Most Microsoft Word documents can be made accessible to those with vision impairments by following these conventions:

  • Make sure content is concise.  If possible use half the words of a print publication.
  • Develop a page structure similar to that of a webpage, with content separated by distinct headings, which can be formatted using heading choices within the Home tab of Microsoft Word.

heading selections within Microsoft Word Home tab

  • Avoid using diagrams or images that include text. Since the text is part of the image, it cannot be detected utilizing assistive technology such as screen readers. Example:

model

  • Make sure to add alt text to all images by right-clicking on the image, choosing Format Picture from the menu, then Alt Text from the subsequent menu, shown below. At this time, add a short title to the image and a description that represents what is shown in the image. (Leave the Title field blank and add a concise description of the image within the Description field.) Close the dialog box and save the document.

Box showing area to enter alternate text

If you are utilizing a Mac, you can run the Voice Over screen reader to check accessibility of any documents, including those prepared in Microsoft Word. JAWS  by Freedom Scientific is also available in 40-minute demo mode for download.