Creating an accessible electronic document may seem like a daunting task, but just like building an accessible home, if you do it right from the beginning versus trying to retrofit it later, the task is so much easier!

So when I say “accessible electronic document”, what do I mean? An accessible electronic document is one that can be accessed by anyone regardless of disability and/or assistive technology they are using such as a screen reader or Braille display. For example, if I have a document with picture of a logo for my business without any alternative text to describe it, a person who is blind and uses a screen reader will never know the name of my company. This is because the screen reader cannot read the text within a picture. When the screen reader gets to the logo in the document, it will only say “picture”.

There are many aspects to making a document accessible.  Today we are just going to talk about making a basic Microsoft Word 2013 document accessible, one that is mostly text with a couple headings and few pictures.

The Basics of Making a Word 2013 Document Accessible

  1. Turn on the Accessibility Checker in Microsoft Word 2013.  To do this go to: File>Info>Check for Issues> Check Accessibility.  The checker will turn on and be your guide as you create the document, indicating when you have done something wrong and when everything is okay. When an issue comes up, click on it and the Checker will tell you how to fix it.Picture of the location of the Accessibility Checker
  2. Instead of sporadically going throughout your document and making headings bold and the fonts larger, which is something I used to do not too long ago; use the Styles located on the Home tab instead. If you do not like the built-in Styles, create your own.A Microsoft Word 2013 Documnet with the Accessibility Checker Running
  3. Make sure your font is sans-serif such as Arial, as it is easier to read.
  4. Use Alternative Text to describe any pictures within the document. One way to do this is to Right Click on the picture and select Format Shape. Then click on the Layout & Properties icon, select Alt Text, and type in a Title and Description.
  5. Microsoft Word 2013 Format Shape box with Alt Text editing areaMake sure all hyperlinks are described.  For example, do not use phrases like Click Here to describe a link.
  6. Do not use color as the only way to determine the meaning of a concept.  For example, do not use green colored text to indicate all of the best rated devices and red colored text to indicated the poorly rated ones.
  7. Use the built-in Bullets and Numbers feature to make lists.

More Information

For more information on how to make a document accessible, please see these websites:

About Author

Jeannie Krull is the Program Director for ND Assistive (formerly IPAT). She is an ASHA certified speech/language pathologist and a RESNA certified Assistive Technology Professional, who has worked with people with disabilities of all ages since 1991.