Creating Accessible Documents in Microsoft Word (Office 365 Win/Mac)

This hands-on workshop covers the process of creating accessible documents in Microsoft Word. At successful course completion participants will be able to explain the importance of creating accessible documents and perform the steps necessary to create accessible Word documents:

  • Utilize styles and alt text, descriptive links and simple tables when creating new documents
  • Add accessibility features to legacy Word documents to make them accessible
  • Utilize the Office accessibility checker
  • Convert Word documents to accessible PDFs
  • Utilize Adobe Acrobat DC’s accessibility checker

Note: While links for Office 365 are presented below, the concepts can easily be applied to other versions of Word. See Microsoft's Creating Accessible Word Documents for information about applying to other versions.


Creating Accessible Documents in MS Word Slides (.pdf)

Word Document Accessibility Checklist (.docx)

Segment TitleDescriptionLinks


Introduction to accessibility guidelines and the importance of creating accessible documents.

Screen Reader DemonstrationA Microsoft Word document being read aloud using the Jaws screen reader. Illustrates some common accessibility errors.

Using the Accessibility CheckerUse the built-in Accessibility Checker in Microsoft Word to identify common accessibility errors including missing alternative text, lack of descriptive hyperlinks, and poorly formatted tables.
Adding HeadingsHeadings provide structure for a document and can also serve as a navigational aid for users of assistive technology. Headings should be properly nested, as in an outline, proceeding from H1, to H2, to H3 and so on as needed. See WebAIM: Word Headings for more information.
Adding Alternative Text to an ImageImages, tables, and charts in your document require alternative textual descriptions for users of assistive technology. Alternative text that you enter will be read aloud by a screen reader. See WebAIM: Alternative Text for tips on writing good alternative text for images.
Adding Descriptive HyperlinksScreen reader users will often choose to hear a list of links in a document, or may choose to tab between links. For this reason, links should be written in such a way that they make sense when read independently from their surrounding context. For example, using "click here" as a link would not make sense in a link list.
Accessible TablesThere are several accessibility issues with data tables, including the lack of alternative text, the lack of a designated header row, and the use of irregular cell structure (merged or split cells for example.)
Accessible ChartsCharts must be made accessible to blind or low-vision users by adding alternative text, adding data labels, and avoiding the use of color alone to communicate important information. Visible captions can also be used to communicate chart information textually.
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