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    • Instructions do not refer to sensory characteristics of components, such as size, shape, visual location, orientation or sound
    • All functions are available using only the keyboard.
    • Language set
    • New pages added using Instert > Page Break
    • Do not use hyphenation - Screen readers split up hyphenated words instead of speaking them properly as single words.
    • Do not use drop caps
    • No italics except when it is required to be grammatically correct.
    • No blinking or moving text.
    • No all caps text for sentences or phrases.
    • No unlimited font styles. Limit styles to 3 or 4.
    • Avoid justifying text to both right and left margins as the spacing within a line is irregular.
    • Information in the Header and Footer are NOT read by screen readers once the document is converted to PDF.

Document Structure

    • Document design has been created using “Styles.”
    • Heading styles are used to indicate main sections of the document. (Heading 1 for the title, Heading 2 for main sections, Heading 3 for subsections under a main section, Normal for paragraph text)
    • The navigation pane in Word 2010 shows the headings in a documents. You can promote or demote a heading by right clicking the heading in the navigation pane.
    • Header and Footer styles are used to define headers and footers.
    • Ensure that document has a reading order that is left-right and top-bottom and that the embedded objects, tables and images are in line with text.
    • Information contained in headers and footers is also presented at least once in the body of the document.
    • Avoid use of manually created white space (spacebar or enter key). Use paragraph formatting to create space between sections of text.
    • The Column tool is used to create multiple columns.
    • Have a big gap of white space between each column (large gap prevents screen readers from reading across columns)
    • Documents for mobile should use single column so page reads top to bottom
    • The Bullet style is used to create bulleted lists.
    • The Number style is used to create numbered lists.

Text Elements

    • There is no content that flickers or flashes.
    • Do not use ornate fonts
    • Text boxes are not used.
    • Font selection is Sans Serif
    • Common fonts used through out document
    • Body text 12-14 point

Table of Contents, Footers, page Numbering

    • Footnotes are created through document footnote feature.
    • Create a Table of Contents for lengthy documents (20+ pages)
    • If Table of Contents is used, it is created using the Table of Content tool.
    • Update TOC. It does not automatically update.
    • The Page Number style is used to create page numbers.
    • Table of Contents and Footers tips and info


    • If possible use a list instead of table
    • The Table tool is used to create tables.
    • Tables do not contain merged cells.
    • Table information reads in the correct order. Tab through table to proof reading order.
    • Tab or Enter/Return keys are not used to add rows and columns to the table.
    • If a table spans multiple pages, the header row repeats at the top of each page.
    • If a table spans multiple pages, row data does not break across pages.
    • Table cells are identified by their corresponding column and row headers.
    • Tables are inline
    • Give table a title using the Caption tool
    • Bookmark added to table
    • Insert a Bookmark in the first cell of the table
      1. Place your cursor inside the first cell (A1).
      2. Then, from the Productivity or Accessibility Tab, click Bookmark.
      3. Enter a bookmark name, beginning with “Title”, and then some brief, descriptive text. However,
      there can be no spaces. Underscores and hyphens are OK.
    • Alt text added to table


    • Do not use Tables for formatting. Tables should be used for tabular data. Use columns and other native formatting techniques in Word.
    • Table cells not used to simulate input fields
    • Help Text is placed in the Status Bar area (138) character limit). If additional help text is needed, it’s placed in the Help Key (F1) area (255 character limit).
    • Additional “information only” inputs contain help text that does not fit in its related field.
    • Help Text available for all input fields
    • Document Zoom Level is set to 100%
    • Form is Protected (Locked)
    • Form fields are shaded or underlined
    • Tab order is correct
    • Inaccessible explanatory text is not placed between form fields
    • Explanatory text is sectioned off with section breaks and that section is left unprotected
    • Helpful Bookmark names are used for form fields
    • Form field options are used to restrict date input if specific types of input are required
    • Final input field includes and end of form indicator
    • It is important to ensure that all form fields have instructions or labels.  Form instructions are typically placed above the form, call out required fields, and provide additional information on completing and submitting the form.
    • Individual form fields typically have labels above or to the left of the form field, with the exception of radio buttons and checkboxes, whose labels should appear to the right of each field.
    • Labels should contain any formatting information, such as value length or date format.


