Microsoft Word is the most widely-used word processor on the market. The following best practices are provided to help you maximize the accessibility of your Word documents.
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Sighted viewers can scan a page and use visual cues like larger or bold text to find the section of a document that they want to read. However, for someone using a screen reader, these visual markups are useless - leaving them to navigate word by word from the start of the document or webpage until they find the section they want.
Images are non-text content, and must provide contextual information for screen readers and other accessibility devices. Alt text provides semantic meaning and description for images which is necessary in order to determine the content of the image.
Try to use simple font in a good size - no smaller than 11 point for printed materials. Avoid fancy or cursive fonts as these can be difficult to read. Avoid using too many fonts and typing long phrases or sentences in ALL CAPS.
When you create lists, use the bulleted or numbered list formatting tool. This allows a screen reader to identify the number of items in a list. Using list formatting tools allows a screen reader to determine the length of the list, and the reader can understand how the content is organized and how many items are on the list.
Use tables only when you absolutely have to. Use them to organize data when that is necessary. Do not use tables to layout your page. Screen readers will read a table from left to right starting at the top. The relationship between the cells is not defined by a screen reader if it is not formatted correctly.
Make sure your use of color is appropriate for differently sighted (low vision) viewers
Often, people use the tab key or space bar to indent items. People often add extra blank lines between sections of a document or page in order to distinguish between sections. For a student with a screen reader, they may believe they've reached the end of a document if they encounter multiple blank spaces. Try to limit the use of blank spaces and use formatting tools to create spaces before or after your line breaks or section headings.
Avoid uninformative link phrases. Phrases like "click here" do not give the user a description of where they will be taken. Instead, use descriptive hyperlink text that clearly communicates what the user will get when they click.