Creating Accessible Documents
An accessible document is a document which can be used by everyone, including people with disabilities. Since we do not know who may access our documents, it's best to create documents that are as accessible as possible to everyone. Creating or converting existing documents into accessible formats is a simple process. We can take advantage of the accessibility features in Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft Word, and PowerPoint to create accessible documents.
Guidelines for Accessible pdf Documents
Check to see if your pdf document reads
- Open your pdf document with Adobe Reader.
- Go to View menu to Activate Read Out Loud feature.
- Go back to View menu to select Read This Page Only or Read to End of Document and listen.
Make pdf documents accessible
Screen reader read text only. If your document is a scanned image, it will not read. It will skip any non-text images, photos, charts, or objects. To make pdf documents accessible:
- Open pdf documents in Adobe Acrobat Professional version XI or later version. (Acrobat Professional is available at SJSU Software Downloads.)
- Select Tools at the upper right corner then Action Wizard. Click Make Accessible under Actions. A Make Accessible pane will become available.
- Click Start and follow instructions to make your document accessible.
Below are four major guidelines to ensure your Word or PowerPoint documents are accessible.
For Word documents:
- Include structure by using Heading Styles feature in Word. Structure will help screen reader users navigate the document easily.
- Heading styles can be found in the Styles group under Home tab. Keep your heading titles short and use heading in the correct order, that is, heading 2 should be after heading 1, heading 3 after heading 2, etc. Using the correct order will maintain a good structure for your document.
- Enter text for your heading title, place your cursor in the heading title, go to Style group under Home tab to select your preferred heading style.
- To preview the structure of your document, go to View tab and check the box next to Navigation Pane in Show group. View the structure of your document in the Navigation pane at the left of your document.
For PowerPoint Slides:
- Use one of the built-in Office Theme slide layouts except the blank one to create your slide. These layouts will maintain a structure for your slides.
- Always include a title for each slide. This title provides a description for your slide structure.
- Use Outline pane as you create your slides to see the text and logical reading order of the content on your slides. Texts appear on your Outline pane will be read aloud.
Links or URLs
- Add a label or meaningful name for your web links or URLs.
- Highlight the label or name of your web link, right-click and select Hyperlink. An Insert Hyperlink window will open.
- Enter URL in the Address box.
Example: Visit CFD Accessibility page at http://www.sjsu.edu/cfd/teaching-learning/accessibility
Images, Graphics, Photos, Diagrams, Text boxes
Screen reader reads text only and it will skip any non-text images, graphics, photos or text boxes. If you want to deliver a message through images or graphics, you need to provide either captions or alternative text.
Captions are visible and can go above or below the image. Alternative text is invisible but will be read by the screen reader.
To add captions, right-click your image and select Insert Captions… A Caption window will open. Enter descriptions for the image in the top Caption box.
- To add alternative text, right-click your image, graphic or text box and select Format Picture… A Format Picture window will open.
- Enter brief title in the Title box.
- In the Description box, enter the message as detailed as possible you want the reader to learn about this non-text graphics, images, photos, text boxes.
- Or, use "Picture with caption" or "Content with caption" slide layouts as an option to explain your visual image.
For Word documents:
Be mindful of the logical reader order of screen reader. It reads information from left to right and from top to bottom, one line at a time. When you want to organize or format information in columns and rows or in tabular format, use table function instead of Tab key.
- Go to Insert tab to Insert Table.
- Repeat header row information if the content of your table may extend to more than one page.
- Select the table and right-click it. A Table Properties window will open.
- Select Row tab and check the box next to Repeat as header row at the top of each page. Press Enter key or Ok button. This header row will be repeated at top of each page.
For PowerPoint Slides:
- Always use Insert Table or Insert Chart function in your New Slide layout.
Beware of the color contrast for table header row.
- Go to View tab and select Grayscale to test the color contrast of your slides.
Other guidelines in creating PowerPoint slides:
- Use bigger font size if you plan to project your slides onto a screen.
- If slide transitions and/or animation is used, make sure they are simple. Have a simple text version available just in case.
- Check reading order of your texts on the slide to see if they are read aloud or in correct reading order. Use Outline pane to generate your text to ensure proper reading order.
- Avoid using color to convey key points, especially red and green color, use texts instead. Use "Black and White" function in the "Color/Grayscale" group under View tab to convert your slides to black and white to test your color contrast.
- If video or audio is embedded in your slides, make sure captions or transcripts are included
- