Microsoft Word provides various options for including accessibility information into the document to support individuals using assistive technologies. Such information also provides improved accessibility when converting the document into other formats (e.g., tagged PDF, ePub, DAISY, etc.). MS Word document accessibility can be improved for the following content items:
Headings can provide an organizational and navigational framework for a document's content. Headings, when used appropriately, can be effective to communicating the a document's informational hierarchy and the relationship between different sections of content. For an individual using assistive technology, the presence of headings offers a simple mechanism to determine the organization of the content and to "jump" from heading to heading when navigating the document. Such headings can also be used as the navigational landmarks upon conversion into other formats, such as tagged PDF, HTML or ePub.
For images in MS Word, you can add a text description (also called "alt text") that communicates the purpose and/or content of the image. This information is then communicated to individuals who cannot view the image using their assistive technology. Image descriptions should be short and communicate the main purpose of the image. If a longer description of the image is necessary to fully explain its content, consider inserting a more detailed description of the image within the document text that precedes and/or follows the image.
Tables should be used for information, not for controlling the layout or presentation of a MS Word document. To create a data table in MS Word, choose "Table" from the menu bar and select "Insert Table". Identify the appropriate columns and rows and enter in the data for your table. A simple data table is as follows:
The first row of the table consists of the column headers. These help "define" the category of information for the data in that column. In MS Word, it is possible to identify the headings such that when the data table is interpreted by assistive computer technologies and read to the student, the information in the cells below each heading will have meaning and context.
At this time, there is only support for adding table heading information for table column headers, not row headers. This does not mean you are limited as to the types of tables you can create, rather this is a limitation in MS Word.
The Column tool provides the capability to create multi-column documents using MS Word. The advantage to using the Column tool is that multi-column documents will retain the proper reading order if using assistive technologies or when converting to other formats. Creating a multi-column layout using the tab-key, spacebar, or text boxes will result in an incorrect reading order and reflow of the document.
Documents containing hyperlinks to websites or other online resources can be improved by including hyperlink text that is understood by the reader. For instance, using the full hyperlink URL may not make sense to the reader without some context. You can modify the text to display in the document while retaining the hyperlink destination.
Microsoft Word documents that contain math equations using the MathType Equation Editor can be converted into other formats while retaining the accessibility functionality of the mathematical content. At this time, MS Word documents must be saved as DOCX and use the MathType Equation Editor to input the math equations. Alternatively, you can input equations using LaTeX, but these equations will need to be converted to MathType Equations before the document can be used with assistive technologies or submitted to the SCRIBE platform.