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Creating Accessible Microsoft Word Documents

Estimated Reading Time: 3 Minutes

Creating Accessible Microsoft Word Documents


Create a structured document. Properly formatted documents have a structure that Assistive Technology (AT) devices can readily access

  1. Provide a clear navigable structure to your document.
    1. The Microsoft Word document must be formatted using style elements in a hierarchical manner
    2. Files that contain a Table of Contents (TOC) must use the TOC field created using the TOC Command in MS Word including Topics, Subtopics, Page Numbers
  2. Use the styles and formatting toolbar to format text
  3. Apply standard or custom styles and formatting rather than merely altering the size or weight of fonts
  4. Page numbering codes must be used as opposed to manually typed page numbers.
  5. The Microsoft Word Bullet style must be used as opposed to manually typed characters.
  6. If footnotes are present, they must be created through Microsoft Word Footnote linking.

For more information about using styles, watch this video from LinkedIn Learning.


Provide description alternative text for all images and graphics

  1. All images, grouped images and non-text elements in the document must have alternative text descriptions.
  2. The Microsoft Word document must refrain from using flashing/flickering text and/or animated text.
  3. Complex images must have descriptive text immediately after the image.
  4. The document must be free of background images or watermarks.
  5. The image text wrapping style "In Line with Text" must be used for all images.
  6. Multiple associated images must be grouped as one object.
  7. All multi-layered objects must be flattened into one image with one Alternative Text description.
  8. Text boxes must not be used for simple graphics.

To learn more about adding Alt Text, watch this video from LinkedIn Learning.


Properly create and label tables, including specified row and column headers.

  1. Tables should be created using the insert table tool
  2. AutoFormat will bring up another dialog that presents a selection of:
    1. Pre-formatted tables styles
    2. Advanced formats for headers, columns and rows
  3. All tables must read from left to right, top to bottom.
  4. Tables containing data must have the first row designated as a "Header Row" in table properties.
  5. Tables must not use merged cells.
  6. Tables should be described and labeled.
  7. Rows should not break across pages as it will make it more difficult. In Microsoft Word, Table properties, the "Allow to break across pages" must be unchecked.

To learn more about making tables in Word accessible, watch this video.


Saving Microsoft Word

  1. The Microsoft Word document file name must not contain spaces and/or special characters.
  2. The Microsoft Word document file name must be concise, generally limited to 20-30 characters, and make the contents of the file clear in the context in which it is presented.
  3. The Microsoft Word document Properties (Subject, Author, Title, Keywords, and Language) must be properly filled out.
  4. A separate accessible version of the document must be provided when there is no other way to make the content accessible.
  5. The Track Changes feature in Microsoft Word must be accepted or rejected and turned off.
  6. All comments and formatting marks must be turned off in Microsoft Word.
  7. The Document must be reviewed in Print Preview for a final visual check.
Creating Accessible Microsoft Word Documents

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