Creating Accessible Word Documents


Use Headings & Styles

  • 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.
  • Using styles and headings will allow a screen reader to navigate from section to section, making for a more convenient experience for that user.

Add Alt Text to Images

  • Right click on the image.
  • Select 'Format Picture'.
  • Click on 'Alt-text' and type a description of the image.
  • If the image is purely decorative and you want a screen reader to skip over it, make sure to go in and check to make sure the file name is not listed as default alt-text. Instead, press the spacebar, then enter to create null alt text.
    • Note: Enter your alt text into the description field, not the title.

Use Formatted Lists

  • Use bulleted or numbered lists by using Word's formatting tools (not by typing the numbers or dashes yourself).
    • Note: Using the list formatting tool 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.

Format Tables Appropriately

  • 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 (the category that a piece of data falls into will not be identified by the screen reader). Use MS Word's Table Tools editor to identify the different types of rows and columns.


  • Columns: Use true columns, not tab, spacebar or blank lines or text boxes to move text around
  • Extra Spaces: Use the page break tool (not a series of spaces) to move to a separate page.

Check Accessibility: Use Word's Review/Spelling & Grammar Checker

  • After clicking through all the recommended grammar, spelling and punctuation suggestions, the 'Readability Statistics' will display, including word counts, sentence averages, and readability statistics.
  • Most important are the 'Readability Statistics' including
    • Flesch Reading Ease - The higher the number the more difficult the reading ease
    • Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level - Corresponds to the US grade level necessary to comprehend the information.


Resources on the Web

Contact eLearning & Open Education, WA SBCTC

  Jess Thompson/Program Administrator

Fax: 360.442.xxxx

  Steve Gance, Ph.D./Policy Associate

Fax: 360.442.xxxx

  Alissa Sells/Program Administrator

Fax: 360.442.xxxx

  Amy Rovner/MPH RD Instructional Designer, Shoreline Community College

Fax: 360.442.xxxx

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