By proactively designing materials, activities, and assessments that address a wide variety of students in our classrooms, we foster an environment where all students are empowered to succeed.
Kimber Andrews, Assistant Director Center for Enhancement of Teaching and Learning
Digital documents can be shared broadly and are accessible for people who use assistive technology, like a screen reader. Using the built-in features like Headings and Alternative Text in Microsoft Word ensures low vision, blind, dyslexic or other people who use screen readers have the same access and experience as sighted viewers navigating your document.
To learn more about how a person uses a screen reader to navigate a document, watch the video on Basic Assistive Technology Word Documents: A Demonstration.
Principles of Accessibility for Digital Documents
Below are key accessibility principles to incorporate in the creation of a digital documents including Word Documents, Power Point Presentations, and PDF’s.
Use Headings to Structure Information
Visual markers such as large and bold text are used to structure information and allow a reader to easily find the information they need. Using Headings and List Styles ensures a person using a screen reader can navigate the document with similar ease.
For more information on how to use Headings and List Styles visit the Word Documents webpage.
Use Descriptive Hyperlinks
Sighted users visually scan pages for links to help them find what they're looking for. People using a screen reader can pull up a list of all the links on a page. However, if all the links on the list are “click here” it is not clear where the link will take them. Improve the accessibility of hyperlinks by embedding them in text and making them clear, concise, and meaningful out of context.
For more information on how to use descriptive links visit the Word Documents webpage.
Add Alternative Text to Images
Alternative text is a description provided to a screen reader user which presents the content and function of the images within your content. Individuals using a screen reader may not be able to see the image on the screen, so a description of the image is read to the user.
For more information on how to add Alternative Text to an image visit the Power Point webpages.
Create Simple Tables
Sighted users can visually scan a table and quickly make visual associations between data in the table and their appropriate row and/or column headers. To ensure a person using a screen reader has the contextual information such as what row and column a specific cell is referring to, make heading and row columns clear in the table. In addition, avoid using merged cells or using tables for layout purposes in a document.
For more information on how to add Alternative Text to an image visit the Word Documents webpages.