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Accessible Word Documents

Some content on this site based on material from The Pennsylvania State University accessibility website with their permission.

Using the built in tools in Microsoft Word will create documents that are tagged appropriately for screen readers to interpret the elements of your document. Use those tools to create headings (rather than bold and/or underline), build lists, and create tables.

  • For headings highlight your heading and click “Heading 1” or  “Heading 2” under “styles" in the home toolbar or select Format  > Style from the menu.
  • For lists, select one of the list options in the home toolbar.
  • Use the Tables toolbar to create any tables and be sure to include header row information.

One good way to check if you have created the above elements correctly is to open the Navigation Pane ( select View > Sidebar > Document Map Pane) and view your document in outline view. If you see the headers listed there, the screen reader will also be able to detect it and your document will be more usable.

It is best to use real text rather than text boxes or clip art of letters and words (if you must use these alternative text must be added for the screen reader software to interpret what it says). Also avoid fonts with a serif.

If you include images in your document, use the alt tag to describe the image so the screen reader can relay that to the person reading your document. Right click the image and choose format picture. Select the “alt text” tab and enter the description of the image. Note – this is not available on Mac with Microsoft versions prior to 2011.

For long documents consider creating a table of contents. This option is found on the “Document Elements” tab in Word.

If you include a link in your document use descriptive text on the link to make it clear to a screen reader user what will happen when a link is clicked. Avoid using “click here”. Instead us “Chapter One Assignment” or “Women’s Basketball Schedule.” If you are using a picture as a link, in the alt tag, describe what will happen when the link is clicked instead of describing the picture itself.

If you choose to use a background color, be sure there is enough contrast between the letters and the background for easy readability.

Specific instructions for different versions of word can be found on the Microsoft Website.

For more instructions, try one of these Cheat Sheets from the National Center on Disability and Access to Education (NCDAE) that give instructions specific to Mac or Windows for different versions of Word.

Also check the IT training schedule for Word training.


Academic, Employment and Public Accommodations

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Academic Accommodation
Academic Achievement and Access Center facilitates appropriate resources, services and auxiliary aids to provide each qualified student with a disability equitable access to educational, social and career opportunities at KU. Learn more...

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