Accessibility Check

With more and more files online and in computers, it’s important to keep documents accessible to people with special needs and disabilities.

Microsoft Office has several tools that can help with this, such as:

  • Alternative text or ‘alt text’ for images and graphs.
  • Headings and paragraph styles to make your document more readable.
  • Accessibility Checker.

Alt text or “alternative text”

As you are surfing the internet, if you mouse over an image or something, you might see a little description pop up.  That is alt text.

You can use that same technology in your documentation to help people who have screen readers which is software that reads the document.  If there is no information about the image, they are not going to get any.

So alt text can add a brief description of what that image is, or maybe a succinct sentence or two for a pie chart or a graph.

To add alt text to a picture, shape, chart, or a SmartArt graphic, right-click it, click Format Object, and then click the Alt Text pane.

In the description box, enter an explanation of the object.  This box should always be filled in.

Note that when you have a complex content to describe, including a title is useful so people can determine if they need to read the full description.

Headings and Paragraph Styles

Headings and paragraph styles make it easier for all readers to understand your document better.  This will support people in being able to skim over documents to get an outline of it very easily, and that’s important for people who have low vision or use screen readers because they can get that same outline using these styles.

Also these elements can be converted if you save your document as a PDF or an Open XML.

Heading and paragraph styles are found on the Home tab in the Styles group.

If you don’t see the style that you want, click More to expand the gallery.

To apply a heading style, start by selecting the text you want to change.

Click the heading style that you want.

You can see how your text will look with a particular style by placing your pointer over the style that you want to preview.

This feature works the same way in the Word Web App.

Create space between paragraphs using paragraph styles rather than empty lines, so people using screen readers aren’t misled into thinking that they’ve reached the end of your document.

On the Home tab, in the Styles group, click Change Styles.

Point to paragraph styles.

Live preview will show you how the line and paragraph spacing changes from one set to the next.

Accessibility Checker

Similar to a spell checker, the new Accessibility checker in Office 2010 will scan your documents and alert you to any potential accessibility problems.  It will also offer suggestions of how to fix them.

Click the Review tab and then click Check Accessibility.

You’ll be returned to your file and the Accessibility Checker task pane will show you the inspection results.  Whenever the Accessibility Checker finds an issue, the task pane shows information about why that content might be inaccessible.  Selecting the issue then shows instructions on how to repair or revise it.

Now when you save your file to a format that’s easy to share or publish, such as PDF or Open XML, all the things you did to make it more accessible will be included.

For more information and in-depth training on creating accessible documents, please go to Microsoft Office 365 Accessibility Video Training