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 or Mac, and Visio on Windows. It finds 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.

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

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.


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.


Accessibility Checker verifies

Applies to these applications

Why fix this?

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

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

Excel, PowerPoint, Word, Outlook, OneNote, Visio

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

Tables specify column header information.

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

Excel, PowerPoint, Word, Outlook, OneNote

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.

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.

Documents use heading styles

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

Word, Outlook, OneNote

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


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


Accessibility Checker verifies

Applies to these applications

Why fix this?

Hyperlink text is meaningful.

Link text makes sense as standalone information, providing accurate information about the destination target.

Excel, PowerPoint, Word, Outlook, OneNote, Visio

Based on the text, users decide whether to click a hyperlink. The text should provide clear information about the link destination.

Table has a simple structure.

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

Excel, PowerPoint, Word, Outlook, OneNote

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

Tables don’t use blank cells for formatting.

There are no entirely blank rows or columns in the table.

Excel, PowerPoint, Word, Outlook, OneNote

Blank table cells can mislead a user into thinking that there is no more content in the table.

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.”

Avoid the use of repeated blank characters.

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


Spaces, tabs, and empty paragraphs often are read as blanks by assistive technology. After hearing several “blanks,” people might think that they have reached the end of the information.

Sufficient contrast between text and background.

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

Excel, PowerPoint, Word, Outlook

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.


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.


Accessibility Checker verifies

Applies to these applications

Why fix this?

Closed captions are included for inserted audio and video.

All audio and video objects have closed captioning.

Excel, PowerPoint, Word, OneNote

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

The reading order of a slide presentation is logical.

Slides appear 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.

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.

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.

No image watermarks are used.

There are no watermarks.


Watermarks might be misunderstood as being part of the main content on the page and could cause confusion.

All headings are in the correct order.

All headings follow a logical order.

Word, Outlook, OneNote

Sequential headings with appropriate levels help users navigate, search, and understand the document’s organization.

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.

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