Word Accessibility Overview

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General Accessibility Concepts

Creating accessible Word files follows many of the same principles as techniques as creating accessible PowerPoint or Excel files:

Word Specific Concepts

Due to Word being unique in comparison to PowerPoint or Excel, there are some specific topics to consider.

Using Templates and Styles

Word utilizes the styles portion of the ribbon to allow you to change the look of your document, but it also allows you to provide powerful accessibility features into your document. For example, the heading levels can be used to allow easier navigation of your document, while also providing a clear organization for your students in how the document is setup.

In addition to styles, there are also templates available, that you can use to setup your document to ensure it is more accessible from the beginning. Saving you precious time in the process!

The following video from the Texas Governor’s Committee on Persons with Disabilities, explains how to use templates and styles effectively:

Word 2013 & 2016: Templates & Styles, the Basics
© 2016 TXGCPD

Creating Accessible Word Forms

Creating an accessible Word form, is a bit tricky and involved. Faculty, I would encourage you to instead use the surveys tool built-in to PPCC Online instead (if possible). If not, you most likely are using an already existing form

For those of you who have to create lots of Word forms for your position, I’d strongly encourage you to work with ITSS, PPCC Marketing, and via our website to create web forms (as they can be made accessible in an easier manner).

But, if you need a Word form, please watch the following video for some tips on how to make an accessible Word form:

Word 2013 & 2016: Creating Accessible Word Form
© 2016 TXGCPD

Converting a Word document to PDF

In general if you make your Word document accessible and then follow the instructions to save your Word document as an accessible PDF, you should be good to go.

However, you may wish to check out the following video from the Texas Governor’s Committee on Persons with Disabilities for more information, if you have to convert lots of Word documents to PDFs (I.E. Financial Services, Student Success, etc.):

Word 2013 & 2016: Converting to PDF
© 2016 TXGCPD

Other Concerns

  • Use bulleted or numbered lists! This means using them from the Word toolbar and not just simply typing a 1 or a symbol in front of a list item.
  • Avoid using blank cells in tables for formatting. This can cause issues for screen readers.
  • Avoid using Text Boxes, Word Art, Floating Objects, or Image Watermarks. All of these are inaccessible.
  • Smart Art cannot be read to screen readers, since it is treated as an image. So make sure it has appropriate alt text.
  • Ensure font size is sufficient (12 points or more minimum).
  • Avoid using the tab key for styling, use true columns instead.
  • Provide a table of contents if needed.
  • Use simple language and structure when possible (does not mean that instructional content needs to be “dumbed down”, just use best judgment).
  • Avoid flashing or blinking content.

Video Overviews

The following video, provides an overview of making accessible Word documents that has been discussed in this article:

Word 2013 & 2016: Requirements to make a Word Document Accessible
© 2016 TXGCPD

You may also wish to check out Microsoft’s Video Guides for more information.


If you have questions, please contact Marc Nash (marc.nash@ppcc.edu) for assistance.

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