AHEAD: Association for Higher Education Access & Disability
Creating inclusive environments in education & employment for people with disabilities.


Word Document Accessibility Guidelines

 While writing documents there’s a lot of simple changes and checks you can make in order to make the content accessible to all students.  

Table of Contents

Include a Table of Contents at the beginning of your document. This is helpful for people to be able to know what to expect from your writing and, when revising, to be able to navigate to the most important parts for themselves. People with anxiety, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia are some of those who benefit most from having a Table of Contents at the start of documents.   

Structured Messaging and Plain English

It is important for documents to follow an orderly sequence, the same order as you have indicated in your table of contents. It is helpful to use bullet points or numbered lists as appropriate. 

Avoid jargon. If it is necessary to use acronyms or abbreviations explain all used at first occurrence. Consider, if you have many specialist words including a glossary, or sending a glossary of essential terms out before your presentation. 

Tests Document Readability (online-utility.org)

Heading Styles and Consistency  

All Headings should be placed in clear levels. The main headings getting the largest font, the next level getting smaller font and so on. Headings that are the same level should have the same style. IE if you use Verdana, navy, size 36 text for your main heading on slide 2, when you get to your next point, on slide 5, say, you should use Verdana, navy, size 36 text (identical text format) for the main heading of that page/section too.


Links should always be descriptive. Avoid generic link text such as: “click here” or “learn more” in favour of something more specific like: “Click here to read our more detailed FAQs”. Links need to describe the action that will take place when followed. 

Naked URLs should be avoided as they are hard for screen readers to read. An example of a naked url is: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEqdumsqT0uHtyswaMUcpwl_iq_9O3bOoSxe1

Images & Alternative Text

Images should be displayed large, taking up at least one quater of the area of a standard A4 page.  

Give Context for Images  

Below the images in your document, you should give a title to the image. The image title or label tells the reader the key information of the image, for example if it is a photo of a painting, you might put the painting title and painter beneath the photo. If it is a graph, you would put the function, or the data being recorded. 

Alternative Text  

Alt text ensures people using screen readers, such as blind people, will be able to access the visual information in your document without having to view the image. Alt text is also helpful for people with autism to provide extra context, for people with English as a foreign language and people with learning difficulties can also benefit from them. I have included a short guide to writing alt text below. For more detailed advice on alt text please see: “How to Write Helpful Alt. Text”.

Illustrative Images 

Images that set the context of the document or otherwise are there to add information to the document, must be given alt. Text. Start your alt text by describing the type of image it is, (ie. photo, poster, illustrated picture, painting . . .), then describe what the purpose of the image is. An Example of this might include: “photo of a recreated cránnog. The cránnog is a conical, wooden hut on a small, artificially created, island. You can see the hut is basic, it has an opening, thatched walls and is accessed by crossing a simple, wooden walkway.” 

Informative or Technical Images (Tables, Diagrams, Graphs and Charts)  

Informative images, such as graphs, tables and charts, should always include a brief synopsis of the point they are illustrating in alternative text. Consider the image’s purpose and context, write a concise description starting with the general idea before focusing on key details and relevant relationships.  

Decorative Images 

Decorative images should be marked up to allow screen readers to skip them. 


High Colour Contrast

All of your posters should be legible and clear, as well as having alternative text. Your poster should use accessible colours – with contrast ratio of 7 or more. This can be checked for free by online colour contrast checkers such as: Coolors Contrast Checker, WebAIM Colour Contrast Checker or Colour and font Contrast Checker) and text of minimum size 12.

Text Formatting and Layout 

The text should be a minimum font size of 12 so that people with visual impairments can read the slides.  

Use easily legible fonts throughout your document. Choose a font such as Calibri or Verdana. These fonts are sans-serif, which means they lack the embellishments on letters that you would find on Times New Roman for example. (If using stylistic fonts, make them larger and remember that function is more vital than artistic flare.) 

Avoid italics and underlining – use bold for emphasis. Reading italic or underlined text is more difficult for people with visual impairments, dyslexia and other learning differences.   

Avoid all capital letters, SUCH AS THIS, it can be challenging to read. Use bold for emphasis.  

Left align the content – do not use justification. 

See this link for more information on how to ensure to create accessible posters and graphic designs.  

Accessibility Checker

Go to “review” to detect some (but not all) accessibility issues in your slides as a final reassurance. 

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