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​Document Accessibility tips

​Document Accessibility tips

1. Understand the types of documents 

When is comes to web accessibility some options are more accessible than others. Properly coded HTML is the most accessible option. Microsoft Word or Google documents are the most accessible types of documents. Powerpoint and PDF files can be checked and optimised for accessibility but they are generally less accessible than Word documents.

2. Use styles 

Use styles for consistent formatting across your document. Using styles has several benefits:

  • It will automatically create a table of contents at the top of your document.
  • Styles will be consistent through the document (Heading 1, Normal, List, etc.)
  • It makes it easy to adjust the font size on large print documents.
  • You can easily customise fonts throughout the document.

Some things to remember:

  • ​Styles are accessed and applied in the Word Ribbon, Google Docs ribbon or similar tools in your preferred editor. Keyboard users access the menu with ALT + H, L. 
  • Emphasise text with bold, but avoid extensive use of italics as they can be hard to read for print-disabled people.
  • Always left justify text, except for certain languages (eg Hebrew or Arabic).
  • Avoid center alignment to prevent reading issues for print-disabled users.
  • Set default style so that body text (normal) is a 12-point sans serif font (eg Arial). Headings (Heading 1 – 6) decrease in importance and are visually differentiated by font size and weight. 

How to apply styles in MS Word

3. Make your language accessible

  • ​Use plain language and avoid jargon.
  • Use short, clear and easy-to-understand sentences and paragraphs.
  • Use active voice and avoid the passive voice (ie Jenny kicked the ball. Not: The ball was kicked by Jenny.)
  • Use headings, lists and tables to make reading easier.
  • Aim for a readability score (available in Word through the Review ribbon) of 65. 

How to Check Readability Statistics in Microsoft Word [Tutorial]

Readability testing tools

​Ensure that the intended document language is set, especially on text that is pasted from elsewhere. Screenreaders will change synthesiser if they see a change of language so you may have English words on screen, but they were written with the proofing language set to French. The screenreader will read them, badly, with a French accent. 

​The proofing language can be set in File > Options > Language or, by highlighting a section of the document and using the ‘Set proofing language’ from the Review Ribbon. 

4. Add alternative text and captions for images 

Ensure all images that convey information not otherwise supplied in text have alt text. 

  • ​Use the Caption tool to add a caption. This may then be referenced and will automatically update. 
  • ​For visual clarity consider using the format picture tool to add a simple line as a border. ​ 

Screenshot from MS Word showing where to add alt text for an image

How to add, format, or delete captions in Word

5. Correctly format tables and lists – also Excel Spreadsheets 

​Lists are a key element of plain language.

  • Always use the List Style to set bullets
  • Use numbered lists where order is important. 

Creating accessible lists

​Tables can be a very accessible way to convey complex information.

  • ​Use a header row that repeats across multiple pages. 
  • ​Use one cell for one piece of information. 
  • ​Avoid merged cells.  
  • ​Use visual cues such as striping to help users align information horizontally. 
  • ​Don’t use tables to create visual effects such as columns and then make the table borders invisible. Use the column tools for this. 

How to create an accessible table in word

6. Use the Accessibility Checker in Word/PowerPoint 

​To enhance document accessibility, follow these steps: 

  • ​Access the built-in Accessibility Checker in Word through the 'Check Accessibility' button under the 'Review' ribbon. 
  • ​Address highlighted accessibility-related problems by following the provided guidance. 
  • ​Ensure that your document conforms to accessibility standards and guidelines. 
  • ​You can select the 'Keep accessibility checker running while I work' checkbox. in the checker This allows the tool to continuously monitor your work for accessibility issues while you write. 

How to use the Accessibility checker in Microsoft documents

7. Optimising your forms 

Keep forms as simple as possible by only asking for information you need for the current purpose. This is also good practice for data security.

  • ​Label each field uniquely.
  • ​If a specific format is required include that in the form field label e.g. Date, DD/MMM/YYYY. 
  • ​Use the Word or PDF form tools so that users may complete the document online.

General good form example

8. Tips for PowerPoint

  • ​All slides need a unique title. 
  • ​Use bullet points for easier comprehension.
  • ​PowerPoint content has a reading order determined by when each block was added. Use the Reading Order Pane to adjust to a logical order.
  • ​Advice for language, tables and images also applies.
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If you require an accessible version of any content on the site please contact us and we will be happy to assist.

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