Writing Accessible Content in MS Word

Microsoft Word is a used in many settings and is free for all University of Tulsa faculty, staff and students. Microsoft has done a great job of ensuring that Word is accessible and it is improving all the time.

The basic steps for making a Word Document accessible are outlined below:

Use Headings

Screen Reader users often use headings to skim a document. Good heading structure will help identify how the document is organized.

Use the built in heading styles available under the the Styles section in the Home tab as shown in the image below.

screenshot of styles panel in microsoft word home tab

Headings should be used in order from “Heading 1” to “Heading 6” as needed and should form a meaningful document outline when read alone.

Heading Styles Video Tutorial

Use lists

When you need to create a list, use the Word’s built-in tools for ordered (numbered) and unordered (bulleted) lists.

If the built-in tool isn’t used then the list isn’t recognized as a list by assistive devices (screen readers, etc)

screenshot of list dialogue in micrsoft word home tab. also includes a sample bulleted list with 3 bullets of text

Write meaningful link text

When creating a hyperlink avoid using the words “click here”. Instead write text that conveys meaningful information about the destination of the link.

Highlight the text then right click and select Hyperlink. Type the link in the URL field and select OK.

Hyperlink dialogue open in Microsoft word

Accessible hyperlinks video tutorial

Add alternate text for images

Alternate text describes an image for users who are blind or who have low-vision. You can add alternate text by right clicking on an image and selecting Format Picture. 

Within the Format Picture dialogue, enter information that describes the image within the Description field. In some versions of Word, the alt text will be automatically generated and will be noted as such in the description field.

If the image is decorative and doesn’t need to be read by screen readers you can check Mark as decorative

format picture dialogue in word showing auto generated alt text.

Alt text video tutorial