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Accessible Documents

These are the basic steps that you should always take to make sure your word, excel, powerpoint documents are accessible:
  • Add document language and title
  • Use styling options that are built into the program; avoid copying and pasting directly from other programs
  • Use "headings" to create a hierarchy in your document. This ensures proper reading order for visually impaired users and helps them understand the content
  • Add alternate text to images
  • Use tables only when necessary; apply table headers and add a table caption and summary
  • Use inbuilt accessibility checkers
  • Preserve accessibility while exporting from one format to another

Learn More

Microsoft office has created a suite of video lessons to help users achieve document accessibility. These lessons are quick 1-2 minute videos that are categorized by product and features. We strongly encourage you to review these videos for specific issues that the inbuilt accessibility checker might flag. 

Contact webcomm-support@northwestern.edu if need to consult further.

Common Errors

  • PDF language is not specified
  • PDF title is missing or is not meaningful
  • PDF is not tagged (important for document structure)
  • Tab order does not follow the document structure
  • Images don’t have alternative texts
    • Decorative or background images can be marked as decorative or “artifacts”
  • Color Contrast needs manual check
  • Table headers not defined
  • Long PDF documents not having bookmarks
  • Image-only PDFs
    • Need to be converted into a text-based PDF using optical character recognition (OCR)

Create an Accessible PDF

  • Use an authoring tool that supports:
    • Creating documents with headings & subheadings
    • Adding alt text to images
    • Exporting to tagged PDF
 

PDF Accessibility Remediation

  1. Recognize text for image only pdfs
  2. Tag document (if needed)
  3. Touch up reading order, alt text, etc.
  4. Touch up structure, especially, add or modify headings
  5. Create links from URLs
  6. Specify language and document title
  7. Do a full accessibility check

Learn More