Font size, structure and colour contrast are key when developing a document in order to make them easier to read and understand, especially for those using assistive technologies.
It's important to adhere to guidelines on writing accessible content when creating any document.
Here's a guide on how to make documents, such as Word, accessible:
Titles provide a brief preview into the nature of the content of the document. If the document is later converted to PDF, the title entered in the Word (or Excel or PowerPoint) document properties will also carry over to the rendered PDF version
Entering a title in Microsoft Word can be done by selecting File > Info > Properties > Show Document Panel
Avoid fancy fonts. Fonts with cursive or unusual shapes or artistic features may look pretty, but are harder to read than standard fonts.
University of Limerick's brand fonts are Saol, Inter and Formula. Alternatives for these are Cormorant Garamond (Saol), Helvetica (Inter) or Roboto Condensed (Formula).
These alternative fonts are open source fonts and can be downloaded for free.
Structure and headings
Using heading styles in Microsoft Word makes documents more accessible, instead of just changing font size or making it bold.
The correct way to provide structure to documents is to use ‘Word styles’, which are located under the ‘Home’ tab.
The Accessibility Hub's detailed information on headings should be adhered to.
Bullet points, numbering and tables
Making use of these pre-set formats will further add structure to documents, making them more accessible.
Unlike when creating online text content, as well as making them bold, words can be emphasised in documents by:
- Enlarging the text
- Highlighting the text
- Using a different colour
- *Putting asterisks around words or phrases*
- Outlining the text
- Placing a small image next to the text, like an icon
- Extra white space can also be used to separate vital pieces of text, as demonstrated here.
Please note that when introducing any colour in a document, it must adhere to guidelines surrounding colour contrast. This ensures that the content is still visible to people affected by colour blindness.
A contrast checker can be used to ensure the content is accessible in this instance.
The Accessibility Hub has guidelines surrounding contrast, which should be followed.
Table of contents
A table of contents is encouraged for documents over 10 pages. This makes information easier to find for users. If heading styles have been used correctly, creating a table of contents in Microsoft Word is very straightforward, and can be found under the References tab.
Alternative (Alt) Text
Alternative Text must be supplied for all images used in documents, and it should serve the same purpose as the image.
To add alt text to a Microsoft Word document, right-click the image and select Edit Alt Text.
See our guidelines for creating Alt Text.
Document properties such as author, title, subject and keywords should be filled out. A link back to the website should also be provided, ideally in the document but if not, in the comments field.
Save or export to PDF
The easiest way to do this is to use the ‘Save As’ option and select ‘PDF’ in the ‘Save as type’ drop down section.
It's very important to not use the print-to-PDF function.
Make sure accessibility features such as tagging are turned on when saving the document.
An accessibility checker is featured in Word 2016 that allows you to check for accessibility problems. It's found under: File > Info > Check for Issues > Check Accessibility.
If possible, PDF editing software that supports accessibility to check the accessibility of your PDF file can also be used.