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How to Make Digital Assets Accessible: Documents

A resource to help you create accessible digital assets for your course

Documents used for teaching and learning must be in an accessible format so that people with disabilities using assistive or adaptive technology can access the information. 

TIP:  The Accessibility Checker checks your Word documents for any issues with regard to accessibility. To learn more, visit Microsoft's website page on the Accessibility Checker.

Get Started

New! Ally: File Accessibility ScoreView your file's accessibility score (Low to High) and guidance on how to fix issues. Learn where to see the accessibility score in Canvas.

Microsoft: Creating accessible Word documentsGuidance from Microsoft support website on creating accessible Microsoft Word documents.

Google: Make your document accessibleGuidance from Google on creating accessible documents. NOTE: Because Google Drive documents are missing some key accessibility functions, its use is not recommended for sharing documents with images and/or tables.

Accessibility Guidelines for Documents

General Guidelines

This is an overview of the elements that require special consideration when creating accessible documents. Please review one of the Additional Resources or how-to videos for detailed instructions on any of the following:

  • Use the built-in Headings between sections in your document to provide structure and context.
  • Add ALT Text to embedded images, charts, and graphs in order to provide a description of the item. Images that are decorative maybe tagged as "null" so the screen reader skips the image.  
  • Use the built-in Lists tools for bulleted and numbered lists, rather than inserting them manually.
  • Make sure Hyperlinks make sense without their surrounding content. For example, do not title a link "click here" instead title with the name of the website or resource.
  • Do not use only color as a means of conveying essential information.

Optimizing Text for Learning*

Text should provide support for understanding and should engage learners with language that is appropriate to the learning context.

  • List objectives to support learners in identifying the purpose of the text.
  • Use language that is understandable, appropriate, and engaging for the learner.
  • Choose font styles that are easy to read and do not distract from the content. Learn more in WebAIM's Font.
  • Layout of the text is important to comprehension so that the learner can follow patterns and make meaningful connections. Learn more in WebAIM's Layout.
  • Offer definitions or other supporting text to enhance comprehension and activate prior knowledge.
  • Text should be in a flexible format so that it can be varied by the learner in terms of color, size, and layout.
  • Navigation should be clear so that the student can easily move between critical points.
  • Be sure to include table of contents, page numbers, and information on units, chapters, and sections within a text.
  • Text should ideally not be contained within an image.
  • Provide sufficient contrast between the text and its background. Learn more about contrast in WCAG 2.0 Contrast.
  • Use accessible data tables where necessary. Learn more about tables in WCAG 2.0 Tables.
  • Test to ensure text is accessible across all student devices, including mobile technologies.

For learners who need additional support, the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) offers some guidance. The AEM Center has specific resources for Higher Education & AEM and Workforce Opportunities & AEM.

*Optimizing Text for Learning from UDL On Campus by CAST is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Alternative Formats

Generate Alternative File Formats with Ally

Translate Word Documents

Select the left or right arrows to view resources for creating accessible Word docs, Google docs, text, images, hyperlinks, colors, and more.

Accessible Microsoft Word Documents

Accessible Google Documents

Making Accessible Color Choices

Understanding Alternative Text

Creating Accessible Tables

Understanding the Accessibility Checker

Accessible Text

Understanding Document Structure

Accessible Hyperlinks

Formulas and Equations

You can create accessible formulas and equations in a few ways. LaTeX, a popular equation editor, is not accessible; use one of the two methods outlined by the University of Central Florida.

Creating Accessible Equations (UCF): Two ways to insert accessible equations are to use special (ASCII) characters or to insert the equation as an image. This article focuses on the second option and includes recommendations for how to write alt text for the images.

Additional Resources

Accessibility Check

Use these resources to assess whether your documents are accessible:

CONTACT

Email Butler University Libraries
Irwin Library: 317-940-9227
Science Library: 317-940-9937
CAT: 317-940-8575

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