Creating Accessible Documents

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Creating accessible documents is simple using built in features within Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat. To create an accessible document, review the instructions for applicable applications.

Creating accessible electronic documents is important to ensure access by persons with disabilities and to protect George Mason against legal action. Accessibility to class documents is protected by both Federal and State law by all students; giving equal participation and opportunity.

Create an Accessible Word Document

Check each of the following topics to create an accessible PowerPoint using Office 365.

Document Structure (Style/Headings)


Assigning headings in documents is an important accessibility feature. Headings act much like an outline. Moving from heading to heading is the number one way people who use assistive technologies navigate to the section or content they need. Use Headings to provide sequential and relational understanding.


Styles are simply pre-defined formats for how text appears in a document.


Using the list formatting tool allows a screen reader to determine the list length, number and organization.

Appropriate Font and Size

Although there are many fonts to select when creating a document, it is important to choose those that are recommended for both readability and availability across computer platforms. It is suggested that selecting one of the following sans serif font styles make documents accessible to the largest audience possible: Arial & Verdana in size 12 pt are good options.

Add Alternative Text

Images, charts, and objects within documents should be described using text. The alternative text is read aloud by assistive technology called screen readers. This provides an understanding of images and graphics for individuals who may have visual or cognitive disabilities.

Use Appropriate Color Contrast

Text or iconic color that does not strongly contrast with the background make reading difficult for people who have low-vision or color-blindness.

Accessible Tables

Tables can be difficult for individuals who use assistive technology to read. Creating structured tables is helpful.

Use Meaningful Hyperlink Text

A person who uses assistive technologies can navigate a document by moving from hyperlink to hyperlink, or by accessing a list of all the links in a document. Thus, hyperlinked text should provide a clear description of the link destination and avoid the use of phrases such as, ‘Click Here’ does not provide meaning.

Check Accessibility

To check a document for accessibility, Word 365 provides a built-in accessibility feature.

Create an Accessible PowerPoint

Check each of the following topics to create an accessible PowerPoint using Office 365.

Templates and Themes

Built-in templates and themes provide slides with accessibility features, such as high contrast ratio and reading order structure.

Built-in Layouts

Similar to templates and themes, built-in layouts provide heading structure and reading order to slides for screen readers. Inserting textboxes can cause issues with screen readers accessing content.

Alternative Text for Images

Alternative text assists individuals with visual impairments to understand the important content in an image. Alternative text is read aloud by screen readers.

Meaningful Hyperlink Text

Meaningful hyperlink text allows individuals using assistive technology to find and navigate quickly to links. hyperlink text should be concise, clear, and relevant to the linked content. Avoid using vague phrases, such as ‘Click Here, More, Read More’.


Using simple tables, one row for column headers, one column for row headers, avoiding empty cells and nested headers (when possible), allows screen readers to associate data with the appropriate column and/or row headers.

Unique Slide Title

Unique titles assist screen reader users identify when they move to a new slide. Each slide should include a unique title.

Check Accessibility

To check a document for accessibility, PowerPoint 365 provides a built-in accessibility feature.

Additional Resources for Creating Accessible Documents

Microsoft’s Office Tutorials

The following links will take you to Microsoft’s website for detailed information on making Office documents accessible.

PDF Documents

Convert Word Documents to PDF

  1. Open a Word or PowerPoint file.
  2. Click Create PDF in the Acrobat ribbon.
  3. Name the PDF file and select save location, then click Save.

Still have questions?

If you have additional questions related to Blackboard accessibility, please contact the ATI.