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Accessibility Workshop for Guttman Community College: Create Accessible WORD documents

Creating an Accessible Word Syllabus

  • Makes course and department materials readily usable upfront by as broad a student population as possible.
  • It’s proactive inclusive instruction instead of reactive accommodation.
  • It is also useful to students not requesting accommodations.
  • Saves you time if a student requests an accommodation.
  • Saves you time updating, revising, and reformatting documents.
  • By making your materials accessible, you eliminate some of the obstacles and cut down on some of the hassle it may take a person to navigate your content.
  • Doing as much work as you can on the front end eliminates the potential for a lot of work put into modifying your content when an accommodation notice arrives in your inbox the day classes begin. 

Attribution: [Alissa Sells] (2017, Sep 29) “5 Steps to an Accessible Syllabus” SBCTC Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges

Extra Info: If you create an accessible word version of your syllabus and then save it as a pdf, your syllabus will maintain the accessibility coding.

Demonstration/Comparison

Here is a video showing the difference between an accessible word syllabus document and an inaccessible word syllabus.


Attribution: [Assistive Technology Showcase] (2014, May 1) Screen Reader User's Experience and MS Word. Retrieved at https://youtu.be/D8XFkGMF0sw

General Word Accessibility Tips

  • Use a sans serif fonts such as Arial, Helvetica or Verdana.
  • Use 12 point or larger.
  • Give documents descriptive titles, they are read aloud to screen readers.
  • Use WORD’s built in STYLES to structure and organize your document.
  • Use HEADINGS to structure and organize your document.
  • Use PAGE LAYOUT/COLUMNS to create columns, not with tabs or spaces.
  • Include ALT TEXT (alternative text describing item) for images, tables, charts and graphs so they are “visible” to everyone. 
  • For complex tables and charts provide a detailed transcript.
  • Don’t use tables for layout.
  • Keep tables simple.
  • Use descriptive text for links, don’t use  “click here” or “more”
  • Use bulleted and numeric lists for related items.
  • Include a table of contents for long documents (Word can generate if you use styles).
  • Don’t use color as the sole way you relay information.
  • Be cautious as to the colors you choose.
  • Provide sufficient color contrast.
  • Check how document looks for colorblind individuals.
  • Include closed captions or transcripts for any audio or video elements.

Accessibility Instructions for various word versions

For each version of Word, Microsoft provides detailed instructions on how to:

  • Create and Edit Headings
  • Add Alternative Text
  • Create Tables
  • Editing Hyperlinks
  • Create Lists
  • Create Columns
  • Use the Accessibility Checker
  • Saving as HTML
  • Convert to PDF

Select your version of Word to see how to add accessible content.

Step-by-Step Instructions on checking word document for accessibility

The Accessibility Checker is a great tool to check for problems in your Word document. It points out things such as missing alt text, missing table row headers, unclear hyperlink text, and more. It provides instructions on how to fix any items that have been flagged as inaccessible.

There are slightly different instructions on using the Accessibility Checker depending on whether you are on a PC or using a Mac.

Run Accessibility Checker on PC:

  1. Open up your word document.
  2. Select the "File" tab
    • This will take you to the "Info" section
  3. Click the "Check for Issues" button in the "Inspect Document" area
  4. In the drop down menu select "Check Accessibility".

Run Accessibility Checker on Mac:

  1. Open up your word document.
  2. Select "Review" tab in the document ribbon.
  3. Select "Check Accessibility" in the review ribbon.

or you can

  1. Open up your word document.
  2. Select "Tools" in the word ribbon.
  3. Select "Check Accessibility" in drop down menu.

Read Inspection Results:

  • A pane will appear on the right hand side of your word document.
  • The review panel provides a list of errors and warnings that it found in the document.
  • Under the errors section, click on an item.
  • Word navigates to the item in error.

Additional Information available in Inspection Results pane

  • Information is given explaining why the item needs to be fixed and how to fix the error.
  • Under the warnings section, click on an item.
  • Fix the errors and warnings as appropriate.