By Juan Soto-Franco, Instructional Designer, EdTech

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), “Nineteen percent of undergraduates in 2015-16 reported having a disability” (2019). Also, according to Raymond Perez, Director of the Accessibility Resource Center (ARC), “recent numbers provided by CUNY Central [indicate that] we currently have 631 students with disabilities registered at Hostos, 11,000 students with disabilities registered in CUNY, and 40,000 students with disabilities in higher education in NY state” (Email communication). This evidence may sound like a wake-up call. And, yes, I would say it is a wake-up call because a growing number of our student population yearns for instructions and materials that are more accessible to them. They need more loving, caring, and understanding instructors. Instructors who are willing to go the extra mile to morph or adapt their instructions to create a more inclusive environment, one that helps all their students succeed academically with less painful experiences.

The words Accessibility written in Word interface


As far as materials are concerned, instructors would need to generate accessible material be it videos, text, audio files, images, and so on. This simple awareness and attitude can help our students with disabilities benefit tremendously from the instructions they receive. I would like to share with you some tips on how to make a Microsoft Word (MS) document accessible. We will begin small by sharing Part I here and conclude this topic on our next Newsletter with Part II.

As you begin to create content for your online course, keep in mind to make it accessible to everyone. Accessibility covers a wide range of details that include, but are not limited to, text, font size, color, contrast, closed captions (subtitles), audio files, image alternative text, and using the accessibility checker tool, among others. For the time being, let us focus on MS Word and how to make a Word document accessible from the beginning.

First, launch MS Word on your computer. If the taskbar (usually located at the bottom of your screen) reads, “Accessibility: Unavailable” (image 1),

Image 1

then click it to enable the tool, so it reads, “Accessibility: Good to go” (image 2).

Image 2

You might encounter that MS Word is not up to date to run accessibility. If that is the case, you will need to convert the document. This action might change the layout slightly, but it is not a big deal. Click on the “Convert” button on the right panel and then “OK” (image 3).

Image 3

Now, if you already have a Word document created, you may want to run the Accessibility Check, which is highly advisable. To do so, just follow these three simple steps below after you click the File tab: 1. Info → 2. Check for Issues → 3. Check Accessibility (image 4). Any issues or accessibility errors will be displayed on the right-side panel. For future reference, make sure to check the box for the prompt “Keep accessibility checker running while I work.”

Image 4

The panel on the right displays the results of the Accessibility Check. Under “Intelligence Services” or “Errors” (in some other cases), you will see the different issues. For this illustration (image 5), let us pay attention to the selected image “Random image” (left) and the error “Picture 11” (right), which is missing the alternative text. There are two routes to solve this situation. One, with “Picture 11” selected, click the chevron (down arrow) and select “Add a description” if the display reads, “Add a description.” If the display reads, “Verify description” it means that MS Word has automatically generated a description for you. Then, proceed to provide or manually modify the description in the box that best suits your image.

Image 5

Two, you can right-click on the image “Accessibility” (left) and select “Edit Alt Text” from the menu. Then type the description in the box on the right panel. Notice that MS Word has automatically generated an Alt Text for you; however, it is always advisable that you read the text and modify it to match the actual description of the image (image 6).

Image 6

Lastly, once you have fixed all the errors, you should get a green checkmark (image 7) indicating that your document is accessible.

Image 7

For additional tips on accessibility, contact or wait for our next Newsletter issue.


Perez, Raymond (2021). Director of the Accessibility Resource Center (ARC) at Hostos Community College.

Students with Disabilities. National Center for Education statistics, 2019.


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