Make your Visio 2016 diagram accessible

This topic gives you step-by-step instructions to make your Visio diagrams accessible to people with disabilities.

Overview of Visio with a basic flowchart diagram.

People who are blind or have low vision can understand your plans, concepts, and ideas more easily if you create your Visio diagrams with accessibility in mind.

The following table includes best practices for creating Visio diagrams that are accessible to people with disabilities.

What to fix

Why fix it

How to fix it

Use the predefined Visio templates and sample diagrams.

In the templates and sample diagrams, the navigation order is predefined making it easier for screen reader users to understand the flow.

Create a new diagram from a template or sample

Create your diagrams in the order in which you want a screen reader to read them.

Narrator reads the diagram shapes in the order in which they were added in the diagram. When the shapes are added in the order in which, for example, a flowchart is supposed to run, it's easier for a screen reader user to understand the diagram flow better.

Insert shapes to a diagram in the order in which the diagram is flowing. Narrator will read the diagram shapes in the order in which the shapes were added in the diagram. For more info on how the screen reader reads diagrams, refer to Read Visio 2016 diagrams with a screen reader.

If necessary, you can edit the reading order to make it as logical as possible. Select View > Task Panes > Navigation, and then drag and drop the shapes to change the order of the Diagram Navigation list.

Include alternative text with all visuals and pages.

Alt text helps people who can’t see the screen understand what’s important in pages and visuals, such as images, shapes, master shapes, charts, illustrations, and data graphics.

Avoid using text in images as the sole method of conveying important information.

Add alternative text that describes the image and page for people who can't see it. Keep it brief, but include descriptions of what's important about the image or page.

If you use an image with text in it, repeat that text in the body text.

Add alt text to images

Add alt text to master shapes

Add alt text to pages

Add alt texts to Data Visualizer diagrams

Add a meaningful hyperlink text.

People who use screen readers sometimes scan a list of links. Links should convey clear and accurate information about the destination. For example, instead of linking from the text "Click here," include the full title of the destination page.

Add descriptive hyperlink text

Ensure that color is not the only means of conveying information.

People with impaired vision, no vision, or colorblindness might miss the meaning conveyed by particular colors.

Make sure you don’t use color alone to convey meaning. Create text that duplicates the meaning of the color or other sensory characteristics.

To avoid this, also use other means of conveying the information, such as a shape or label. For example, consider using a green checkmark to indicate success and a red X to indicate failure, instead of green and red shading.

Use accessible text format

Use sufficient contrast for text and background colors.

The text in your diagrams should be readable in the high contrast mode so that everyone, including people with visual disabilities, can see it well.

For example, use bright colors or high-contrast color schemes on opposite ends of the color spectrum. White and black schemes make it easier for people who have low vision to distinguish text and shapes.

Use accessible text color

Use a larger font size (18pt or larger), sans-serif fonts, and sufficient white space.

People with dyslexia perceive text in a way that can make it difficult to distinguish letters and words. For example, they might perceive a line of text compressing into the line below, or adjacent letters seeming to merge.

To reduce the reading load, you can, for example:

  • Use familiar sans-serif fonts, such as Arial or Calibri.

  • Avoid the use of all capital letters and excessive use of italics or underlining.

  • Include sufficient white space between lines and paragraphs.

  • Left-align your paragraphs instead of using justification. This helps to avoid uneven gaps between words, which can create a visual effect of a river of white space flowing through the paragraph.

Use accessible text format

Use appropriate text spacing

Use built-in list styles.

To make it easier for screen readers to read your diagrams, use the built-in formatting tools.

In addition, people with reading disorders such as dyslexia depend on lists to help them structure information, so divide the information into smaller sized chunks that are easier to process.

Use bulleted lists

Create a new diagram from a template or sample

  1. Open Visio and in the template list, select Templates or Sample Diagrams.

    View of the template page in Visio

    Note: If you already have a diagram open and want to create a new one using a template or sample diagram, select File > New.

  2. Select the template you want. If prompted, choose the units you want to use, and then, select Create.

  3. Add your data in the new diagram using the elements in the template or sample.

Add alt texts to Data Visualizer diagrams

Add alternative text to elements and shapes in a Data Visualizer diagram. For detailed instructions on how to create a Data Visualizer diagram, go to Create a Data Visualizer diagram.

  1. Start creating a Data Visualizer diagram as instructed in the link above. You can add the alternative texts once you reach Stage 2: Create an Excel workbook.

  2. In the pre-defined Excel table, in the Process Map tab, select the first cell under the Alt Description column header and type your alternative text. Repeat for all the elements and shapes in your diagram.

    Screen shot of Data Visualizer diagram creation in Excel
  3. Continue creating the diagram as instructed in the link above.

Add alt text to images

Add alt text to images, such as photos, shapes, data graphics, charts, and illustrations so that screen readers can read the description of the image.

