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Microsoft Word Accessibility Checklist

In order to be accessible on their own and to simplify the process of producing a compliant accessible PDF, the following criteria should be met when authoring documents in Microsoft Word:

Note that google docs cannot be used to export accessible PDF documents.

Metadata and Basic Information

  1. The Title field is set in the document information (File > Info).
  2. The file extension is .docx, not .doc.
  3. The filename is human-readable (i.e., not 283793854.docx).

Structure and Relationships

  • Document headings describe the topic or purpose of the section.
  • Headings are identified via Microsoft Word's Styles system (not only a visual typography change). The Document's Title should be Heading Level 1, with main document sections using heading level 2, and so forth.
  • Non-heading text is not assigned to a heading style.
  • Your document uses no more than six heading levels.
  • Bulleted or Numerical lists are created with Word's list tools (do not manually type numbers and add tab stops to fake a list).
  • Lists aren't interrupted by a paragraph or other items.
  • Text boxes are avoided. (If you need extra layout flexibility, consider transitioning to Adobe InDesign, which provides much more freedom to create various accessible layouts)
  • If columns are needed, they are created using Word's column tools with section breaks as appropriate.
  • Running headers, page numbers, and other such elements that occur on every page are laid out using Word's header and footer system.
  • All information in a header or footer that is critical for a user to perceive is also repeated in the body of the document. (Headers and footers are hidden from screen readers and assistive devices.)

Text Formatting

  • Hyphenation across paragraphs is minimized, if possible
  • Justified alignment usage is limited, if possible
  • Extra white-space characters are avoided (e.g., multiple hard returns, multiple spaces, excessive tab stops). Rather, spacing is controlled via layout options & paragraph styles.
  • Uppercase text is avoided except for acronyms
  • Underline is only used for hyperlinks
  • Italics usage is minimized as it can be difficult to read for extended blocks

Images

  • All non-decorative images have a descriptive alternative text (alt text) set.
  • Images that convey text are avoided except for official logos. If images with text are used, that text must be included in the image's alternative text.
  • Decorative images are marked as decorative. (including decorative photographs that do not convey any new/relevant information as well as graphics and shapes/dividers).
  • Non-decorative images are set to "In Line With Text" in the Layout /Text Wrapping options.

Navigation

  • If a table of contents is included, it is created using Microsoft Word's Table of Contents feature.

Hyperlinks

  • Link text is descriptive of the purpose/location of the link, rather than the URL or generic terms like "click here."
  • Links are identifiable through hyperlink styling (underlined and usually a contrasting color).
  • If an image is used as a hyperlink, the alternative text of the image is the descriptive link text.
  • If the file is destined for print:
    1. The URL may be used as link text when it is simple and iconic, e.g. "google.com"
    2. The URL is included in parenthesis after the link text, e.g. "The Google Search Engine (https://google.com)"

Color Usage

  • There is sufficient color contrast between the text color and the background color.
    (For normal-sized type, this is a 4.5 contrast ratio. The built-in Accessibility Checker in recent Word versions may flag these errors. See the TPGi Color Contrast Analyser (Free Download) or WebAIM Online Contrast Checker.
  • Color is not used as the only means for conveying information (i.e. color coding without also including a text label, etc)

 Tables

  • Tables are used for rows and columns of tabular data and are not used to control layout.
  • Tables contain a row of column headers at the top, and "Header Row" is checked in the table options.
  • Tables are simple and only contain a single column-header row.
  • No split or merged cells are used. (These can never be accessible in Word, but may be made accessible if the destination is PDF)
  • Section headings, captions, or explanatory notes do not appear in the table

Foreign Languages

  • If a section of the document is in a language other than English, that language is identified using Language > Set Proofing Language

Forms

  1. Avoid creating forms in Microsoft Word (Adobe InDesign is a more flexible and maintainable source software)
  2. Do not use any of Word's built-in form structures, as these are not accessible.