Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Word Accessibility

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Making Word documents accessible is crucial for compliance with Section 508, a U.S. law aimed at ensuring digital content is usable by people with disabilities. Start with the basics: the file name should be short and descriptive, with no spaces or special characters. Document properties like Title, Author, and Language need to be set. Use accessible Sans Serif fonts and ensure a color contrast ratio of at least 4.5 to 1 for readability. Turn off track changes and remove all comments to avoid confusion.

For the document structure, use Word’s built-in features. Headings should be hierarchical, and lists should be created using the list feature. When adding images or tables, include meaningful alternate text or headers to guide the reader. Links should be keyboard accessible and descriptive. Avoid using text boxes, flashing text, and background images as they can be distracting and are often not accessible. If a document can’t be made fully accessible, an alternate accessible version must be provided. Following these guidelines ensures your Word documents meet Section 508 standards, making them accessible to everyone.

Requirements for all documents

General Formatting

  • The document uses Style elements like Headings in a hierarchical manner
  • Page numbers use the “Insert page number” feature and are not manually typed
  • Footnotes have been entered using the “Insert footnote” feature
  • Color alone is not used as the only means of emphasis
  • Lists have been created using the list feature in Microsoft Word
  • The document does NOT contain text boxes
  • The table of contents is entered using the “Reference” tool and not manually created
  • Any multiple associated images on the same page have been grouped as one object
  • Multi-layered objects have been flattened into one image and use alternate text

Table Accessibility

  • Tables were made using the Insert Table option and not manual spaces
  • Tables have a logical reading order
  • Tables have appropriate header row or header columns applied
  • Tables do not use merged cells
  • Tables do not use any blank cells
  • In table properties “Allow row to break across pages” is unchecked

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