Documents and Presentations

"Just because it's digital, doesn't mean it's accessible." ~ Daniel J. Berkowitz

Synopsis of Accessibility Guidelines

The following guidelines apply to documents or presentations created in Microsoft Word, Adobe Acrobat, or Microsoft PowerPoint. Presentations should not be created or presented in Prezi, which is almost completely inaccessible to people with disabilities, particularly people with low-vision or people who are blind.

Guidelines adapted from WebAIM's Web Accessibility Principles

Provide Appropriate Alt Text

Image drop-down menu in Microsoft Word 2013.

For every non-text element, provide a text alternative (alt text) that provides an equivalent to the image content. Please refer to WebAIM's Alternative Text web page for more information. Keep in mind:

  • The description should present the content and function of an image.
  • If an image is a link (or hotspot), the alt text must describe the link’s function.
  • Avoid words like "picture of," "image of," or "link to."
  • Use the fewest number of words necessary.

Providing Alt Text in Microsoft Office:

  1. Right click on the image and select "Format Picture..." from the drop-down menu.
  2. Under "Layout and Properties," select "ALT TEXT."
  3. Type your alt text in the box labeled "Description."

Providing Alt Text in Adobe Acrobat:

  1. Ensure that the image is tagged as a "Figure."
  2. Right click on the image and select "Edit Alternate Text" from the drop-down menu.
  3. Type your alt text in the box labeled "Alternate Text."

Ensure that Content Is Clear and Navigable

  • Organize your content using true headings (e.g. <h1>, <h2>, etc.) and bulleted lists (e.g. <ol> and <ul>).
    • Rather than creating headings manually by underlining text or changing fonts to bold, use the format drop-down menu to create true headings.
    • Rather than creating lists by typing numbers manually, use the numbered and bulleted list drop-down menus to create true bulleted lists.
  • Use font sizes and styles that are accessible to those with low vision and cognitive learning disabilities.
    • Minimum standard font size is 12 points but tend toward 16 or 18 points for optimum accessibility.
    • Do not use all caps to emphasize content. Use bold or italics instead.
    • Use a standard, sans serif font (Verdana, Tahoma, Arial, Calibri, etc.).
  • Do not rely on color alone to convey meaning. Please refer to WebAIM's Visual Disabilities: Color Blindness for more information.
    • The use of color can enhance comprehension, but do not use color alone to convey information. Be especially cautious of red/green color combinations.
    • Make sure that color contrast is strong, especially between text and background.
  • Use the simplest language appropriate for your content.
  • Use empty (white) space to improve readability.
  • Use illustrations, icons, etc. to supplement text.
  • Check spelling, grammar, and readability.

Screenshot of the tags menu in Adobe Acrobat

Provide Headers for Data Tables

Identify all data table headers and provide appropriate scope attributes for row and column headers. If appropriate, add a table <caption> for the data table. Please refer to WebAIM's Creating Accessible Tables: Layout Tables for more information.

Providing Data Table Headers in Microsoft Office:

  • If your cursor is located somewhere within the table, Table Tools options for that table will be available in the main menu bar.
  • Under Table Tools > Layout > Table, select "Properties." In the Table Properties window, select the "Row" tab and check the box labeled "Allow row to break across pages."
  • Under Table Tools > Design > Table Style Options, check the box labeled "Header Row." Check the box labeled "First Column" if applicable.

Providing Data Table Headers in Adobe Acrobat:

  • Right click on the left-hand menu bar and select "Tags."
  • In the tags menu, expand the table and each table row, <TR>, to ensure that cells in each header row are labeled table heads, <TH>, rather than table data, <TD>.
  • If any cell are labeled incorrectly, click on the label twice to edit.

Ensure Links Make Sense out of Context

  • Rather than using phrases like "Click here", "Here", "More", "More information", "Read more", and "Continue," name links for their destination. For example, "refer to the Forms and Surveys web page to learn more about creating and including accessible forms and surveys on your website."
  • URL's as link text should usually be avoided, unless the URL is relevant content. If a document or presentation will be distributed in print form, the URL should be included in parentheses following a descriptive link. This allows those accessing the print document the ability to input the URL in their address bar.