Rules for the Accessibility Checker

To help ensure that your Office files are accessible, use the Accessibility Checker, a free tool available in Word, Excel, Outlook, OneNote, and PowerPoint on Windows, Office Online, or Mac, and Visio on Windows. It finds most accessibility issues and explains why each might be a potential problem for someone with a disability. It also offers suggestions on how to resolve each issue.

Although the Accessibility Checker catches most types of accessibility issues, there are some issues it's not able to detect. That's why it's important to always review your work visually to find the issues hiding from the Accessibility Checker. To learn more, go to Accessibility Checker limitations.

In this topic

Accessibility Checker rules

The Accessibility Checker verifies your file against a set of rules that identify possible issues for people who have disabilities. Depending on how severe the issue is, the Accessibility Checker classifies each issue as an error, warning, or tip.

  • Error. Content that makes the document difficult or impossible to read and understand for people with disabilities

  • Warning. Content that in most (but not all) cases makes the document difficult to understand for people with disabilities

  • Tip. Content that people with disabilities can understand but that could be presented in a different way to improve the user’s experience

  • Intelligent Services. Content that is automatically made accessible by AI, and that you should review for accuracy and context

Accessibility Checker errors, warnings, and tips

The following tables itemize the Accessibility Checker rules, what they check for, where to learn how to fix each issue, and why you should fix each one.

Errors

If content in the file makes it very difficult or impossible for someone with a disability to use, the Accessibility Checker classifies it as an error.

Rule

Accessibility Checker verifies

Why fix this?

Applies to these applications

All non-text content has alternative text (alt text).

All objects have alt text and the alt text doesn’t contain image names or file extensions.

Screen readers speak the alternative text to describe images and other non-text content that users can’t see. Based on alt text, users can understand the purpose and meaning of the described content.

Excel, PowerPoint, Word, Outlook, OneNote, Visio

Tables specify column header information.

Tables and/or blocks of cells have the header box selected or a header row indicated.

Users rely on the table headings to understand the content that is subsequently read by the screen reader. Also, assistive technology often uses the table header row to help convey to the user the current cursor location in the table and to provide information that enables the user to navigate the table.

Excel, PowerPoint, Word, Outlook, OneNote

All slides have titles.

Slides have titles.

Slide titles enable users to navigate within a presentation, including finding and selecting a single slide to immediately go to.

PowerPoint

Cells in an Excel worksheet don't use red-only formatting for negative numbers.

Cells that are set to Number format and use only the red color for negative numbers (e.g. show 1000 in red instead of -1000).

Users who have difficulty distinguishing color won’t be able to tell the difference between positive and negative values.

Excel

Image or object is inline with the text.

Images or objects are positioned inline with the surrounding text.

If the image or object is not inline, it may be difficult for screen reader users to interact with the object. It may also be difficult to know where the object is relative to the text.

Word

Document access is not restricted.

Any document that has disabled the Access content programmatically option in the document permissions settings: Review > Restrict Editing > Restrict permission.... Select Restrict permission to this document > More options.

Information Rights Management (IRM) protection may prevent devices such as screen readers from having access to this document. For more info, go to Allow changes to parts of a protected document.

Excel, PowerPoint, Word

Warnings

If the content in most (but not necessarily all) cases is difficult for people with disabilities to understand, the Accessibility Checker gives a warning.

Rule

Accessibility Checker verifies

Why fix this?

Applies to these applications

Table has a simple structure.

Tables are simple rectangles with no split cells, merged cells, or nesting.

Users navigate tables via keyboard shortcuts and assistive technology, which rely on simple table structures.

Excel, PowerPoint, Word, Outlook, OneNote

Sheet tabs have meaningful names.

Sheets in the workbook include descriptive information and there are no blank sheets.

Descriptive sheet names, such as “October sales totals,” make it easier to navigate through workbooks than do default sheet names, such as “Sheet1.”

Excel

Sufficient contrast between text and background.

Colors of the text and background are different enough to make the text easy to see.

