A Simple guide to making word documents accessible

Introduction

The starting point is your word document before you convert it to a PDF and then you simply go through the Accessibility checker that is built in to word. The accessibility checker will tell you what is an error or warning and and needs to be corrected and how to go about correcting it.
 
screenshot of the accessibility checker on microsoft word with errors, warnings and how to fix circled red
 
 
You can access the accessibility checker from the file menu at the top of word documents:
on the left is a screenshot of the top menu on microsoft word with file circled red and on the right the info menu is shown with check for issues circled red
          
 
Or type accessibility checker in to the 'tell me what you want to do… ' help box:
 
screenshot of the top of the page in microsoft word with the help box circled red
 

Key areas to focus on

Structure

If you have simply used bold or changed font size for the sections in your document, it will fail on structure. You need to use the Title, and Headings functions for sections and subsections, provided in the Word programme, with the body of text being normal:

screenshot of the tool bar on microsoft word with the paragraph styles circled red
 
And use the bullet and numbering functionality rather than hyphens and tabs and just writing numbers in lists etc.
 
screenshot of the tool bar on microsoft word with the bullet points and numbering features circled red
 
You also need to avoid adding additional ‘returns’ or ‘blank lines’ to space out your document as these
also confuse screen readers. You should use formatting, indenting and styles to create whitespace instead of repeating blank characters.
 
screenshot of the microsoft word accessibility checker with the repeated blank characters and additional information circled red     screenshot of the microsoft word accessibility checker with the how to fix section circled red
 
screenshot of the microsoft word accessibility checker with the additional information section circled red  screenshot of the microsoft word accessibility checker with the additional information section circled red
 

Tables

If you are using table follow the accessibility guidance and ensure you have title rows and don’t merge cells. Rather than having one big complex table it can be better to have simple tables for each section that might make up a more complex table. The accessibility checker highlights all the issues and how to sort them.
 
 
Accessible table
Merged cells in table columns
Merged cells in table rows           
   

 

screenshot of the microsoft word accessibility checker with the no header row specified section circled red  screenshot of the microsoft word accessibility checker with the merged or split cells circled red

 

Pictures

If you have a picture, then it needs to have 'alternative text' or 'alt text' applied so that a screen reader can tell someone who is accessing the document that way what the picture is. The accessibility checker tells you how you add alt text to a picture/image.
 
screenshot of the microsoft word accessibility checker with the missing alt text, how to fix and additional information section circled red  screenshot of the microsoft word accessibility checker with the additional information section format picture setting open with title and description circled red
 
 

Creation of a PDF

Once your document is accessible in word, if you want it to be published online, it needs to be saved as a PDF. If your service area has someone with access to PDF editing software (such as Foxit Pro, Adobe Pro or Acrobat Pro) then they can save as a PDF and then use their PDF editing software to address any remaining accessibility issues in the PDF format. All PDF editing software also has a built in accessibility checker.
If there is no PDF editing software in your service area and your document needs to be published online you should submit it to the Communications and Engagement team to see if they are able to convert it. You should provide the accessible word document as well as the PDF you may have already created. It must be accessible in Word as a starting point.