adding alt text to images, charts, and graphs in Microsoft Word
- Tips for creating meaningful alternative text from WebAIM
Are tables structured properly?
Tables need to be structured properly for the screen readers to navigate correctly. That usually means designating header rows, so users can understand what information is in each table cell. Well-structured tables also help visual users understand your data.
- Creating Table Headers from Microsoft Office support (Windows)
- Creating Table Headers from Microsoft Office support (Mac)
Are lists structured properly?
Lists items must be in a Word-formatted numbered or bulleted list so that they are grouped together for users of assistive technologies. Using list formatting also lets you quickly change the style or appearance of your list.
Do hyperlinks provide context to the user?
People who use screen readers sometimes scan a list of links. Links should convey clear and accurate information about the destination. Avoid the dreaded "click here!"
- How to create links in Word from Microsoft Office support
- Tips for creating meaningful links from WebAIM - this is about links more generally (not just about Word), but provides detailed information about how to use links effectively
- Text should have a strong contrast against the background. You can use color contrast checkers to test your colors. WCAG 2.0 requires a contrast ratio of 4.5:1.
- Avoid using repeated blank characters, like carriage returns between paragraphs, to create white space. Use text spaces practices instead.
- Avoid "floating" images, charts, or other objects. Floating occurs when an object is not "inline" with the text, so the text either wraps around the objects or appears behind or in front of the object. To correct this, right click on the object, choose "Wrap Text" from the menu, and choose "In Line with Text."
Interested in learning more?
Visit the Create more accessible Word documents training series by Microsoft.