By Juan Soto-Franco, Instructional Designer
Thank you for your interest in learning how to make a Microsoft (MS) Word document accessible and thank you for waiting for Part II of this article. Part I explained how to set up a Word document and make it “Good to go” for accessibility. We also learned how to check a document for accessibility and troubleshoot some minor issues such as adding or editing the description or alternative text (Alt Text) for an image. Part II, ahead, illustrates some core accessibility principles such as heading styles, creating lists and meaningful hyperlinks, setting up the header row for tables, and exporting a Word document to PDF while preserving its accessibility.
First off, when creating an accessible Word document, heading styles are a number one priority. Heading styles indicate scan readers and Braille devices that the document has a particular organization or structure. The structure helps the person “reading” the document make sense of it. Under the Home menu, you will find the Styles section, click the down arrow to get the styles menu displayed on the right-hand pane. Then click to select the heading style you need. See Figure 1 below.
Second, when making a Word document accessible, clearly identify the lists for your readers. That is, if you list a few items, use the Bullet Library (bullet points, letters, numbers, or the like) to show the list. Scan readers notice them and notify the reader. These markers can be found in the Paragraph section. See Figure 2 below.
Third, another accessibility principle deals with creating a meaningful hyperlink. In other words, ensure that the word or phrase is relevant to the link destination. For example, if you are creating a hyperlink to the Hostos Online Learning Initiative, use this same wording as a hyperlink phrase (Hostos Online Learning Initiative). So, with the URL already copied on the clipboard, select the word or phrase, click the Insert tab from the menu. Click Links then Link. Paste the URL into the Address field and click OK. See Figure 3 below.
Fourth, the next accessibility principle is easy, and we explained how it works in the last article. However, we will mention it again here as a review. When we include Alternative Texts (Alt Text) on a Word document, visually impaired individuals using a scan reader will be able to hear the description of a picture or shape. Adding that description is done by right-clicking the image (the red triangle below), and clicking Edit Alt Text… By default, the computer generates an Alt Text, but you may want to read it and modify it to match the actual description of the picture (“A red equilateral triangle with black outlining.”). See Figure 4 below.
Fifth, using tables is a smart technique, but could be problematic if the table runs to the next page. It is worth noting that making accessible tables in Word can be quite complicated; however, simple tables like the ones created by faculty to display the course weekly content can be effortlessly set up. Let us say, for instance, you want to keep the same header row even when the table goes over the next page. First, place the cursor on the top row (the header row) and right-click. Next, click Table Properties. Then under the Row tab, uncheck “allow the row to break across pages” and check the box “Repeat as header row at the top of each page” options. See Figures 5 and 6.
Last, but not least is exporting the Word document to PDF and preserving its accessibility. It works very organically. Click File – Create PDF/XPS – Options – Check “Document structure tags for accessibility” and click OK to conclude. Hopefully, these core accessibility principles will help you make a Word document more accessible. If you need assistance with this or any other topic, do not hesitate to contact us at EdTechSupport@hostos.cuny.edu or call us at (718) 319-7915.
Washington University (2022) “Creating Accessible Documents in Microsoft Word” https://www.washington.edu/accessibility/documents/word/. Accessed December 28, 2021.