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Rules used by the Accessibility Checker

The Accessibility Checker runs in Word 2016, Excel 2016, and PowerPoint 2016 so you can scan a document, a spreadsheet, or a presentation to identify issues that can make it difficult for people with disabilities. The Accessibility Checker compares your file to a set of rules, then lists the issues for you. It explains why the issue is important and what you can do to fix it.

Note: This topic assumes that JAWS users have turned off the Virtual Ribbon Menu feature.

Accessibility Checker rules

The Accessibility Checker checks your file against a set of possible issues that people who have disabilities might experience. Each issue is classified as an error, warning, or tip.

Fixing some issues might require you to change, reformat, or update your content. Accessibility Checker also lets you know about Office features you can use to make your content more accessible.

Accessibility Checker tests content for factors that affect accessibility in three categories:

Errors

Accessibility Checker displays an error or errors when content makes a file very difficult or impossible for people with disabilities to understand. For each rule that improves accessibility, Accessibility Checker tests for the factors listed in the following table.

Rule name

Program

Tests by Accessibility Checker

All objects have alternate text

Excel, PowerPoint, Word

  • All objects use alternate text

  • Alternate text doesn’t contain an image or file extension.

Tables specify column header information

Excel, PowerPoint, Word

  • The header box is selected for each block of cells marked as a table (Excel).

  • The header box is selected for each table in a deck (PowerPoint).

  • Tables have a header row indicated, or are in Table Normal style (Word).

All slides have titles

PowerPoint

  • Each slide in a deck has a title.

Documents use heading styles

Word

  • Headings and/or a Table of Contents are used to organize the content.

Detailed explanation of error rules

The follow sections describe why these error rules are important and how to improve content to eliminate these problems.

Rule: All non-text content has alternative text

This rule checks whether alternate text is available for the following types of objects.

  • Pictures, shapes, SmartArt, and Clip Art

  • Charts, Tables, and Pivot Tables

  • Groups (all objects in this list, with the exception of shapes, must also have alternate text when in groups)

  • Embedded objects

  • Ink

  • Video and audio files

Why fix this?    Because blind users can't see content, screen readers announce alternative text for all non-text content. Good alternative text helps blind readers understand the information presented in pictures and other visual objects.

How to fix this    Add alternate text to your object. You can do so by right-clicking the object, and then clicking a menu option to format the object or edit its properties.

Add Alt Text for a picture
  1. Select the error item. An outline of the image appears. .

  2. Right-click the outlined image, select Format Picture.

  3. Select Layout & Properties icon > Expand Alt Text section.

  4. Enter a title and description for the image.

Rule: Tables specify column headers

This rule makes sure data tables have a header row (excluding pivot tables). A data table is one that doesn’t have a style of Table Normal.

Why fix this?    A table header row contains column headings that help people the data that's in the table. In addition, assistive technologies such as screen readers use the information in the header row to identify location (row and column numbers).

How to fix this    Define a header row for every table.

To specify a header row
  1. Select the table and click on Table Tools in Ribbon , then on Design tab

  2. Check the Header Row in table style options.

Rule: All slides have titles

This rule makes sure people have included a title for each slide in a presentation. An easy way to think about this is to consider what appears as the top bullet for a slide in the Outline pane.

Why fix this?    Slide titles are used for navigation and selection by those who aren’t able to view the slide.

How to fix this   

Add a title to each slide that lacks a title. If you want, you can add a title that is not visible.

Add a visible title
  1. Select the slide and then select the Reset button on the Home tab. Slide placeholders are restored for the slide.

  2. Tab to the Title placeholder and type a unique name.

Add a title that is not visible
  1. Add the title

  2. On the Home tab, in the Drawing group, click the Arrange menu.

  3. Click Selection Pane.

  4. Click the eye icon next to the text box to toggle its visibility.

Rule: Documents use heading styles to provide structure

This rule checks whether authors have used built-in headings and other styles for documents . Using defined styles helps provide structure for people who use a screen reader or people with a reading disability such as dyslexia, who rely on the visual structure that headings provide.

Why fix this?    To create structure and make it easier for users to find information in your document.

How to fix this    Apply heading styles throughout your document:

Specify text as a heading
  1. Select the text that you want to use.

  2. On the Home tab, in the Styles group box, select the heading level that you want to use.

Warnings

Accessibility Checker displays a warning when it discovers content that in most, but not all, cases is difficult for people with disabilities to understand.

Rule Name

Program

Tests by Accessibility Checker

Hyperlink text is meaningful

Excel, PowerPoint, Word

  • Link text makes sense as standalone information, and gives readers accurate information about the destination target.

Tables have simple structure

Excel, PowerPoint, Word

  • Tables are simple rectangles. There are no split cells, merged cells or nested tables.

Tables don’t use blank cells for formatting

Excel, PowerPoint, Word

  • There are no entirely blank rows or columns in a table.

Sheet tabs have meaningful names

Excel

  • All sheets with content in a workbook have a meaningful name

Avoid the use of repeated ‘blank’ characters

Word

  • There are no runs of blank spaces, tabs, or carriage returns.

Headings are short and concise

Word

  • Headings provide keywords that help readers learn about the following content.

Images and other objects are positioned inline with text

Word

  • Objects have text wrapping set to in line with text.

Detailed explanation of warning rules

The follow sections describe why these warning rules are important and how to improve content to eliminate these problems.

Rule: Hyperlink text is meaningful

This rule makes sure people have included hyperlinks in a way that they can be presented in a readable format.

A hyperlink will be flagged if:

  • The linked text is identical to the destination—for example, instead of displaying a URL like http://office.com/en-us/help/HA103691921033.xml, the linked text displays the title of the targeted page.

  • The link text is five or fewer characters, starts with a period character, and has no screen tip—for example, using a file extension (.pdf) for the link text.

Why fix this?    Hyperlink text should be understandable, and provide a clear information about the link destination .

How to fix this    Add text that identifies the target of the URL.

To add or modify descriptive text for a hyperlink
  1. Select the link and, click Insert > Hyperlink.

  2. In the Text to display box, type in a phrase that briefly describes the link destination.

  3. Click OK.

Rule: Table has a simple structure

This rule checks whether a document has nested tables, or merged or split cells inside of data tables. Nested tables and split or merged cells can make understanding the data in the table more difficult.

Why fix this?    A table should have simple, two-dimensional structure so that the table can be easily understood by people with disabilities.

How to fix this   Test the table structure, and simplify it if does not have a simple, two-dimensional structure.

To test a table for two-dimensional structure and split or merge cells
  1. Select the first cell.

  2. Press the Tab key repeatedly to make sure that the focus first moves across the row, and then moves down to the next row.

  3. If you need to merge or split cells to simplify the table, click Table Tools Layout > Merge Cells or Split Cells as appropriate.

Rule: Tables don’t use blank cells for formatting

This checks whether any tables have an entirely blank row or column in a data table, which helps to simplify table structure and readability for people with disabilities.

Why fix this?   Blank table cells can mislead a person with a vision disability into thinking that there is nothing more in the table.

How to fix this   Delete unnecessary blank cells, or if a table is only intended to layout content within the document, clear all table styles from the table.

To clear tables styles from a table
  1. Select the entire table.

  2. Click Table Tools Design > the arrow next to the style gallery to expand the gallery of table styles.

  3. On the menu below the gallery, click Clear.

Rule: Sheet tabs have non-default names

This rule checks whether each Excel worksheet with content in it has a meaningful name.

Why fix this?    Default sheet names like Sheet1 make navigation through the workbook more difficult for people with disabilities. Sheet names should provide information about what is found on the sheet, and blank sheets should be removed.

How to fix this   Rename each sheet that has content to replace its default name.

To rename a sheet
  1. Right-click the sheet tab, and click Rename.

  2. Type a brief name that is descriptive of the sheet contents.

To remove a blank sheet
  • Right-click the sheet tab, and click Delete.

Rule: Avoid the use of repeated blank characters

This rule checks for consecutive blank characters (spaces, tabs, or carriage returns). Instead of blank characters, paragraphs should have paragraph formatting that creates the desired amount of whitespace around them.

Why fix this?    Spaces, tabs and empty paragraphs might be perceived as blanks by people using screen readers. After hearing several “blanks,” people might think they have reached the end of the information.

How to fix this    Use formatting, indenting, and styles to create whitespace instead of repeating blank characters.

To correct whitespace around a paragraph or paragraphs
  1. Remove any existing whitespace around the paragraph.

  2. Select the text, right-click it, and then click Paragraph.

  3. Select values for Indentation and Spacing to create whitespace.

Rule: Headings are short and concise

This rule makes sure that headings are short—in English, fewer than 20 words. (Accessibility Checker can only check the length of a heading if it is formatted with a heading style.) This prevents the document structure from being muddled because of long paragraphs formatted as a semantic style.

Why fix this?    Short, concise headings make it easier for people with disabilities to quickly navigate the document structure.

How to fix this    Use concise words or a short phrase in headings to provide clues about information in the subsequent text. In general, headings should be one line long, at most.

Rule: Pictures and other objects are positioned in line with text

This rule checks whether objects have text layout set to Top and Bottom or In Line With Text.

Why fix this?    Objects that are not in line with text are difficult to navigate to and might be inaccessible to people with vision disabilities.

