The accessibility checker is a great tool to use AFTER you have already implemented accessibility principles into your MS Word document. For a refresh on that – review the Microsoft Word Accessibility page.
The accessibility checker in Microsoft Word is a great tool for identifying color contrast errors, finding images that do not have alternate text, and applying table headers.
Do not rely on the accessibility checker for compliance. Use it as a tool to verify your work.
The Accessibility Guy
Video overview of how to use the accessibility checker in Microsoft Word
Text Directions of using the accessibility checker in Microsoft Word
Select the Review tab
Select Check accessibility
Review the errors and fix
Common pitfalls of the accessibility checker in Microsoft Word
The accessibility checker cannot determine the following elements on its own:
So, you want to make your hyperlinks accessible? There are a few rules about hyperlinks for text. These exist because of how they interact with assistive technology. You can also apply hyperlinks to images and other elements.
It depends on the software but JAWS will pull up a list of links that a user can select from. The list is generated by the on screen text that is the link. It is important that your links are clear and concise and tell the user where they are going before they are interacted with.
Video walkthrough of how to make hyperlinks accessible in Microsoft Word
Text overview of how to make hyperlinks accessible in Microsoft Word
Alternative text descriptions of images (Alt text) helps users understand the picture’s significance (or lack of.)
This content is typically only accessed with assistive technology. In some cases, if you hover your mouse over an image, it will provide the alternate text as a pop up.
Provide descriptions around the image in the source document for optimal results but remember that not everyone might be able to access the alternate text.
Video overview of how to apply alternate text to images in Microsoft Word
The context is everything for images in your document. If the image adds important information to the learning experience, it should be described. If an image does not add any value, you may consider marking it as decorative. Lets review some samples:
Sample 1 image
This image was found on the website which is trying to attract visitors. It needs detailed alternate text.
Sample 1 image description
A forest with giant sequoias, the largest trees in the world, is a feast for the senses. The giant sequoias’ red/orange bark is distinct among the grey and brown bark of other trees. And if you stand beneath one of these giants, you can gaze all the way up its tall trunk and through its high branches to see sky above. The treetop is often hidden above the highest branches. If you are quiet and listen, you may hear a breeze rustling the foliage of smaller trees – the sugar pines, white and red firs, or incense-cedar. Or perhaps you’ll hear a woodpecker calling and tapping against a tree, seeking insects. If you have time to take a walk, you may see a giant sequoia along the trail – try to press your fingers against its spongy, thick bark.
Sample 2 Icon
This image is an icon and in my opinion does not offer any additional value to the content provided, so I would mark it as decorative.
Giant sequoias grow at middle elevations along the west slope of the Sierra Nevada. While not the world’s oldest trees, they are known to reach ages of up to 3,400 years. Tree ring studies of giant sequoias provide a long record of climate and fire history, helping park managers and scientists better understand relationships of climate, fire, and the giant sequoia life cycle.
Sample 3 Pie Chart
This pie chart provides important information to the user. Because it is an image containing text, we need to provide all of the data in the description of the image.
Sample 3 Alternate text
The National Park Service Wilderness by category is as follows:
Non-Wilderness. 340 Units. 14+ million Acres
Eligible. 21 Units. 17+ mill Acres
Proposed. 14 Units. 3+ million acres
Recommended. 17 Units. 5+ million acres
Designated. 50 Units. 44+ million acres
Additional things to consider when writing alternate text
Context is everything
Decorative images should be marked as decorative
Pie charts and other graphs will need all data described
Focus on the emphasis of the image
Avoid using “image of” in description
Be sure to check that the image does not just have the file name in the alternate text area. For example: jordison.png might be the default value in the alt text area for an image – be sure to spot check all images to ensure that the file name did not get inserted.
Keep alternate text less than 100 characters. If there is more text needed – be sure to include it next to the image on the page.
Text overview of how to apply alternate text in Microsoft Word
There are lots of ways to format list items in Microsoft Word incorrectly – this post will cover the right ways to do it!
The type of list that you choose is important! A bulleted list or unordered list is used for items that have no particular order. These could be things like items to get at a grocery store, for example:
Whereas, numbered list items should be used when the order is important. For example:
Get into your car
Turn it on
Drive to the store
If a list is not structured appropriately then there is a high chance that anyone using a screen reader will have difficulty engaging with the content.
Video overview of how to apply list items in Microsoft Word
This video will walk users through how to apply list items, edit list items, and change the way list items look.
Need additional tutorial videos?
Text overview for how to apply a list item in Microsoft Word
Select the text that you want to make into a list.
On the Home tab, in the Paragraph group, select the Number or Bullets list icon.
Headings help with general navigation and are a key component in creating accessible documents. Those who use screen readers commonly search and navigate a document based on its heading structure.
Headings that are created by simply enlarging words and making them a different color do not actually make them structurally a heading. So make sure you are using styles that are built into Microsoft word.
There are of course some quick rules for using headings:
Use at least one H1 – used as the title (The title style is not recognized by a screen reader!)
All H2’s should be subtopics to the main H1
Headings should not skip order. There should not be an H4 without an H3 first
Think of headings like using and building an outline.
Video Overview of how to apply headings to a Microsoft word document
Need more Video walkthroughs? Check out The Accessibility Guy YouTube channel
When I start to apply headings to a document I always like to start by opening the navigation pane and then selecting the headings tab. On windows, this can be opened by pressing CNTRL + F on the keyboard.
The image above is a great example of how to use headings to build an outline for all of your content.
Text Overview on how to apply headings to a Microsoft word document
Select some text
Choose a style from the quick styles menu from the home tab
Go through the rest of the document and apply the styles throughout!
Need to learn the next steps in making your word document accessible?
Im not sure I could keep count of the number of times I have been asked this question so here is a whole post dedicated to the topic!
Do not use the print to pdf function in MS Word. This will overwrite all of your hard work that you did in MS Word.
The Accessibility Guy
If you properly format your word document – you can export an almost perfect PDF file that will be close to passing accessibility requirements. By making a word document accessible, you can cut the time to remediate a PDF by more than 90%. Need some guidance on how to make Word documents accessible? The image below is a link to the Microsoft Word accessibility page.
Video Overview of how to convert from Word to PDF and retain the structure
Text Overview for how to set settings for export from Word to PDF
Did you know you can change the way that your headings look in Microsoft word? The default heading colors might not be ideal for your project. Typically, when you apply a heading, it will format the text to the default template within Microsoft Word.
So if you want to change the default blue font – check out the content below!
Video overview of how to change the way headings look in Microsoft word
Text overview of how to change the way headings look in Microsoft word
Format some text the way you want it to look with a font, color, and font size.
Right-click the quick styles menu and select Update to Match Selection
This will change every Heading 2 throughout your document to match the same formatting.
Make sure the color you pick passes color contrast requirements!
Don’t want to worry about making your documents accessible? I can do it for you!
This video is going to look at applying columns to a document in Microsoft Word. Let’s apply some columns to our text in Microsoft Word. The first thing I’m going to do is select all of the texts that I want to put into a column. Under the layout ribbon. Under the Page Setup options, we have the word columns. This is where we can select however many columns we want to add to the page. This is perfect for ensuring reading order for a screen reader. As this content will be read in the correct order. If you enjoyed this video at all, please drop me a like on the video and subscribe. It really helps me out thank you