Website Accessibility Guidance

Creating accessible documents

East Dunbartonshire Council is required by law to make its web content accessible. This includes PDFs and all other documents published on our website. Therefore, any PDFs or other documents we publish on our website must be in an accessible format

Our Website content Guide provides further guidance on how to update and create new content for your service area.

If you need to publish a document online, we have provided guidance on how you can create an accessible document below:

How to create accessible Microsoft Word, Excel and Email documents

Use the Accessibility Checker

Run the Accessibility Checker to make sure your Microsoft Office content is easy for people with disabilities to read and edit.

  1. On the ribbon, select the Review tab. If you're using Microsoft 365, note that you'll only see the Review tab when writing or replying to messages.
  2. Select Check Accessibility.

    Microsoft Office review section with accessibility highlighted
  3. Review your results. You'll see a list of errors, warnings, and tips with how-to-fix recommendations for each.

For more information see Microsoft's Improve accessibility with the Accessibility Checker guidance.

Microsoft Excel spreadsheets on the website

If you need to publish an Excel spreadsheet, the preferred format for these are accessible ".xlsx" files.

An ".xlsx" file is a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet created in versions of Microsoft Word 2007 onwards. Older versions were ".xls" format.

See Microsoft's guidance on how to make your Excel spreadsheets accessible.

How to create accessible PDFs

PDFs make content harder to find, use and navigate:

  • PDFs are designed to be printed
  • they're not designed for reading on screens
  • they cannot meet the range of users' accessibility needs, for example, users cannot change colours or font size - this is easy in web content, but much more difficult or impossible in PDF documents
  • many browsers, tools and extensions do not work with them - they often have problems with zoom, scroll, audio, image and keyboard navigation
  • they take users away from the website, opening in a new tab, window or software - and not all users have the right software

Other reasons why we should avoid PDFs:

  • they give people a poor user experience, especially on mobile
  • they are hard to maintain and update, so users may get out of date and unreliable content
  • if users find PDFs in search results, they get them without any supporting context or material
  • it can be difficult for users to tell if a PDF is out of date as search engines often take users directly to a PDF – when this happens it is not easy to find out if it is the latest version
  • search engines do not rank PDFs high in search results
  • it's difficult to collect data on how people use PDFs, and that makes it difficult to identify problems and improve them

Creating PDFs

If you need to have a PDF document on the website you must make sure it's accessible. You can either add accessibility information to an existing PDF using Adobe Acrobat Pro (if you have access to a licence) or create an accessible PDF from the source document, ie Microsoft Word.

The simplest way to create a new accessible PDF is to convert the original (accessible) document to an accessible PDF.

PDFs from Microsoft Word docs

If your original document is a Microsoft Word document, seeMicrosoft's guidance on how to make your Word documents accessible.

When saving your Word document to PDF ensure you add the filename along with selecting the options and ticking the document structure tags for accessibility.

Microsoft Word save as screen showing option and tag accessibility

PDFs from Microsoft Excel spreadsheets

If your original document is an Excel spreadsheet, see Microsofts guidance on how to make your Excel spreadsheets accessible.

Other PDFs

If you do not have access to the source document you will need Adobe Acrobat software to make changes to the PDF. However please note that this is harder and more time consuming than creating a new version of the document, and requires Adobe Acrobat Pro. See the guidance from Adobe on how to add accessibility information to an existing PDF. If you don’t have access to the source document you can submit a change request to the Communications and Engagement team and one of our Digital Assistants can make the necessary changes.

Guidance for all document types

Use simple language

Clear and simple language makes your document accessible to people with cognitive impairments and learning disabilities.

Research shows that most users prefer simple language, including specialist audiences. This helps users to understand and process information quickly.

Where you need to use technical terms, abbreviations or acronyms, explain what they mean the first time you use them.

Use a simple layout and style

Keep sentences and paragraphs short. Aim for around 25 words or less per sentence.

Use sentence case. Avoid all caps text and italics.

Make sure the text is left-aligned, not justified.

Avoid underlining, except for links.

Documents with single continuous columns of text are easier to make accessible than documents with a complex layout.

Only use tables for data. Keep tables simple: avoid splitting or merging cells.

Do not use things like colour or shape alone to show meaning.

Instructions like 'click the big green button' rely on the user seeing the page, and someone who is colour blind may not see the green button.

If you're using images or charts, think about how you'll make the content accessible to people with a visual impairment. Two options are:

  • make the same point in the text of the document (so people with visual impairments get the information they need - the image or chart is there as an extra for people who are able to see it)
  • give the person converting or uploading the document for you alt text ('alternative text') for the image or chart

Do not use images containing text, as it's not possible to resize the text in the image and screen readers cannot access the text which is part of an image.

Avoid footnotes where possible. Provide explanations inline instead.

Use a simple structure

Give the document a meaningful title.

Break up your document to make it more readable. Use bullet points, numbered steps and meaningful subheadings.

Do not use bold to mark up subheadings. Use styles to create a hierarchy of headings: 'heading 1', 'heading 2' and so on.

Use styles for tables and bullet lists. That way, a screen reader will recognise the formatting and read out the content correctly.


Ensure your list is structured correctly. Introduce any list with a colon and lay it out with bullet points or numbers.


Use standard fonts that are available on the end users device, ie sans-serif fonts such as Arial, Tahoma, or Verdana.

Serif fonts (example Times New Roman) can cause problems for those with learning disabilities like dyslexia.

Use a minimum font size of 12 points.


A hyperlink (or link) is an item like a word or button that points to a location within a document or to a website.

It's important to make all links accessible, clear and functional for all users.

