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Microsoft Word & Accessibility

This page has advice and guidance on how to make your Microsoft Word documents accessibile for your website users.

  • Accessibility Checker

    Microsoft Word 2010 and later versions have a built-in accessibility checker. This tool can help you test your content for accessibility before publishing. The checker detects common accessibility problems which are categorised as either errors or warnings.

    To launch the accessibility checker, open your Microsoft Word document and select File > Info > Check for Issues > Check Accessibility (see image below).

    Screenshot highlighting the steps required to run the accessibility checker in Microsoft Word

    When you have launched the checker, it will:

    • open a column on the right-hand side showing any errors and warnings in your document; and
    • show you additional information underneath about why and how to fix these issues.

Accessibility Techniques

The following techniques will help you to create an accessible Word document:

  • Font, format & alignment

    Font Format

    Excessive use of formatting like bold, italic, capitals and underline can make text more difficult to read.

    Text Align

    Avoid the use of justified text. It creates large, uneven spaces between letters and words.

    Font Type

    Avoid the use of Serif fonts e.g. those that have feet or hooks at the end of the letter strokes.

    The University's Brand Standards specifies Arial as the corporate typeface of choice for text in Word documents.

  • Colour contrast

    Ensure that the Word document has text/background colour combinations with a specific contrast ratio. Vision Australia has a Colour Contrast Analyser Link to external website to assist with the selection and testing of colour contrast ratios. This page also explains the required colour contrast for your content.

  • Headings

    Use the heading styles provided under the Word document's Home tab to indicate the hierarchical level of headings in the document.

  • Numbered & bulleted lists

    Use the numbered/bulleted list function in Word instead of indenting, using dashes or creating a list using symbols.

  • Blank space

    Avoid tabs and empty paragraphs or 'blank spaces' in your document. Instead use formatting like page breaks Word's page break option icon or the line and paragraph spacing option Word's line spacing option icon.

  • Image placement

    Avoid floating an image in your document.

  • Alt text

    Images used in your document must have alternative text (alt text). To add your alt text:

    • Right click on the image
    • Select Format Picture > Alt Text
    • Enter a textual description in the Description field
  • Graphs and charts

    Graphs and charts must be displayed as images.

  • Tables

    If you have a table in your Word document, you will need to:

    Identify the column headers

    • Select the first row of the table.
    • Right-click on the selected row.
    • Select Table Properties > Row.
    • Tick the Repeat as header row at the top of each page option.

    Make tables accessible for screen readers

    For tables containing column or row headers only:

    • Select the cell where the column headers meet row headers.
    • Select Insert > Bookmark.
    • Enter 'Title' in the Bookmark Name field.

    For tables containing column or row headers only:

    • Select the column or row containing the headers.
    • Select Insert > Bookmark.
    • Enter 'RowTitle' for row headers or 'ColumnTitle' for column headers in the Bookmark Name field.

    Tip: Word does not allow two bookmarks with the same name. Use a word or number and underscores (_) to indicate the headers e.g.Title_1.

  • Text boxes

    Avoid using text boxes within your Word document. If you need to display content within a box, place the content in a single table cell or use the bordering effect (Home > Paragraph).

  • Table of contents

    Remember to always include a table of contents. Each item in your table of contents should link to sections that use heading styles.

  • Document title

    Remember to always add a document title. Make sure it clearly and briefly describes the content within the document.


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