Creating Accessible Microsoft Word Documents

checkmarkUse this quick checklist to make sure your documents are accessible in Microsoft Word. Download the Accessible MS Word Document Checklist (pdf).

Using the Accessibility Checker

PLAY: Find and fix accessibility issues in Word 2010 (3:14) See the Accessibility Checker in action in this short video.

1. To access the Accessibility Checker in MS Word, click the File tab as shown on the ribbon below.

File tab


2. On the Info screen, click the Check for Issues button in the Inspect Document section, and then select Check Accessibility.

Check accessibility


3. The Accessibility Checker pane will open on the side of the page, identifying Errors and Warnings.
In this examples, there is one error: a picture is missing alt text. Additional information is provided at the bottom of the pane, including why it is important to fix this error and How to Fix it. There is one warning in this example as well: an indent was created by entering 5 blank characters or spaces. This can be confusing to a listener as they may think it signals the end of the document. Indents should be created with paragraph formatting, not the keyboard.

accessibility checker results



Heading Styles

PLAY: Apply and customize heading styles (2:46) This video demonstrates the use of heading styles and how to customize the appearance of the styles.

Heading styles should be used to label each section of your document. Use the various levels of headings in the Styles gallery to affix these labels and style your document.

A. Select the heading of a section.

B. Choose the appropriate heading style from the Styles gallery.

C. If the desired style is not displayed, click the More button to see additional styles.

heading style



Paragraph Styles

PLAY: Apply and customize paragraph styles (1:48) Watch as paragraph and line spacing is altered using Styles.

To make a document more visually appealing and easier to digest at a glance, adding white space or negative space can be extremely effective. However, if this extra space is added with the keyboard using the tab, space, or enter keys, each of these characters is read aloud with a screen reader. Instead, use styles to add spacing to your document.

Quickly and easily change line and paragraph spacing using the Paragraph Spacing style tool. This can be found under the Styles menu on the Home tab in Word 2010 or under the Design tab in Word 2013 as shown below.

paragraph spacing


In addition to spacing in and around paragraphs, additional visual layout can be achieved through the use of lists and columns. These should also be done using the tools in Microsoft Word, rather than your keyboard. Instead of typing in the numbers or bullets for a list, allow Word to automatically convert them into a list style. Likewise, columns should be created using the Word Columns tool on the Page Layout tab rather than using the tab key on the keyboard.

Bulleted & Numbered Lists






Alt Text 

PLAY: Add alternative text to images, objects, and tables (3:00) This video showing you how to add alt text to a number of items, including pictures, drawings, and tables. You can also see how to add an alt text shortcut to your toolbar.

Alternative text, or alt text, provides a text equivalent of visual materials. Use alt text on pictures, shapes, drawings, charts, and graphs.

1. Click on an object to select it. You will see selection handles and a border surrounding the image as shown in the image below. Right-click on the object and select Format Picture.

format picture

2. Type a description in the Alt Text area of the Format Picture dialog box. This is located on a different tab depending on the version of Word you are using.

alt text



Save as PDF

You can easily create accessible PDF files from your Microsoft Word documents. After you have checked the accessibility of your Word document, simply click the File menu, choose Save As, and select PDF in the Save as file type drop down menu as shown below.

save as pdf


Google Docs 

 Accessibility Guidelines