So do yours Word Document more accessible to everyone

If you have a Microsoft. create Word Document accessibility and inclusion should always be a top priority. Here are some general rules and best practices that you should follow to make your document more accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities.

table of contents

Add alternate (alt) text to visuals

As the name suggests, a screen reader reads the text on a screen. As sophisticated as screen readers may be, without the help of alt text they cannot understand the context of a graphic. When adding alt text to an object Word, allow screen readers to collect the description and read it aloud to aid people with visual impairments.

How to add alternate text to an object in Microsoft Word

It is important to know which objects should contain alt text. If a graphic is purely decorative (like margins) it is safe to exclude alt text and you can mark the graphic in as decorative Word. When you do this, screen readers will alert the user that the object in question is for aesthetic purposes only. You can also skip adding alt text to tables, as screen readers can capture the content in them without any additional help.

You should add alt text to any visual that adds additional context to your document. This almost always includes everyone:

  • pictures
  • photos
  • pictures
  • Diagrams
  • Diagrams
  • Symbols
  • to shape

Write effective alt text may also need some practice. You want to make sure that you describe the picture accurately in a sentence or two (although a few carefully chosen words may do the trick).


Here are some general tips for writing good alt text:

  • Do not use phrases such as “a picture of” or “a graphic representation”.
  • Do not include any text that appears as alt text around the image.
  • Write the alternative text just like you would any other descriptive sentence.
  • When you include flowchart alternate text, you include the entire process from start to finish. This can be longer than the alt text for other graphics, but it is necessary.

Microsoft tries to make it easier for you by allowing you to automatically add alt text to images, but you shouldn’t rely on this feature. It’s like asking someone else to write your content for you and there is no guarantee that the description is accurate. Own your content.

To add alt text to objects in Word, click the image to select it, and then click the Alternate Text option in the Accessibility group of the Image Format tab.

The “Alternative Text” area appears to the right of the Word document. Here you can have your own alt text write Word Write a description for yourself or mark the graphic as decorative.

Alternative text options in the right area in Word.

Images aren’t the only media used in Microsoft Word Documents – videos can also play an important role.

Include subtitles in videos

Videos can be a great resource, but you need to make sure that the information in the video is accessible to everyone. This means adding subtitles for those who may have difficulty hearing and prefer to read the on-screen text.


Unfortunately, Microsoft Word doesn’t have a built-in feature to add subtitles to videos. That means that if you created the video yourself, then you have to do things the old fashioned way. You can use a text editor (such as Notepad) to create the subtitles and then save this file with the VTT extension.

If you have a link to or embed YouTube Video, then it (most likely) already has subtitles thanks to Google’s speech recognition which automatically generates this text. This will save you a little time, but these subtitles are not always accurate. Try watching the video for yourself with the subtitles to see what your audience will see. If the subtitles are incorrect, you should link to another source.

Use meaningful hyperlinked text

Users can jump from link to link with a screen reader, so it is important that the hyperlink text is not ambiguous. In other words, if the text just says “click here”, “show more” or the like, the user will not understand the meaning of the link if the screen reader reads it out of context.

Insert, delete and manage hyperlinks in Microsoft Word

Of course, if you can do this, your best bet is to use the title of the target in the text so the user knows exactly what the link is.

Adding links to images is also not uncommon. However, this makes it difficult for screen readers. If you need to add a link to a picture, make sure that the alternate text on the picture describes the purpose and location of the link – not the picture itself. However, for this reason you should try to avoid links in pictures whenever possible.

While Ease of use and accessibility of links may take some time, the benefits it brings to your audience are well worth the investment.

Use accessible text formats and colors

When you paste a link in some text, Microsoft Word adds an underline by default. While you can remove the underline from the hyperlink, there is a good reason to leave it there.


Using indicators other than colors makes it easier for color blind or visually impaired people to understand the information they want to convey – whether it be knowing which text contains a link or by using checkmarks and X instead of green and red use to indicate that something is right or wrong.

You should also make sure that there is enough contrast between your text and the background of the document. If you use a light color (e.g. light gray) on a white background, your text will be difficult to read.

Here is a example with poor text / background contrast:

Light gray text on a white background indicating that the text is difficult to read

And good text / background contrast:

Black text on a white background with good contrast

There is Color contrast checking apps available online which will let you know very well whether the contrast in your document is sufficient or not. Alternatively, you can just use Microsoft. use Word’s built-in tool for checking accessibility.

Create a logical document structure

Building a logical document structure simply means using headings and using them properly. A common mistake people make when trying to organize the different sections of their content is simply changing the text size and making it bold. This poses several problems, e.g. B. makes it difficult for screen readers to read and understand the structure of your content, not to mention the fact that your document is not properly tabulated.

Word has a decent library of heading styles that you can choose from in the Styles group of the Home tab. If none of these match the style of your document, you can change the default heading styles.


But using headings is not enough – you need to use them correctly. That means nesting the headings in a logical order. To the example, this is what a good heading structure looks like:

  • Heading 1
  • Heading 2
  • Heading 3
  • Heading 3
  • Heading 2
  • Heading 3

And here is one example bad heading structure:

  • Heading 3
  • Heading 1
  • Heading 3
  • Heading 2
  • Heading 1

In addition, you should use built-in formatting tools if necessary. To the exampleif you want to make a list you can use the numbered / bulleted list feature in the Paragraph group of the Home tab. This is preferable to entering a hyphen, adding a space, and then entering text.

Use table headings and simple structures

Sometimes it just isn’t possible to make simple tables, but if you can, then you should. Screen readers read tables (so you don’t have to add alt text to them) and keep an eye on position by counting the cells in the table. When you nest a table within a table, or use split cells, it becomes incredibly difficult for screen readers to keep track of them.

Tables and other formatting controls

Screen readers also rely on table header information to identify columns and rows. You can add a heading to your table. Click anywhere in the table, then in the Table Style Options group of the Table Design tab, click the box next to Header Row to select it.

Table style options on the Table Design tab

Check your document with the Accessibility Checker

Microsoft WordThe Accessibility Checker scans your document and provides suggestions on how to improve the accessibility of your content. This includes things like scanning pictures to make sure they have alt text and making sure tables use a simple structure.

However, there are some limitations. The Accessibility Checker cannot check videos for subtitles, or whether you are using color to convey information. Even after using this tool, it is recommended that you visually scan your document once before sending it.


To use the Accessibility Checker, click the Review tab, then click the icon above Check Accessibility in the Accessibility group.

Accessibility Checker Tool on the tab

The results of the check are displayed in the “Accessibility” area to the right of the document. Here you can review the errors and warnings returned.

Accessibility checker test results with warnings and tips

After you’ve run the Accessibility Checker and there are no more problems, visually scan your document one last time and it is ready to be sent.

Microsoft didn’t stop there Office- The company also offers various accessibility options for its Windows 10 operating system, which makes the operating system accessible to everyone.

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