  1. Right-click the image in your drawing, and select Format Shape.

  2. In the Format Shape pane, select Sizing properties button (Size & Properties).

  3. In the Alt Text pane, type a title and a description for the master shape.

  4. Type a title and a description in the fields. Keep it short, start with the most important information, and aim to convey the content and functionality of the image. When ready, click OK.

    Tip: Fill in both the Title and Description fields, as it can vary how this information is read by different screen readers.

    Format shape dialog in Visio.

Add alt text to master shapes

If you've created a custom stencil, you can add alternative texts to the master shapes in your stencil so that screen readers can read the description of the shape.

  1. In your new stencil, right-click the master shape.

  2. In the context menu, select Edit Master > Edit Master Shape.

  3. In the edit window, right-click the master shape, and select Format Shape.

  4. In the Format Shape pane, select Sizing properties button (Size & Properties).

  5. In the Alt Text pane, type a title and a description for the master shape.

    Alt text dialog for a master shape in Visio.
  6. Close the edit window, and in the Update <master shape name> dialog, select Yes.

Add alt text to pages

Add alternative texts to pages so that screen readers can read the description of the page.

  1. On the page, press Shift+F5. The Page Setup dialog opens.

  2. In the dialog, select the Alt Text tab.

  3. Type a title and a description for the page, and then select OK.

    Alt text dialog for a page in Visio.

Make hyperlinks and text accessible

The following procedures describe how to make the hyperlinks and text in your Visio diagrams more accessible.

Add hyperlink text description

Add a description to a hyperlink to let the users know what’s behind the link.

  1. Select the element to which you want to add the hyperlink and press Ctrl+K.

  2. In the Hyperlinks dialog, type the hyperlink URL in the Address field. The text you selected is shown in the Text to display field. This is the hyperlink text. You can change it if necessary.

    Tip: You can copy and paste the address, or use the Browse... button in Visio to locate the destination page or file.

  3. Type the hyperlink description in the Description field.

    Hyperlinks dialog for adding a description for a link in Visio.
  4. Select OK.

Use accessible text format

To improve your text formatting, select a plain sans-serif font, use a larger font size, align your text to the left, and avoid excessive use of block capitals and italics.

  1. Select the piece of text you want to format.

  2. In the Home menu, select, for example, a larger font size and a sans-serif type of font. You can also use other formatting options, such as bold font for emphasis.

    Font type button in Visio.

Use accessible text color

To ensure that text displays well in the high contrast mode, use the default font color.

  1. Select your text.

  2. In the Home menu, expand the Font Color menu, and select Use Default.

    Font color menu in Visio.

Use bulleted lists

When feasible, break the text into bullet points to improve readability and navigation.

  1. Place the cursor where you want to add the list in your diagram, or select the piece of text to be included in the list.

  2. In the Home menu, select Bullets button image (Bullets).

  3. To change the bullet style, expand the Paragraph group, and then select the Bullets tab.

  4. Select the bullet style you want, and then select OK.

    Bullet tab with different bullet styles in Visio.
  5. If needed, type the list items.

    Tip: Use a full stop or a comma at the end of each list item to make screen readers pause.

Use appropriate text spacing

Increase or decrease the white space between sentences and paragraphs to improve readability.

  1. Select the piece of text to modify.

  2. In the Home menu, expand the Paragraph group.

  3. In the Paragraph tab, in the Spacing section, type the values you want to use.

    Paragraph spacing dialog in Visio.

Check your diagram with the Accessibility Checker

With the built-in Accessibility Checker, you can easily verify if your diagram is accessible.

  1. In Visio, go to the Review tab.

  2. Select Check Accessibility.

    Accessibility Checker button in Visio.
  3. In the Accessibility Checker pane, go through the errors and warnings. Select the reported item to view more info on the accessibility issue in question and instructions on how to fix it.

    Accessibility Checker pane in Visio.
  4. Fix the issues in the diagram.

Convert your diagram to an accessible PDF

After you've fixed all accessibility issues in the diagram, you can convert it to a PDF.

  1. In Visio, select File.

  2. Select Export.

  3. Select Create PDF/XPS.

    Export to PDF option in File tab in Visio.
  4. Select the file location and type the file name, and then select Publish.

See also

Technical support for customers with disabilities

Microsoft wants to provide the best possible experience for all our customers. If you have a disability or questions related to accessibility, please contact the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk for technical assistance. The Disability Answer Desk support team is trained in using many popular assistive technologies and can offer assistance in English, Spanish, French, and American Sign Language. Please go to the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk site to find out the contact details for your region.

If you are a government, commercial, or enterprise user, please contact the enterprise Disability Answer Desk.

Expand your skills
Explore training
Get new features first
Join Office Insiders

Was this information helpful?

Thank you for your feedback!

Thank you for your feedback! It sounds like it might be helpful to connect you to one of our Office support agents.

×