Microsoft Word 365 Accessibility

When to Use?

Follow these instructions to check document accessibility using Microsoft Word 365.


Microsoft Word includes options for adding accessibility information to documents to support access by individuals with disabilities. This information also ensures that Microsoft Word documents converted into other formats (e.g., tagged PDF, ePub, DAISY, etc.) maintain this level of accessibility.
The best practices for Microsoft Word accessibility include attention to:
•    Heading styles should be nested in a logical and sequential order. Content should be organized into meaningful sections using headings. 
•    List Styles are formatted using the embedded list tool. 
•    Images have appropriate alternate text; images, which are unrelated to page content should be designated as decorative. 
•    Link text is meaningful, descriptive, and in context. 
•    Tables are for data with identifiable headers and header rows identified. 
•    Color and contrast are sufficient. Color is not the only method to convey meaning. 
•    All pages should be reviewed with an accessibility checker
When you are finished creating an accessible Microsoft Word document, you may want to learn how to export to other formats such as a PDF. 
Headings can provide an organizational and navigational framework for a document's content, communicating both the informational hierarchy and relationship between different sections. Headings also provide a simple mechanism for an individual using assistive technologies to "jump" from one heading to the next when navigating the document.

Lists provide a structured order to a group of connected or sequential content. A numbered or bulleted list may present the same information more effectively than simple data tables with fewer steps.
 Insert bullet list icon in Word menu


Pictorial view of text listed with bullet points
1.    Highlight the grouped list of items.
2.    In the Home tab, select the appropriate list style (i.e., numbered list or bulleted list).
•    Remove any lists manually created, such as those using dashes or asterisk characters. Manual lists are not "true" lists.
•    Avoid using indentation to provide a visual list in lieu of the list style button.
•    You can use ordered or numbered lists to present a group of items (words, phrases, sentences) that follow a sequence.
•    You can use unordered or bulleted lists for a group of items without a sequence.
•    Your lists should contain at least two or more list items unless they are used to create an outline.
•    Nested lists are acceptable, such as a numbered list that contains a nested bulleted list.

Images that support the content require a text description (also called "alt text") that communicates the purpose and/or content of the image. You can convey image information to the individual using assistive technologies, which allows them to hear the description of the image. Image descriptions should be short and communicate the main purpose of the image. You can also mark images as decorative and are ignored by assistive technologies.

If a longer description of the image is necessary to fully explain its content, consider inserting a more detailed description of the image within the document text that precedes and/or follows the image.


Right click menu options for an image

Alt Text dialog box
1.    Select and right-click the image.
2.    Select Edit Alt Text
3.    Provide a brief and concise description and “X” or close the window.
If an image lacks essential information necessary for the user to understand the page content, it can be considered decorative because its only function is to enhance the appearance of the page.

 Right click menu from a decorative image

Alt Text dialog box with the decorative image option checked.

1.    Select the image. Right-click the image.
2.    Select Edit Alt Text…
3.    Select Mark as decorative and “X” or close the window. 

Important Considerations for Images
Technical Guidelines:
•    You should refrain from using "Behind Text" or "In Front of Text" due to how this format setting can obscure text and make the content difficult or impossible to read.
•    For older versions of Microsoft Word, leave the Title field bank, and only use the Description field for alt text.
Formatting Guidelines:
•    A text description should convey the purpose or content of the image in approximately 120 characters or less. Avoid repeating the same information as contained in the surrounding text.
•    If the image is complex, consider providing additional information in the surrounding text of the document while providing a shortened text description.
•    Do not include the file format in the alt text (Example: .JPEG, .PNG)
•    Do not include “picture of” or “image of” in the alt text.
•    For older versions of Microsoft Word, leave the Title field bank, and only use the Description field for alt text.

You can improve documents containing hyperlinks to websites or other online resources by including hyperlink text. Using the full URL as the hyperlink text may not make sense to the reader, particularly if it is long.
 Edit Hyperlink option from the right click menu

Edit Hyperlink dialog box​​​​​​​
1.    Place the cursor anywhere on the desired hyperlink. Right-click the hyperlink.
2.    Select Hyperlink, then Edit Hyperlink.
3.    Under Text to Display, write the descriptive text for the hyperlink, keeping the text name short and descriptive.
4.    Select OK.

Use link text that is descriptive and or informs the person as to the link’s destination. For additional guidance on formatting and why descriptive text is important for hyperlinks, please review the W3C information on Links.

