- The following guidelines apply to all types of documents: Word, PDF, Powerpoint, email messages, course readings, syllabi, assignments, etc!
- Our goal is to make documents accessible to users of assistive technology, but following these guidelines will make your documents more user-friendly for all.
Accessible Document Checklist
Document is Digital, Legible, and Available
- A physical piece of paper presents a barrier to people with print or vision disabilities.
- Tip: See if you can locate the original electronic file, or scan in the paper copy.
- Scans should be made from clean documents or books, free of notes or scribbles.
- Share materials with the people who need them as far ahead of time as you can.
Text is Searchable/Selectable
- Can you select the text with your mouse, or copy and paste it? If not, it’s saved as an image, which is not accessible.
- Several tools are available to recognize text in an image-only PDF:
Headings and Document Structure
- Users of assistive technology rely on heading levels to navigate documents and web pages.
- In Microsoft Word, use heading styles to format text headings.
- How to edit the Word Normal template to change the styling of default headings font, size, etc.
- Avoid floating elements like text boxes. In PowerPoint, use built-in slide layouts and don’t insert additional text boxes.
- Set bulleted lists and columns instead of formatting manually.
Colors and Visibility
- Don’t use color to convey meaning.
- Make sure font sizes and colors are large and easily readable.
- Limit use of background images which can make text difficult to read.
- Here are some tips from Microsoft on color and formatting for accessibility.
- Don’t set text to justify.
Images have Descriptions, aka "Alt Text" or "Alt Tags"
- Does an image represent or contain relevant information to your audience? Make sure to add a description for people who cannot see it.
- Add image alt-text in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, or Outlook
Provide Descriptions or Alternatives for Visual Graphs or Charts
- For simpler graphs or charts, a description that includes the relevant information or main “take away” from the chart is sufficient.
- For more complex data, add a properly formatted data table as a replacement or supplement.
Links are Descriptive and Helpful
- Screen-reader users often use a keyboard shortcut to list all the links on a page. In such a list, the links have no surrounding text.
- Make your link names descriptive.
- Instead of “Click here to see our President’s Welcome,” say “See our President’s Welcome.”
- Descriptive link names also make pages more scannable for sighted users.
Run an Accessibility Checker
Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat both contain “Accessibility Checker" tools which scan your document for potential issues. These tools will catch some (but not all!) accessibility issues and offer tips on how to fix them.
How to Export from Word to PDF
If you properly export a word document to PDF, it will retain your headings, alt-text, links, lists, etc.
- If you have Acrobat Pro installed on your computer, use the Acrobat tab in Word to create a PDF.
- If you don't have Acrobat Pro, choose Save as (Mac) or Export (PC) and select PDF.
- Don’t Print to PDF, as this will not retain your structure, links, etc.
IT Accessibility-related questions and requests can be entered into the AskIT ticketing system, selecting the category “Accessibility”, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Microsoft Office Accessibility Center: contains a wealth of resources on creating accessible documents in various formats, as well as accessible templates.
Accessible Documents (Word, Powerpoint, Excel, etc) Cheat Sheets (Courtesy NCDAE)