People with low vision often find it hard to read text that does not contrast with the background. If your document has a high level of contrast between the text and background, more people can see and use the content.

Excel, PowerPoint, Word, Outlook

Closed captions are included for inserted audio and video.

All audio and video objects have closed captioning.

Without captioning, the information in a video or audio segment may be entirely lost to people with disabilities.

PowerPoint, OneNote

Slide titles in a deck are unique.

Non-blank slides have unique titles.

Users rely on titles to know where they are in the deck and to navigate the deck.

PowerPoint

Tips

When there is content that people with disabilities can understand but that could be better organized or could be presented in a way that can improve their experience, you see a tip.

Rule

Accessibility Checker verifies

Why fix this?

Applies to these applications

The reading order of the objects on a slide presentation is logical.

Objects on a slide are in a logical order.

Assistive technology reads slides and the elements on them in the specified order. If the reading order isn’t logical, the content doesn’t make sense.

PowerPoint

Layout tables are structured for easy navigation.

The layout order is logical for the language, and the tab order is not circular.

Users rely on the table layout to navigate through the content. It must be ordered logically for users to understand and navigate the content.

Word

Documents use heading styles.

Content is organized with headings and/or a Table of Contents (TOC).

Headings and TOCs provide structural context to users and enable navigation and easier searching in the document.

Word, Outlook, OneNote

Intelligent Services

The Accessibility Checker lists all pictures with an alt text generated by the Intelligent Services.

Rule

Accessibility Checker verifies

Why fix this?

Applies to these applications

Suggested alternative text.

All pictures whose alt text was generated by Office's image recognition service.

The Intelligent Services automatically generates alt text in your document (when the feature is switched on). Review each suggestion carefully to make sure it accurately describes your picture. If you want to edit the suggestion, type over the suggested text in the Description box.

To learn how to switch on this feature, go to Turn automatic alt text on.

PowerPoint, Word, Outlook

Accessibility Checker limitations

There are some accessibility issues the Accessibility Checker isn't able to detect. Also, some issues listed in the Accessibility Checker findings aren't necessarily accessibility issues that need to be fixed.

  • Color: Information is conveyed using color alone.

  • Closed captions: The Accessibility Checker reports missing closed captions in a video, but if your video already has in-band closed captions, open captions, or has no dialog, then there might be no accessibility issue with the video.

What's new in Accessibility Checker

Change type

Change

Released

Removed Error

"Avoid the use of repeated blank characters" Error removed.

Blank characters aren’t inherently inaccessible, except when used to create the impression of layout or structure, such as faking a table or multi-level list.

October 2018

Removed Tip

"All headings are in the correct order" Tip removed.

Using Heading levels that are not in order are not inherently inaccessible.

October 2018

New rule category

Intelligent Services rule category added.

October 2018

New Error

Cells in an Excel worksheet don't use red-only formatting for negative numbers Error added.

October 2018

Upgraded rule

Image or object is inline with the text upgraded from a Warning to an Error.

Summer 2017

Downgraded rule

Documents use heading styles downgraded from an Error to a Tip.

Summer 2017

Removed Warning

"Hyperlink text is meaningful" Warning removed.

Using the link URL as the display name of the hyperlink doesn't necessarily mean that the hyperlink isn't accessible. For example, http://www.microsoft.com is not an accessibility issue.

Summer 2017

Removed Warning

"Tables don’t use blank cells for formatting" Warning removed.

There are valid accessible tables that contain empty rows and columns, and most screen readers know how to communicate that information accurately.

Summer 2017

Upgraded rule

Closed captions are included for inserted audio and video. upgraded from a Tip to a Warning.

Summer 2017

Upgraded rule

Slide titles in a deck are unique upgraded from a Tip to a Warning.

Summer 2017

Removed Tip

"No image watermarks are used" Tip removed.

Alt text can be added to watermark images.

Summer 2017

See also

Use the Accessibility Checker to find accessibility issues

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.

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