How to fix this    Change objects to inline and remove text wrapping.

To make text around an object inline
  1. Select the object, and then right-click it.

  2. Click Wrap Text, and then click In Line With Text or Top and Bottom.

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Tips

You see a tip when content that people with disabilities can understand, but that might be better organized or presented in a way that can improve their experience.

Rule Name

Program

Accessibility Checker checks:

Closed captions are included for inserted audio and video

Excel, PowerPoint, Word

  • All audio and video objects in the document have closed captioning.

The reading order of a slide should be logical.

PowerPoint

  • Slides appear to be in a logical order.

The slide titles in a deck should be unique

PowerPoint

  • Each non-blank slide in a deck has a unique title.

Layout Tables are structured for easy navigation

Word

  • The layout order should be logical for the language, and that the tab order is not circular.

No image watermarks are used

Word

  • There are no watermarks used in the document.

All headings are in the correct order

Word

  • All headings follow a logical order

Detailed explanation of Tips rules

The follow sections describe why these tip rules are important and how to improve content to eliminate these problems.

Rule: Closed captions are included for inserted audio and video

This rule checks whether, where people have used audio or video, its messaging is conveyed in alternative formats. Accessibility Checker’s test is very basic and simply flags all audio or video objects.

Why fix this?    Visual, speech, or audio media can communicate important information that might be unavailable to people with disabilities.

How to fix this    Convey important spoken and other non-textual information by alternate methods, such as alternate text. Use a video with closed-captioned text, transcript, or audio description if you can.

Rule: The reading order of a slide should be logical

This rule makes sure that, where documents have objects that aren’t part of the slide template, the reading order of the slide content makes sense. Accessibility Checker’s test is very basic rule and simply flags all slides with such objects.

Why fix this?    A person who can’t view the slide hears its text, shape labels, and content read back in a specific order. You should verify that the reading order and labels make sense in the order in which they are read back.

How to fix this    Check the order in which content will be read back.

To check the reading order of contents in a slide presentation
  1. Select the first slide in the presentation.

  2. Click Home > Arrange > Selection Pane.

  3. Select an item in the Selection pane that you want to move, and click the up or down arrowhead to move it in the list.

    Objects are read from the end of the list to the beginning. So, move the first items to be read to the bottom of the list.

Rule: The slide titles in a deck should be unique

This rule checks whether each slide in a presentation has a unique title. This check helps to validate that the slide titles are meaningful, and having unique titles are a useful way to relate presentation structure to the reader.

Why fix this?    Every slide should have a unique title so that those who cannot view the slide can still easily navigate to information.

How to fix this    Update the text in the Title text box to uniquely describe the slide’s content.

If you can’t see the Title text box for the slide, click Home > Arrange > Selection Pane. Find the Title text in the list of objects in the pane. Click the eye icon next to the slide title text box to change its visibility.

Rule: Layout Tables are structured for easy navigation

This rule makes sure that where authors have used layout tables (tables with Table Normal style), the author should check the reading order of the table to be sure that it makes sense (for English, left to right, top to bottom). It is a very basic rule that simply flags all layout tables.

Why fix this?    Tables used for layout should present information in a meaningful order from the first cell to the last.

How to fix this    Verify the table reading order by tabbing through cells to be sure that the information is presented in an order that makes sense.

Note:  If the table is meant to show lists or structured data, apply a table style from the Table Styles gallery on the Table Tools Design tab.

Rule: No image watermarks are used

This rule checks whether a Word document has a watermark image. Watermark images can decrease readability and visual clarity for people who are vision-impaired.

Why fix this?    Images used as watermarks might not be understood by people with vision or cognitive disabilities.

How to fix this   Important information shouldn’t be communicated using only a watermark, because this information can’t be made accessible. Make sure that any information included in a watermark is also included elsewhere in the document. For example, if a watermark identifies a document as confidential, be sure to also state this fact in body text.

Rule: All headings are in the correct order

This rule ensures that authors have used headings without skipping a level (for example, by having Heading 4 as a child of Heading 3).

Why fix this?    Using heading levels in sequential order makes it easier for readers to find information and navigate the document.

How to fix this   Adjust the level of headings to make them sequential.

To change a heading style
  1. Select the heading you want to change.

  2. On the Home tab, in the Styles group, choose the heading style that sets the heading to the correct level.

To add a heading line
  1. Insert a line of text to format as the new heading.

  2. On the Home tab in the Styles group, choose the heading style that sets the heading to the correct level.

To verify your document’s organization, click View and then select Navigation Pane. To help readers navigate longer documents, make sure the document has at least one heading every two pages, or so, and that the levels of the headings are sequential (for example, Heading 3 is under Heading 2, Heading 2 is under Heading 1, and so on.).

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