Video: Creating accessible documents

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As files become more digital, it's important to keep files accessible to people with disabilities.

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Make your Word documents accessible

Accessibility in Office 365

With more and more files online and in computers, it's important to keep documents accessible to people with disability.

Now at Office here we have several tools that can help you with this.

This video will go over three.

One is alt text for images and graphs.

Second is headings and paragraph styles to make your document more readable.

And finally we’ll look at the Accessibility Checker.

That’s a new tool for Office 2010, although these other things I’m going to talk about, you can find that in earlier versions of Office and the Office Web Apps that you’ll use with Office 365.

Alt text or "alternative text" -- you know that from the internet, if you mouse over an image or something, you might see a little description pop up.

That’s alt text.

You can use that same technology in your documentation.

Now that’s important because people have screen readers.

That’s software that reads the document.

If there’s no information about the image, they’re not going to get any.

So alt text can add a brief description of what that image is, or maybe a succinct sentence or two for a pie chart or a graph.

For my demo I’m using Word 2010, though you’ll find this in earlier versions of Office,

and the Word Web Apps that you’ll use with Office 365.

To add alt text to a picture, shape, chart, or a SmartArt graphic, right-click it, click Format Object, and then click the Alt Text pane.

In the description box, enter an explanation of the object.

This box should always be filled in.

Note that when you have a complex content to describe, including a title it useful so people can determine if they need to read the full description.

Headings and paragraph styles make it easier for all readers to understand your document better.

For example, here’s a document without styles, and the same document with styles.

Now you’ll be able to skim this document to get an outline of it very easily, and that’s important for people who have low vision or use screen readers, is they can get that same outline using these styles.

Also these elements can be converted if you save your document as a PDF or an Open XML.

Heading and paragraph styles are found on the Home tab in the Styles group.

If you don’t see the style that you want, click More to expand the gallery.

To apply a heading style, start by selecting the text you want to change.

Click the heading style that you want.

You can see how your text will look with a particular style by placing your pointer over the style that you want to preview.

This feature works the same way in the Word Web App.

Create space between paragraphs using paragraph styles rather than empty lines, so people using screen readers aren’t misled into thinking that they’ve reached the end of your document.

On the Home tab, in the Styles group, click Change Styles.

Point to paragraph styles.

Live preview will show you how the line and paragraph spacing changes from one set to the next.

Similar to a spell checker, the new Accessibility checker in Office 2010 will scan your documents and alert you to any potential accessibility problems.

It will also offer suggestions of how to fix them.

Click the File tab to open the Backstage view and then click Info.

Note that under Prepare for Sharing, an alert will appear if there are any potential accessibility issues.

Click Check for Issues, and then click Check Accessibility.

You’ll be returned to your file and the Accessibility Checker task pane will show you the inspection results.

Whenever the Accessibility Checker finds an issue, the task pane shows information about why that content might be inaccessible.

Selecting the issue then shows instructions on how to repair or revise it.

Now when you save your file to a format that’s easy to share or publish, such as PDF or Open XML,

All the things you did to make it more accessible will be included.

For more information and in-depth training on creating accessible documents, you can go to and click "Accessibility".

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