Create accessible Office documents

When creating content with Office, you can make it accessible to people with disabilities through some simple adjustments. You can use several built-in Office features to make sure that everybody can read and understand your documents. By increasing accessibility in your documents, you can cater to your whole audience, and not just a portion of it.

You can use Accessibility Checker to make sure that your content is truly accessible. The free tool is available in Word, Excel, Outlook, OneNote, and PowerPoint on Windows or Mac, and Visio on Windows. Accessibility Checker finds any accessibility issues in your document and explains why each might be a potential problem for someone with a disability. It also offers suggestions on how to resolve each issue.

The following table includes some best practices for creating Office documents that are accessible to people with disabilities. For detailed information on how to find and fix the problem in a specific Office application, see the applicable instructions:

What to fix

Why fix it

Color use

Never rely on color alone to transmit information, in case your audience cannot see it correctly. If the exact color is important to know, mention the color, for example, in the image label.

Avoid using pale blue color, as it is the first color that causes problems as eyes age and lose their sensitivity.

Sound use

If you use sound in a document, make sure that the information is accessible even if you can't hear it.

To make videos and audio files accessible, you can add closed captions or subtitles to your document . They make your document suitable to a larger audience, including people with hearing disabilities and those who speak languages other than the one in your media clip.

Missing alternative texts in visuals

If you are using a screen reader, the alternative (Alt) text describes a visual element for those who cannot see it. Always apply effective Alt texts to all shapes, pictures, charts, tables, and SmartArt graphics to make your document more accessible. For more information on the appropriate use of Alt text, see Alternative Text.

Complex writing style

If your audience cannot understand you, your document automatically fails its purpose.

Use short sentences and simple grammar. If the content lends itself to a bulleted list, present it that way. A bulleted list is a very simple of way of enforcing short sentences.

When faced with options, always select the simplest word available, instead of impressing your audience with your vocabulary.

Tables within documents

Avoid using tables in your documents, if possible, since following the table content through a screen reader can be difficult. If you must use a table, design it carefully to be as simple as possible. Always use a heading to introduce the table.

If you are creating a table with HTML for a Web page, use the appropriate tagging to allow the screen reader or Braille display to provide the table header information and data in context. Use the <TH> tags for headers and <TD> tags for data cells. And don’t forget to include a table summary in the <table> tag to explain the purpose of the table.

Table-based document layouts

Table-based layouts are popular especially in newsletters created with Word and Outlook. By creating a table with invisible borders, and placing the different newsletter articles within individual cells, you can easily create an impressive-looking document. However, your readers with accessibility issues will not thank you. Never use tables as a layout tool.

When navigating a document with a table layout, the screen readers and Braille displays read tables row-by-row across the columns: if your newsletter has been designed to be read from top to bottom column-by-column, your reader will be lost.

Aim to lay out your document without using tables. For ideas and a collection of accessible templates you can use with different Office applications, see Make your templates more accessible and Get accessible templates for Office. If you must use a table layout, make sure it is designed to be read row-by-row across the columns and try to minimize the number of Tab key presses or swipes required to reach the end.

Navigation and focus order

The screen reader users rely on the Tab key or swipes to navigate through your document. Each Tab key press or swipe moves the focus in the document to the next part, and allows the screen reader to read out the content in that part.

To implement accessible navigation, make sure that the parts in the document content have been ordered logically. This is especially important if the document content is made up of separate text and image pieces placed next to or on top of each other, like on a PowerPoint slide. If the parts are not organized logically, the screen reader will read them out in the wrong order, giving the user little opportunity to understand the content. To test the navigation, activate the screen reader and move through the document by pressing the Tab key or swiping left or right on the screen. Make sure that the focus moves through the document as expected.

See also

Video: Creating accessible documents

Video: Create more accessible tables in Excel

Video: Create more accessible charts in Excel

Video: Create more accessible slides in PowerPoint

Create accessible PDFs

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 Office 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.

×