Microsoft Word – Windows

Check the following elements and ensure they are accessible
For each item that you have in your document, click on the accessibility guideline(s) that corresponds to it in order to learn how to make the element accessible. You may also want to set up your default Word document style to be accessible.

Here is additional information on Microsoft Office Accessibility Support for Microsoft Word.

Accessibility Checker

It is important to always run an Accessibility checker. When creating documents it is easy to forget small details that can make a document inaccessible

  1. Go to File
  2. Check for issues
  3. Check Accessibility.

A dialog box will appear on the right side to show you any errors. Selecting an item with take you to that spot in the document. At the bottom right corner it will tell you why it should be fixed and how.

Microsoft Office Accessibility Checker


  • Ensure your text is readable by using at least 10px san serif fonts, such as Arial, Helvetica or Verdana. These font types will magnify well for those who have low vision.
  • If there is an image with text in it, make sure to put the text in the alternative text, so it will be accessible to blind students.
  • Refrain from using floating text boxes, track changes or commenting which are not accessible.


Setting heading styles allows screen readers to navigate through a document and makes it easier to read for everyone.

  1. Select the text that you want to make into a heading.
  2. Go to the Home tab.
  3. In the Styles group, choose the appropriate heading level (see the next section on how to Use Headings in the Proper Order) from the Styles gallery.

Heading Order

  1. Heading 1 is like the title of a book and there is just one Heading 1 per page. Heading 2s are like chapter titles. Heading 3s are sub-sections of those chapters, and so on.
  2. Heading order is also similar to an outline. It can be helpful to view the Navigation Pane while applying structure to a word document, so you can see the headings in an outline style format to make sure you haven’t skipped a heading level.
  3. Don’t skip heading levels. Potential penalty for this transgression is beheading.
  4. See below for a visual display of a possible heading order:

Modify Headings

  1. Create your document.
  2. Apply Heading Styles to the headings in your document.
  3. Adjust the color, font and size to your taste. (Arial, Helvetica, Times New Roman, Verdana, 12 pt or larger are recommended for accessibility)
  4. If you want to maintain a style throughout the document, right click on the style in the style ribbon and choose “Update Heading 1 (or whatever style it is you are changing) to Match Selection”
  5. If you want to make this your default style for future documents, right click on the style in the style ribbon that you want to change, and choose “Modify…”
  6. Then in the Modify Style window, choose “New documents based on this template”
Modify Style settings

Click OK

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Video: How to apply headings in the correct order


Page formatting (lists, headings and links), is read aloud to screen reader users, so the content is understood in context. It’s important then to properly format lists.

  1. Select the text that you want to make into a list.

On the Home tab, in the Paragraph group, select the Number or Bullets list icon.

Bulleted list and paragraph group image
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Video: How to format lists

Images & Graphics (Alt Text)

Alternative text descriptions of images (ALT text) allows screen reader users to benefit from the information being conveyed by an image.

Word 2016-Windows

  1. Go to the image and right click, then select “Format Picture
  2. The Alt Text panel will show, then select “Layout and Properties” tab
  3. Open the ALT Text section and type a detailed explanation of the picture in the Alt Text box.
    1. Keep this description to one or two sentences.

Word 2016-Mac

  1. Go to the image and right click, then select Format Picture….
  2. The Format Picture panel will show.
  3. Click over to the Layout & Properties tab.
  4. Type a detailed explanation of the picture in the Description box – Not the Title box.
    1. Keep this description to one or two sentences.
  5. Click the Close button when done.
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Video: Adding alternate text for imagesSee Complex Image Accessibility for images that cannot be adequately described in alternative text (which should be limited to one or two brief sentences.)


Links are a major method of navigating for everyone, but especially screen reader users. If the links are embedded into meaningful text, they are much more useful.

  • Type out text that describes the destination of the link. Example: Delta Community College
  • Select the text, right click and choose Hyperlink.
  • The Insert Hyperlink window will open. Type the URL of the webpage in the Address field. For the example above, we would type out, “”
  • Then click the OK button to save the link.

VideoHow to make meaningful links

Hyperlink Tips:

  • If you think students will be printing the document and you want them to have the URL, put it in parentheses after the link, but don’t hyperlink it.
  • Screen reading software can pull up all of the links in a page to aid the user in navigating the page more quickly. If a link pulled up by the screen reader is some indecipherable URL or ambiguous phrase like, “click here” the screen reader user will not know where that link goes.


Designating column headers in a table is essential to screen reader users understanding how the information is laid out. Please note that Microsoft Word only allows the top row of a table to be designated as a header row. You cannot designate the first column as a header.

  1. Put your cursor in the top row of your data table.
  2. The Table Tools (Windows) or Table Design (Mac) tabs will display.
  3. Click on the Design tab.
  4. In the Table Style Options group, select the Header Row check box.
  5. Next, click on the Layout tab located to the right of the Design tab.
  6. Click on “Repeat Header Row“.
    1. (I know this isn’t intuitive, but it’s very important to designating that top row as the table headers.)
Microsoft Word Tables
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VideoCreating Table headers

Screen Readersread tables from left to right, top to bottom, one cell at a time (no repeats). If cells are split or merged, the reading order can be thrown off

To test the reading order of your table in Word, place your cursor in the first cell of the table. Now press the Tab key repeatedly to navigate through the table. This will be the reading order that assistive technologies will use.

Merged, nested, and split cells change the reading order of tables. Make sure you construct your table in a way that accommodates good reading order.


Don’t use color alone to make a distinction, a comparison or to set something off or apart from the rest of the document. If you categorize something by color alone, those who are color blind or blind will not be able to benefit from the information. Make sure there is enough color contrast between foreground (font) color and background color.


There are no blank spaces created by hitting Enter, Tab or space bar multiple times; instead the spacing feature in the Paragraph formatting menu is used to create blank spaces.