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OER and Accessibility: What You Need to Know: Creating Accessible Documents

This guide shows you how to create and select Open Educational Resources (OER) that are accessible to all users.

Microsoft Word Documents

  1. Headings:

Use Headings available in the navigation bar.  They are customizable and help organize content, making it easier for everyone to read.  Heading 1 is usually a page title or a main content heading.  Heading 2 is usually a major section heading.  Heading 3 is usually a sub-section of the Heading 2.  Heading 4 through 6 are sub-sections of the previous Heading.

  1. Hyperlinks:

When applying hyperlinks, use meaningful or descriptive text, not a URL, and avoid terms like “click here.”  It helps all users navigate more efficiently, especially screen reader users.  In addition, use underlined text with a color different from the surrounding text.

  1. Alt-Text for Images:

Apply effective alternative (alt) text to all images, shapes, pictures, charts, tables, and SmartArt graphics.  It will help describe a visual element for those who cannot see it.  Since screen-reading software identifies an image, it is not necessary to add “picture of” or “image of.”

  1. Lists:

Make use of numbered or bulleted lists wherever possible to enforce short sentences.  It adds a hierarchical structure to a document.

  1. Language:

Identify the language in the document.

  1. Tables:

Wherever possible, avoid using tables since following the table content through a screen reader can be difficult.  If a table is used, make it as simple as possible and use a heading to introduce the table.

  1. Color:

Avoid using color to stress information since some users may not see it.

  1. Text Box:

Avoid using floating text boxes.   

  1. Video and Sound:

If sound or video is in a document, make sure to add closed captions or subtitles to your document.

  1. Use the Microsoft Office Accessibility Checker option to verify your document is accessible:
    • Under the "File" tab, select "Info" and then select the "Check for Issues" drop down menu in the "Inspect Document" area, and chose "Check Accessibility."
    • Here are step by step instructions.

Adobe PDF Documents

  1. Headings:

Make use of headings.  They help organize content, making it easier for everyone to read.  Heading 1 is usually a page title or a main content heading.  Heading 2 is usually a major section heading.  Heading 3 is usually a sub-section of the Heading 2.  Heading 4 through 6 are sub-sections of the previous Heading.

  1. Hyperlinks:

When applying hyperlinks, use meaningful or descriptive text, not a URL, and avoid terms like “click here.”  It helps all users navigate more efficiently, especially screen reader users.  In addition, use underlined text with a color different from the surrounding text.

  1. Alt-Text for Images:

Apply effective alternative (alt) text to all images, shapes, pictures, charts, tables, and SmartArt graphics.  It will help describe a visual element for those who cannot see it.  Since screen-reading software identifies an image, it is not necessary to add “picture of” or “image of.”

  1. Lists:

Make use of numbered or bulleted lists wherever possible to enforce short sentences.  It adds a hierarchical structure to a document.

  1. Language:

Identify the language in the document.

  1. Tables:

Wherever possible, avoid using tables since following the table content through a screen reader can be difficult.  If a table is used, make it as simple as possible and use a heading to introduce the table.

  1. Color:

Avoid using color to stress information since some users may not see it.

  1. Text Box:

Avoid using floating text boxes.   

  1. Video and Sound:

If sound or video is in a document, make sure to add closed captions or subtitles to your document.

  1. Adobe Accessibility Tool:

Use the Accessibility tool to verify your document is accessible.

  1. Here are step by step PDF accessibility checker instructions

Microsoft PowerPoint Documents

  1. Templates and Themes:

Use available slide templates and themes.

  1. Hyperlinks:

When applying hyperlinks, use meaningful or descriptive text, not a URL, and avoid terms like “click here.”  It helps all users navigate more efficiently, especially screen reader users.

  1. Alt-Text for Images:

Apply effective alternative (alt) text to all images, shapes, pictures, charts, tables, and SmartArt graphics.  It will help describe a visual element for those who cannot see it.  Since screen-reading software identifies an image, it is not necessary to add “picture of” or “image of.”

  1. Titles:

Title of slides should be unique.

  1. Language:

Identify the language in the document.

  1. Tables:

Wherever possible, avoid using tables since following the table content through a screen reader can be difficult.  If a table is used, make it as simple as possible and use a heading to introduce the table.

  1. Color:

Avoid using color to stress information since some users may not see it.

  1. Reading Order:

Set the reading order of slide contents.  It helps users using a screen reader.

  1. Adobe PDF:

Convert the PowerPoint slideshow to an Adobe PDF file.  Never save a slideshow as a Web page.

  1. Video and Sound:

If sound or video is in a document, make sure to add closed captions or subtitles to your document.

  1. Use the Microsoft Office Accessibility Checker option to verify your document is accessible:

Under the "File" tab, select "Info" and then select the "Check for Issues" drop down menu in the "Inspect Presentation" area, and chose "Check Accessibility."

Microsoft Excel Documents

  1. Column Headers:

Be sure to specify column headers.  They convey tabular data accurately.

  1. Hyperlinks:

When applying hyperlinks, use meaningful or descriptive text, not a URL, and avoid terms like “click here.”  It helps all users navigate more efficiently, especially screen reader users.  In addition, use underlined text with a color different from the surrounding text.

  1. Language:

Identify the language in the document.

  1. Blank Cells:

Never use blank cells for formatting.

  1. Use the Microsoft Office Accessibility Checker option to verify your document is accessible:

Under the "File" tab, select "Info" and then select the "Check for Issues" drop down menu in the "Inspect Workbook" area, and chose "Check Accessibility."

Google Docs Documents

  1. Create Microsoft Word Document:

Convert Google Docs documents to Microsoft Word documents to aid users with visual impairments.

  1. Adobe PDF:

Never create an Adobe PDF document directly from a Google Docs document.  First, convert the document to Microsoft Word.

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