Learn how to Create Accessible Word Documents

Video screenshot of Dean Halstead Microsft's Federal Accessibility Lead

Microsoft created 10 short videos on how to create documents that are accessible with screen readers.  Each 2-5 minute video highlights a specific topic about document accessibility.  The videos were initially created for business use; however, the same principals apply for educational use.  Teachers of the visually impaired, VI paraprofessionals and braillists should be incorporating these standard accessibility features as they create and/or modify digital materials for students with visual impairments and blindness.  Ideally, all educators - including general education teachers - should also be following these standards as they create digital materials; if not, consider training the general educational teachers and/or sharing these instructional videos with them.

The 10 videos are:

  1. Overview
  2. Document Naming
    • In the classroom setting, it is important to name the document/assignment with a unique title that obviously describes the document.  (Example: "English Quiz" is too generic.  "Pronoun Quiz 040616" is specific.)
  3. Heading and Styles
    • Accessible Headings is critical for a screen reader user as this enables the student to quickly skim or navigate the document.
  4. Lists
  5. Columns
  6. Tables
  7. Languages
  8. Links
  9. Alt Text
    • In the video, it was stated that images that do not serve a purpose should have the alt text quote space quote; however, in the educational setting, it is often preferred to use an alt text description that does describe the picture, even if the image is just for fun.  (The video used the "thumbs up/thumbs down" decorative image example.  The alt description in this case could simply state, "thumbs up and thumbs down symbols".)
  10. Joining the Accessibility Community

To view the full article, go to 10 Short Videos to Improve Document Accessibility by Deborah Edwards-Onoro.

Note:  One additional suggestion is to use Left Margin Justification only; do not use Right Margin Justification.  When the Right Margin Justification is used, extra spaces are added in the line so that the right margin visually appears to be a straight line down the page.  However, screen readers may verbalize those extra spaces and braille displays will include those extra spaces.