Creating Accessible Documents

Creating documents that are accessible to everyone who might need them is an essential part of creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for all regardless of ability.

When creating accessible content, use the following steps as a foundation, regardless of whether your document is in HTML, Microsoft Word, Adobe PDF or another document format.

  • Use headings
  • Organize content into lists
  • Use meaningful hyperlinks
  • Add alternate text to images
  • Identify document language (English, Spanish, Japanese, etc.)
  • Use tables with care
  • Understand how to export from one format to another

Common Document Accessibility Questions

Why do documents have to be accessible?

  • Posting these documents to our website means that not everyone can receive the information.
  • Bowling Green State University wants to make sure our students, faculty and staff have equal access to everything we offer.
  • Bowling Green State University must comply with laws for equal access.

How can I tell if my document is accessible?

  • Attempt to copy and paste content from PDF. If you're not able to copy the information, screen readers cannot recognize text.
  • Try to tab through your document. It if created properly, the tab should take you logically through the information. If not, it's not accessible.
  • Run accessibility checker under Tools in Adobe Acrobat Pro.
  • Use a screen reader to test for accessibility, such as NVDA, Voiceover, Narrator, JAWS, etc.

How do I make my document accessible?

To make accessible documents in Microsoft Word:

  • Provide a descriptive title
    A descriptive title tells the user what the purpose of the document is. The title should be succinct and use proper grammar and punctuation. Do not replace spaces with underscores or hyphens.
  • Use built-in headings and styles
    On the “Home” ribbon, in the “Styles” group, select the appropriate heading (Heading 1, Heading 2, etc.) Use a logical order without skipping headings, Heading 1 first, followed by Heading 2, etc. Typically there should only be one Heading 1 in the document.
  • Include alternative text with all visuals

Alternative text provides textual information for visual elements (pictures, illustrations, images of text, shapes, charts, etc.) There are two ways to apply alternate text in Word: Use the Description field in the Alt Text field; OR provide information about the content or function of the image in the surrounding text.

  • Add meaningful hyperlink text and ScreenTips
    Screen readers will read the displayed hyperlink text aloud. Instead, hyperlink meaningful words within the text (NOT Click Here!), such as Apply online now, or Learn more about the program. 
  • Ensure that color is not the only means of conveying information
    Visually impaired and/or colorblind readers might miss essential information that is solely a different color, such as red. Use asterisk (*) or other denotations along with or instead of color. 
  • Use sufficient contrast for text and background colors
    Visually impaired and/or colorblind readers might miss essential information that is presented without the proper contrast.
  • Use standard fonts, font sizing and paragraph spacing
    The key to written communication is to convey information cleanly and efficiently. Limit use of italics, all capital letters and font color or shape to convey information. Don't use blinking or moving text.
  • Use proper bullet and number formatting
    Screen readers can best read information that is organized and formatted correctly.
  • Use a simple table structure and specify column header information.
    Avoid using tables for layout purposes. Use only uniform tables for data.

What makes a document accessible?

A document is accessible if it has been designed and structured to be used effectively by people with disabilities. Assistive technology devices and software should be able to interact/ access content effectively if documents are accessible. Assistive technology devices/software may include:

  • Screen Readers
  • Magnification Software
  • Scan/Read

Accessible documents benefit all types of users, not just users with disabilities. Users with limited access to software programs or technology in general benefit from the way you make your documents available.

Updated: 01/17/2023 09:46AM