Microsoft Word Accessibility

Microsoft Word is a great tool to create and edit documents. The following tips and resources can help you create documents that are more accessible to all users.

Headings

A good heading structure can help every user get a sense of the structure and content of a document and can help screen reader users navigate the document using the headings. This should be done using the Word Heading Styles feature and you can later adjust font size and color as necessary. To do this, go to the “Home” tab, go over to “Styles,” and select the right heading level from the drop down menu.
Heading structure tool found in "styles".

Heading Levels

Word allows for heading levels 1-9 (H1-H9). Heading levels should have a hierarchy and not be skipped, meaning you should go from H2 to H3 to H4, rather than H2 to H4.
  •  The heading levels are as follows:
    • Heading 1: The document title or a main content heading. There is generally just one H1 per document.
    • Heading 2: A major section heading. 
    • Heading 3: A subsection of the H2. 
    • Heading 4: A subsection of the H3, and so on.

Alt Text for Images

Alternative text (alt text) is a short description of an image. It is helpful for users with screen readers and will show up if the image is not loading for any reason. All images in the document should have alt text. To add alt text, right-click the image and choose “Edit Alt Text.” You can then enter in alt text or choose to mark the image as decorative. You can review these alt text basics or read instructions from Microsoft.

Tables

Because tables organize information visually, labeling column and row headers helps screen reader users follow the flow of information correctly. For more instructions, Microsoft has a page on creating accessible tables in Word.

Links

The text for links should briefly describe what the link is and should avoid “Click here” or other text that is vague out of context. Ensure that all links lead to where they should and aren’t broken.

Lists

In creating lists, use actual bulleted or numbered lists instead of just indenting text or writing the numbers on your own. Use a numbered list when the order of the items is important. These can be found in the “Home” tab in the “Paragraph” section.
Unordered and ordered list tools found on toolbar.

Font Size and Color

Generally, font size should be 11pt or higher and be in a readable font. Some highly recommended fonts include sans-serif fonts like Verdana, Tahoma, Arial, Georgia, and Palatino. Text should have a strong enough contrast with its background color. Dark colored text should be on a light background, and vice versa (e.g. black text on white background).

Accessibility Checker

Microsoft Word has a built in Accessibility Checker that reviews your document for accessibility issues. To use this checker, click on the “Review” tab (in the top ribbon), and select “Accessibility Checker.”
Microsoft words accessibility checker tool nested under the review tab.
A sidebar will pull up with the results of the accessibility checker. You can easily fix the issues by clicking on them and choosing one of the recommended fixes.
Accessibility inpection results and warnings.

Additional Resources

If you would like to learn more about document accessibility, consider participating in our free Document Accessibility Online course.