Create accessible Word documents

Introduction

In this section we will cover how to create accessible documents using Microsoft Word and different ways of sharing them online.

Important

Before you get started, please read the Accessibility fundamentals page first. Following that, here are some additional key points specific to Word:

  1. Font sizes: paragraph font sizes need to be a minimum of 12 point and not the default Microsoft Office 11 point. 14 point is considered more accessible and good practice for paragraph text though.
  2. Word Styles: use Styles to format your document including using heading styles, starting with Heading 1 which is more accessible for users of screen readers compared to using the Title style.
  3. Templates: Use an accessible Word template to create your document. Doing so will automatically help make your documents more accessible for you, because Word Styles will be accessible for screen readers and font sizes and colours will follow accessibility standards and good practice.
  4. Text boxes and floating objects: avoid including floating objects and text boxes because they can cause issues for screen readers.
  5. Tables: keep tables simple and specify column header information.

Use the Word Accessibility Checker

The Accessibility Checker is available in both Word Online and on Desktop. To access all features, open your document on your desktop / or laptop computer. To ensure that your document can be read by a diverse range of people, you should run the Accessibility Checker. This inspects your documents for elements that would potentially cause problems for accessibility tools such as a screen reader. Errors, warnings and tips are displayed in the inspection results, along with information as to why and how to fix the issue. Whilst the Accessibility Checker is a really useful tool, it does not currently check all accessibility issues that are covered by the WCAG 2.1 AA standards.

Depending on the version of Office you are using, the Accessibility Checkers can be accessed either from the Review tab or the File tab.

How to access and use the Accessibility Checker is covered in the next section.

Microsoft Word accessibility tutorials

Learn how to create more accessible Word documents with training videos and online tutorials created by Microsoft:

Sharing your Word documents

Word documents can be shared internally with staff and student audiences via:

  1. Office 365 (via web browsers, mobile and desktop apps)
  2. Minerva Portal & VLE

Providing your documents in Word format enables your audiences to re-format and annotate the content for their own use. For example, if someone with a visual impairment requires text in a larger size, they can modify it to meet their own needs.

However, we cannot assume all of our external audiences have access to Microsoft Word. So it’s important to take that into account. You may also need to provide the content in more than one format, if you want to increase the accessibility of your material.

1. Office 365

Sharing your Word documents from OneDrive provides your audiences with options:

  1. Word documents open in the browser, so this means file downloads are not forced onto people’s devices.
  2. Word files can be downloaded in both Word and PDF formats.
  3. The file can also be opened in the browser with the free Microsoft Immersive Reader (also known as Learning Tools).

2. Minerva Portal & VLE

If you are involved in student education, you can upload your Word documents directly to Minerva modules and organisations, for your students to access. Word documents in Minerva open in the browser.

Learn more about Microsoft Word

The IT Training Unit offer:

Online courses are also available:

 


Written by Kirsten Thompson and Jane Hetherington | Last updated 08/02/21

Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)