Building Accessible Word Documents: General Discussion

Enroll in the Hive course

Course Description: But I used Microsoft Word, so it is accessible, right?” Truth is, not necessarily. Word documents by Microsoft are one of the most popular tools used to create worksheets, handouts and tests in the educational setting. This course walks through the steps to make Word documents accessible for people with low or no vision.

ACVREP Credit Hours: 2.0


  • Identify which fonts, colors and spacing in Word documents are best for people with low vision.
  • Distinguish between headings and styles and experiment with modifying a given document to be accessible for someone using a screen reader.
  • Identify what type of structure is needed to make a Word document accessible and how to add structure to documents.
  • Create accessible hyperlinks, tables and graphics placed in a Word document.
  • Identify how to check Word documents for accessibility and how to export them to PDF while keeping the accessibility.

Fonts suitable for low vision include Calibri, Candara, Corbel, Tahoma, and Verdana. Off-white, cream, ivory, yellow, and pink are good colors to use with plain backgrounds and black text. Indentations, line spacing tools, styles, page breaks, and WYSIWIG are all excellent spacing tools.

It is critical that heading one and heading two be labeled. Heading 1 should be labeled with a 22-point font, centered, bold, upper- and lower-case letters. Heading 2 is a 20-point font with bold upper- and lower-case letters aligned to the left. It is critical to label the headings and use different styles because just because they look similar does not mean they will act similarly. Need to modify styles so each heading can be visibly different.

Document structures such as lists, headers, footers, tables, and columns need to be compatible and made accessible to the screen reader. In order to do this for lists, make sure to use built-in list tools, break up and simplify content, use plain round dots, and avoid hyphens, tables, tab and spaces. Use headers or footers for letterhead logos and page numbers, and don’t place vital content in headers and footers because these are not automatically read with a screen reader. For tables, create using Table Insert, and also make sure to keep date tables simple and on one page. Leave no blank cells and know that complex tables are not accessible.

We can also create accessible hyperlinks placed on a Word document. You can add a bubble above the hyperlinks to give more information about the link. As for alternative text, it should be short and simple. SmartArt graphics may look great, but they need to be in descriptive alternate text. We can use Text Wrap Style when placing images.

One of the key things to look for to check Word documents for accessibility is checking for headings by using the navigation pane, control+F, then View>Navigation Pane. Once used, we’re able to see the headings list. To export documents, we save them as PDFs, File>Save As>PDF. But before hitting the save, go look at the options button to make sure the default to the document structure tags for accessibility is checked. We want to make certain that we’re enabling accessibility and reflow with the tagged PDF.


Welcome to the discussion board and thank you for this informative and comprehensive post!

This training was super helpful in understanding how to create accessible word documents. I learned many things I did not know before!

Glad you found this helpful! Welcome to the discussion boards!