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Creating Accessible Word Documents with Office 2010


A few simple steps can make all the difference in making Word Documents usable for all students. Two of the most important things you can do are to use styles and headings to show important sections, and to add alternate text to images.

Downloadable Guides

If you prefer to use a downloadable, printable version, guides for both Office 2010 and Office 2013 are available in Word and PDF format below. The online instructions are for Word 2010 only. The downloadable guides provide more detail than this online guide, including instructions on how to format tables.

Use Built-In Styles

Styles add a clear structure to documents, making them easier to navigate, both visually and using a screen reader (software that reads the screen aloud for visually impaired users).

It is important to use the built-in styles rather than simply increasing the size and boldness of text, since extra code is needed behind-the-scenes to build the navigation structure.

If nothing else, use the 'Heading' options to mark important sections in your document. Headings are automatically added to a Table of Contents, providing bookmarks throughout. Be consistent in your hierarchy, as this helps students determine the level of importance or detail of the content.

Screenshot of Accessible Word Documents


The same goes for lists. Instead of typing the number or letter for each line, use the built-in list button.

Screenshot of Accessible Word Documents

Styles to Avoid

Not all styles in Word are accessible, meaning that text will not be read by a screenreader. Avoid using text boxesdrop caps, and word art. They are not accessible.

Screenshot of Accessible Word Documents

Add Descriptive Text to Images

This is another important step to help screen reading software represent fully what is visible on the page. If you include any pictures in your document, add a short text description to the properties of the image.

Screenshot of Accessible Word Documents

In the box that pops up, click on the "Alt Text" menu on the bottom left. Your text goes in the "Description" section on the right (not the "Title" section).

Screenshot of Accessible Word Documents

Run the Accessibility Checker

If you're not sure about all of this, Microsoft has a built-in tool that will check your document for you. The Accessibility Checker is located under File > Info > Check for Issues > Check Accessibility.


Screenshot of Accessible Word Documents

The Accessibility Checker will give you a report beyond what is discussed on this page. What you find here are merely the two most important steps needed to build in accessibility from the start. Instructions on other steps can be found at the links below.


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