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Best Practices in Making a Word 2007 Document Accessible

Create Structure

Watch a closed-captioned movie that demonstrates how to create structure in Microsoft Word 2007

In Word, it is recommended that you use Word styles to provide the document structure.  Many people have not been using true styles in Word.  For example, when creating a heading (title), they change the font, enlarge the font size, make it bold, etc. If this is done, the document has no real structure that can be discerned by a screen reader.

Word 2007 does a good job of encouraging the use of proper styles, and about half of the default toolbar is devoted to styles. This is undoubtedly the single greatest accessibility improvement in Word 2007.

Word  2007 Styles Menu

The advantage of having true structure in Word documents is that the structure will be retained if you export to PDF.  The added structure increases the readability of the document for people using screen readers.

Pages should be structured in a hierarchical manner, with 1st degree headings (<h1>) being the most important (usually page titles or heading), then 2nd degree headings (<h2> - usually major section headings), down to 3rd degree headings (sub-sections of the <h2>), and so on. Technically, lower degree headings should be contained within headings of the next highest degree.

Font Selection

Watch a closed-captioned movie that demonstrates accessible font selection principles in Microsoft Word 2007 [opens a new window]

In terms of font accessibility, there are a number of principles to keep in mind:

  1. Use real text rather than text within graphics.
  2. Select basic, simple, easily-readable fonts.
  3. Use a limited number of fonts.
  4. Ensure sufficient contrast between the text and the background.
  5. Avoid small font sizes.
  6. Limit the use of font variations such as bold, italics, and ALL CAPITAL LETTERS.
  7. Don't rely only on the appearance of the font (color, shape, font variation, placement, etc.) to convey meaning.
  8. Avoid blinking or moving text.

Avoid Conveying Meaning with Color

Watch a closed-captioned movie that demonstrates why you should not convey meaning with color in Microsoft Word 2007

The use of color can enhance comprehension, but do not use color alone to convey information. That information may not be available to a person who is colorblind and will be unavailable to screen reader users.

Map with  colored lines indicating different routes Map where  routes are not in color

Provide Alternative Text for Images

Watch a closed-captioned movie that demonstrates how to provide alternative text for images in Microsoft Word 2003 [opens a new window]

You will need to add alternative text for all of your images. To add alternative text, right-click on the picture and select Size .

Adding  alt txt to image

A dialog box will appear. Select the Alt Text tab. You will notice that the image filename is entered into the field by default. The filename is never appropriate alternative text. This functionality will almost certainly result in misuse of the alt attribute.

insert  alt text tab

More on alternative text.

Data Tables and Accessibility Issues

Watch a closed-captioned movie that demonstrates the accessibility issues that arise from the use of data tables in Microsoft Word 2007

There is no way to assign the table header or <th> element to a table cell within Word. While you can indicate that a row should "Repeat as header on the top of each page" in the Table Properties menu, this does not create the appropriate table headers. Instead, the cells will all be contained in a <thead> element. The <thead>, <tfoot>, and <tbody> are used to divide the tables into the three main parts of a data table. While the inclusion of the <thead> element poses no problems, it does not replace the need for the <th> element.

More on accessible tables.

A Word of Caution

If you create complex documents, with embedded charts, tables, or other elements, the conversion process will probably not create a file that is completely accessible to screen readers. The embedded elements will likely be ignored by the screen reader because they are unreadable. In these instances, you should consider providing a text description of the elements within the context of the document itself.

BeachBoard Ready

Once you have included structure in your Word document and have made accommodations for font, color, images, and tables, you can save your Word document and upload it to BeachBoard.



Save the File as (Filtered) HTML

Watch a closed-captioned movie that demonstrates how to save a Microsoft Word 2007 document as HTML

When saving a Word document as HTML, the structure and alt text will be retained in the final
document. To save as HTML in Word 2007, select the Word logo in the upper left corner, select Save As, and then select Other Formats.

A dialog box will appear. At the bottom of this dialog box, select the Save as type: drop down list.

You have two options for exporting to HTML:

  • Web Page or
  • Web Page, Filtered.

Save As  Filtered HMTL screenshot

The advantage of the first option is that your page will look almost exactly like the printed document. The advantage of the second option is that it will have much less junk HTML. The file size in the second option is significantly smaller, and it still retains most, if not all, of the look and feel of the original document.

In terms of accessibility, both options are acceptable, as long as the source file was created with structure and with alternative text for images and the document does not contain any data tables.

If you have questions or would like assistance, please Contact ITSS.

Information on this page provided with permission by WebAIM.

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