    • Links describe their purpose or target (“Click Here” or “More” are not acceptable.)
    • Links that refer to a web address use the full URL:
    • Links are indicated with something other than just color, such as underlined.

Non-Text Elements (Images and Charts)

    • Non-text content (such as graphics, illustrations, charts, and graphs) has alternative text or captions to describe the image.
    • Background images are avoided.
    • Information contained in a watermark is also presented at least once in the body of the document.
    • Images and other non-text features are set as “In Line with text” in text wrapping.
    • All complex images (contain multiple parts or images tied together) are grouped and include an alternative text description.
    • Alt text should be short, no more than 2 sentences. Some browsers, AT, etc, will stop presenting the alt text after a sentence or two. Unlike written text on a page, alt text can't be stopped, started and reviewed easily by a user.
      • Does not need to be viewed with the picture to make sense
      • Is as concisely worded as possible and does not exceed 100 characters
      • Is a sentence fragment, not a sentence; capitalize the first word only
      • Does not include ending punctuation or bold or italic formatting
      • Does not begin with an article or the phrase ''picture of''
      • Prioritize information in text alternative: Try to put the most important information at the beginning
      • Images used as links should have alternative (or "alt") text describing the destination of the link, not the image itself
      • Alt text with acronyms should be written with spaces in between letters. For instance, <alt="I T S at P S U" > (read by a screen reader as "ITS at PSU") is preferable to <alt="ITS at PSU" > (read as "It’s at Sue")
      • Many experts recommend 125 characters or fewer because of restrictions within the JAWS screen reader. Many versions of JAWS break up longer text tracts into blocks of 125 characters, which can be confusing to users.
    • When creating the alt text, the text should contain the message you wish to convey through that image, and if the image includes text, that text should also be included in the alt.
    • Use text equivalents (long descriptions) within the document for descriptions that are longer than a few sentences. One option is to present a chart and a simple accessible table containing the same informaion.
    • Prioritize information in text alternative: Try to put the most important information at the beginning.


    • Color is not used as the only way of providing information; if color is used to indicate an error, required field, or other information, the information has a secondary code, such as an asterisk.
    • Large text (18-point or larger or 14-point bold) has a color contrast ration of at least 3:1. All other text has a color contrast ration of at least 4.5:1.

File and Document Name

    • File names do not include spaces.
    • If a document refers to another document, the documents have similar names.
    • Document saved not as “Final”
    • Document meets all the requirements in the Accessible Word Documents Checklist.

Helpful tip

Word document and tag structure for images after converting to PDF

If you convert your Word document (docx) to PDF using Acrobat tab, and you examine the tag structure in the Tags pane, you will notice all of your images and graphics in the document have been clustered to the top at the beginning of the document. Having the application move the tags from their intended location in the document messes up the intended reading order, a critical aspect of accessibility for documents. You then need to move those Figure tags carefully back to their places. In a large document with lots of images, this can be time consuming and frustrating, but here’s a simple workaround.

After making your Word document compliant - run the accessibility checker and then simply save your Word .docx file as an older format .doc file. Besure that you have fully remediated the .docx file before saving as .doc because you will not be able to use the accessibility checker on the .doc format.

Word Resources and Links:

Formatting public health material for accessibility and inclusivity (Word)

Word Guide Tips and Checklist (Word)

SSA-Version 2.1 2010 Guide-Producing-Accessible-Word-PDF-Documents PDF

508 Word 2010 (Word)

Microsoft Accessibility


The National Center on Disability and Access to Education (NCDAE):

US Department of Health and Human Services:

US Department of Veterans Affairs:

The University of Montana Accessiblity:

The Office of the Texas Governor:

California State University Fullerton IT Training, 2010: Eight Steps to Creating Accessible Microsoft Word Documents:

California State University Fullerton IT Training 2010: Eight Essentials for Creating Accessible PDF Documents:

Alt Text resources:

VA Section 508 Newsletter Summer 2016


Inclusivity, Gestalt Principles, and Plain Language in Document Design