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Just as you would not send a document or email that’s grammatically incorrect, it’s equally as unprofessional to create documents that are not accessible, yet most people are doing this every day.
Everyone is responsible when it comes to disability inclusion, and a natural place to start is by creating documents that are accessible to all.
The Microsoft Office 365 suite has easy to use accessibility features to make sure your documents are accessible.
We often create documents in Microsoft Word to communicate important information. Here are a few steps to take to ensure the documents we create are accessible to a larger audience:
- Open the Accessibility Checker (can be found as a button called “Check Accessibility” under the “Review” tab of the Microsoft Word ribbon.) Having the accessibility open from the very beginning will allow you to start designing a document with accessibility in mind from the ground up.
- Add alternative text to images to give screen reader users context they would otherwise miss. You can do this by right clicking on an image and selecting “Edit Alt Text”. It is best to keep it to two or three descriptive sentences.
- Check colour contrast through the accessibility checker or external tools such as Colour Contrast Determinator or Colour Contrast Analyser. Low colour contrast makes documents harder to read for people with low vision.
- Use headings as a way to organise information into sections and subsections. Headings act as waypoints for screen reader users, allowing to skip to relevant sections of a document.
- Order your Headings logically. Think of heading levels as nested lists. Use a Level 1 heading to title a section, a Level 2 heading for subsections under the Level 1 heading, a Level 3 heading for subsections under a Level 2 heading and so on.
- Avoid using blank lines. Make use of line spacing, page and section breaks instead. You can use the Paragraph Marker tool (can be found as this button in the “Paragraph” section under the “Home” tab of the Microsoft Word ribbon) to help you identify unnecessary blank lines.
- Try and tabulate your data in ways that remove any reliance on merged cells to avoid confusing screen reader users.
- Do not include images or icons in your tables.
To make a PDF document accessible you will need an Adobe Acrobat Pro licence. This licence will provide you with the accessibility tools that allow you to edit and add alt text, edit and add heading tags and check and correct reading order.
You can export your accessible word document to Adobe PDF format and preserve a lot of its accessibility features. When saving your document in Word, select the pdf file format, click the “options” button and ensure that “Document structure tags for accessibility” is checked.
PowerPoint presentations can be tricky to make more accessible due to a reliance on images and other visuals to get your message across. Here are some tips to help:
- Open up the Accessibility Checker.
- Ensure that the reading order of your elements are correct. The bottom item of the list will be the first to be read and the top item will be the last to be read.
- Be extra careful about colour contrast. Make sure you are reaching a colour contrast of at least 4.5:1.
- Include alt text for all significant images. Mark inessential images as decorative.
Please note that some screen readers may not be able to read a PowerPoint document. It is a good option to include an accessible PDF version when you send out your slide deck to attendees.
Microsoft Outlook also has an Accessibility Checker to ensure your email communications are also accessible. Like with Word Documents, you can add alt text to images or mark them as decorative. Avoid using merged cells in tables.
Embed hyperlinks into sentences in a logical way. Avoid the use of “click here” or “read more”. For example, instead of “The PSC has a new procurement flowchart. Click here.” Try embedding the link in the words “procurement flowchart”. This way if a screen reader user is skipping between links in the body of the email, they will still understand the context of the link.
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