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Microsoft Word

Criteria for Accessible Word Documents

The criteria below includes recommendations for formatting Microsoft Word documents for alternate media conversion and general accessibility criteria.

Text Formatting

  • Ariel, Tahoma, Helvetica. Font Size 12.
  • Lists are formatted using bullets or numbers
  • Use of heading styles. Use of other styles like left, center, and right.
  • Link purpose is clear; avoid “click here”
  • Acceptable color contrast (4.5:1 normal text, 3:1 large text)
  • Remove text boxes, SmartArt, WordArt, Shapes, Strikethrough.

Non-text Content

  • Images have the alternate text: keep short and capture the essence. Describe the image in the narrative
  • Charts/Graphs: The alternate text must accurately represent meaningful data. Recommended: a data table or a detailed description underneath.
  • Tables: Used for data and not used for formatting. Table row and column headers applied. Repeat as header row is applied. No merging/nesting.

Document Properties

  • Passes the accessibility checker
  • Enhanced tagging enabled
  • Multi-Language: Correct Proofing Language is set from the Review tab. Avoid language support packs without advance warning to recipients of the document.
  • Passes the Document Inspector with no Embedded Documents, Ink, Collapsed Headings, Invisible Content, Hidden Text

Math & STEM Content

  • Use MathType to enter Inline equations. NOTE: Equations will fail the Microsoft word accessibility check. This is OK.

Page Layout

  • Page numbers at top of the page outside of headers/footers area
  • Use proper formatting tools. Do not use spacebar or TAB spacing to organize content visually

The accessibility of a document depends on how the end-user is interacting with the document. One person might need a different style of document for their specific needs. This document is meant to serve as a starting point for developing accessible word documents and specialized alternate formats.

MS Word is one of the most common programs used to edit documents for accessibility and when converting materials into alternate formats. The DOCX format is widely supported by many assistive technologies and may be used as a basis for converting into other formats (e.g., braille, audio, etc.). The drawback of MS Word documents is that they may not provide a one-to-one relationship to the layout and organization of the printed instructional materials.

The Document Conversion page lists several tools that can assist with creating word documents. The CCC Converter is a web-based solution that can convert PDFs and Image files into word documents. Additionally, users can try professional OCR tools like ABBYY FineReader or Omnipage to convert files into a word document.

I Have a Word Document - Now What?