Make sure all links are provided at the point in the text where they are most relevant. Don’t put all the links together at the bottom of the document

Use meaningful links

When writing a link, make it descriptive so it makes sense even if you read it out of context.

DO NOT use generic terms such as 'click here' or 'read more' as they don't make sense out of context or work well for screen readers. You need to tell users where a link will take them.

For example, "Mavis Valley recycling centre". The words used for the link "Mavis Valley recycling centre" are the name of the page where you will end up if you follow the link.

If your link takes the user to a webpage where they can start a task, start your link with a verb. For example, "Report a missed bin".

Do not use the same link text that will link to a different place. Same link - same text - same location.

Links help people scan content, so do not swamp the document with too many or link to the same tool or webpage throughout your document.

Size of the link

Think about the size of the link users need to select. For users with reduced motor skills, a one word link could be very difficult to select.

Do not use the URL of a webpage as the hyperlink text, unless it is very short (eg Screen readers read out URLs letter by letter. This can be very time consuming and annoying. Also, in most circumstances they do not describe the destination page.

Location of links

You can add links anywhere in body text, but not in titles or subheadings.


This video shows you how to make tables accessible.

Tables should only be used to present data.

Do not use tables for cosmetic purposes i.e. you think it looks better.

Consider the alternatives

A table may not always be the best way to present your content.

A simple table can often be replaced with a series of bulleted lists with headings and subheadings.

How to make tables accessible

Tables must have header labels, captions and descriptions to make them accessible.

Screen readers keep track of their location in a table by counting table cells. Screen readers also use header information to identify rows and columns.

There must be sufficient contrast between the font colour and cell shading if it's used.

Don't merge cells or split cells. Doing this will affect the order in which cells are accessed. Try using the tab key to navigate your table. You should start at the top left and continue across the heading columns from left to right. Then down to the first row, navigating the cells in each column. If you can do this smoothly then screen readers should have no problems.

Accessibility checkers check the reading order of documents.

More information is available from Microsoft: Creating accessible tables in MS Word.

Totals, etc

Carry out any calculations, for example include totals or differences between amounts at the end of columns or rows.

Make your table easier to read

Try to use more rows than columns.

A tall, narrow table is easier to read than a short, wide one.

Put important information first

Put the information that most people are looking for at the top or in the first few columns if applicable.

Table size

The size of a table affects how easy it is for people to read and understand it.

The minimum size for a table should be two columns and three rows (including a column header), but if your table is this small it may be better as normal text.

Most visits to our corporate website are made on a mobile device.This makes it even more critical to consider whether a table is necessary, as more than a couple of columns will be difficult for users to read on a mobile.

If you have a large or complex table to present to users and you aren't sure how best to approach it, get in touch with the Digital Assistants -

Example of an accessible table

Council Tax Band

Value of the property
at 01 April 1991

Yearly council tax bill


Up to £27,000



£27,001 to £35,000



£35,001 to £45,000



£45,001 to £58,000



£58,001 to £80,000



£80,001 to £106,000



£106,001 to £212,000



over £212,000



Headings are used to structure text and help people scan your document. Headings also make it much easier for people to navigate and they are used by software and assistive technology to provide navigation.

Accessibility checkers will check your document for a title and that the first heading used is a Heading 1.

Heading styles

The simplest way to add headings is with heading styles. Using heading styles means you can quickly build a table of contents, organise your page or document, and reformat its design without having to manually change each heading's text.

Heading hierarchy

Headings should follow a hierarchy of logical order. Heading styles should never be used to artificially fix or 'design' text as this will confuse users and screen readers.

Headings with an equal or higher rank start a new section, headings with a lower rank start new subsections that are part of the higher ranked section.

  • Heading 1 (h1): page title or a main content heading (there should only be one)
  • Heading 2 (h2): major section heading
  • Heading 3 (h3): sub-section of Heading 2
  • Heading 4 (h4): sub-section of Heading 3, and so on

Don't skip headings. For example, don't use a heading 3 if you've not used a heading 2 before it. Make sure that an h2 is not followed directly by an h4.

Heading rules

It is fine to skip ranks when closing subsections, for instance, an h2 beginning a new section, can follow an h4 as it closes the previous section.

  • H2 - this would be the heading for a major section
  • H3 - this is a sub-section of heading 2 above
  • H4 - this is a sub-section of heading 3 above
  • H2 - this is a NEW major section
  • H3 - this is a sub-section of heading 2 above
  • H4 - this is a sub-section of heading 3 above
  • and so on.

Headings should not be skipped - they should always be in numerical order.

The example below is incorrect:

  • H2 - this would be the heading for a major section
  • H4 - this should be a sub-section of heading 3 (not a H2 as is shown here)
  • H3 - this should be a sub-section of heading 2 (not a H4 as is shown here)


Images should only be used if they are of good quality and add value to the text.

Alternative text, often called alt text, is a short written description of an image. It is used to inform screen reader users of the contents of an image. It may also display on a web page if an image does not load.

In the example below you will see the alt text for the image is "the Auld Kirk Museum in the snow".

MS Word has accessibility tools to help add alt text to images.

Screenshot of Microsoft Word showing alt text being input for images

Using text in images

Don't embed text or information in images. This information will be inaccessible to screen readers and Google for search rankings. Images of text can also be unreadable on mobiles due to their size.

If you must use an image that contains text, the text within the image must be provided in the document separately and as selectable, readable text.

Where images of complex information such as graphs and diagrams are needed, a full-text equivalent of the data or information provided in the image must be provided. In some cases, you can provide a note of this and contact information for anyone who wants to access a text alternative to an image of complex information.