You should use tables in Microsoft Word for data and not layout purposes. An accessible table includes the following:
•    At least one header (row and/or column).
•    Alt Text description summarizing the table

To mark a header row for a data table:
1.    Select the table to reveal Table Design. (Note: you can only see this option if you select the table.)
2.    In the far left-hand section, determine the required header type:
o    Header row: check the box Header Row.
o    Column header: check the box First Column. 

Insert Header Row option from the table design menu
3.    Highlight the header row of your table. Right-click the table. Select Table Properties.
o    In the Row tab, check the box Repeat as header row at the top of each page.
o    In the Alt Text tab, write a short, one sentence description of what the table information presents.
4.    Select OK.
 Table Properties menu option

Repeat Header option from the Row dialog box in Table Properties.​​​​​​​

 Table Properties menu option

Alt Text dialog box for tables from the Tables Properties menu​​​​​​​
1.    Right-click the table. Select Table Properties.
o    In the Row tab, check the box Repeat as header row at the top of each page.
o    In the Alt Text tab, write a short, one sentence description of what the table information presents.
2.    Select OK.

Color can be an effective method to communicate ideas and draw attention to information. Ensuring there is sufficient contrast as well as using color in combination with other formatting can support a diverse campus community, including individuals with visual disabilities.
 Highlight color and font color options from the ribbon
When choosing colors to present text information in documents, choose color options that provide a contrast ratio of:
•    4.5:1 for regular text
•    3:1 for 18-point font and larger, or 14-point font and bold
In general, pastel colors or the “light” version of a particular color do not provide sufficient contrast against a white background.
You can evaluate contrast ratios using tools such as:
•    WebAIM Contrast Checker
•    The Paciello Group Color Contrast Analyser
When using color to indicate a specific condition or state, you need to include a formatting attribute to also provide a distinguishing characteristic. For example, if you identified a list of vocabulary words only in red text, this could present difficulties for an individual who had a type of color-blindness.

Options to support accessibility can include a combination of color AND formatting, such as:
•    Red text with Bold formatting
•    Using an asterisk, brackets, or other annotation symbols in addition to color
Colored text example 

For more information on using color or these tools, please review the W3C information on color.

Microsoft Word features an accessibility checker that can assist in identifying accessibility issues.

Check Accessibility option from the ribbon
1.    On the ribbon, select Review.
2.    Select Check Accessibility.
3.    The Accessibility checker will appear on the right-hand side. 
Accessibility Inspection Results dialog box

The Accessibility Checker presents the results in a pane on the right-hand side of the interface. It organizes the results into three categories: Errors, Warnings and Tips.
•    Errors- Must fix
Errors are issues which indicate content that contains an accessibility issue and is extremely challenging, if not impossible, to read or understand.
•    Warnings- Most likely will need to be address
Warnings indicate that the content may be challenging for individuals with disabilities to read or understand. Resolving Warnings may require the author to consider a different visual or organizational layout
•    Tips- Very helpful
Tips are pointers intended to help you improve the user experience of your audience by streamlining and organizing your content in certain ways. Tips provide additional guidance and will appear depending on the content.
The Accessibility Checker is a good starting point towards identifying potential accessibility issues in a document. Microsoft continually updates the Accessibility Checker rules and so newer versions of Microsoft products may result in a different list of accessibility results. Using the Accessibility Checker can help identify the more significant accessibility issues present in a document.

Including accessible authoring practices into Microsoft Word documents allows for versions exported as other formats to retain most, if not all, accessibility features.

Never choose a "Print" to PDF option in Office, or in any other program. A screen reader user may still be able to access the text of a PDF created in this way, but heading structure, alternative text, and any other tag structures will be lost.
For Mac users, read Microsoft Word’s Support for converting to PDF on your Mac for additional guidance.
1.    In File, select Save As…

 Mac Save As menu option from the File menu
2.    Select PDF
3.    Select the radio button, Best for electronic distribution and accessibility (uses Microsoft online service).
Best for Electronic Distribution menu option for saving the file in a Mac 

4.    Select Export.

It is easier to create an accessible MS Word document rather than trying to fix accessibility issues in a PDF document.
Create PDF menu option in a Mac​​​​​​​ 

1.    Use the Acrobat plug-in in the ribbon. Select the Acrobat tab.
2.    Select Create PDF.
3.    If using a Mac with Acrobat Adobe installed, select Best for electronic distribution and accessibility (uses Microsoft online service).
4.    Select Export.

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Article ID: 4364
Mon 3/21/22 3:40 PM
Tue 5/3/22 12:02 PM