Making Word documents accessible

To make Word documents accessible to screen reader users, it is necessary to format the content using Word’s Web accessibility features.

To format all text and graphic elements properly, make sure you:
  1. Use the Styles and Formatting menu on the Formatting toolbar to format text and headings according to XHTML standards:
    1. Use properly nested H1-H5 headings
    2. Use Emphasis and Strong rather than italics and bold.
    3. Use bullets for unordered lists and numbering for ordered lists.
  2. Provide alternative text for images.
    1. Word 2000-2003: Right-click image > Format Picture…> Web > Enter alt text
    2. Word 2007: Right-click image > Size…> Alt Text > Enter alt text
  3. If appropriate, indicate that the first row of a table is the table header row: Click on table > Table > Table Properties…> Row > Select Repeat as header on the top of each page
  4. Use display text rather than just a URL to ensure hyperlinks make sense to screen reader users.
    1. For documents read primarily in an electronic format: Highlight URL > Right-click > Edit Hyperlink…> Enter display text in the Text to display field > Click OK
    2. For documents that may be both printed and read electronically: Provide both a description and the URL in parentheses in the Text to Display field.
  5. Never use tables to create columns of text. To instead create actual columns:
    1. Word 2000-2003: Select text or click in section to be formatted > Standard toolbar > Click Columns button > Select number of columns desired
    2. Word 2007: Select text or click in section to be formatted > Page Layout tab > Page Setup panel > Columns > Select number of columns desired
  6. Never use tabbing for indenting text.
    1. Word 2000-2003: Select the paragraph(s) to be indented > View > Ruler > Use your cursor to drag the appropriate indent marker
    2. Word 2007: Select the paragraph(s) to be indented > View tab > Show/Hide panel > Select Ruler > Use your cursor to drag the appropriate indent marker
  7. Make sure the font size is large enough. Use at least 12-point font for text.
  8. Never use color alone to convey information (i.e. a color-coded pie chart with no labels or highlighted paragraphs). Use labeling, headers, or other text or styling in addition to color, even if it seems redundant.
  9. Provide a table of contents for long, multi-section documents.
    1. Word 2000-2003: Insert > Reference > Index and Tables > Table of Contents tab > Select desired options and click OK
    2. Word 2007: References tab > Table of Contents panel > Table of Contents > Table of Contents pull-down menu > Select style to insert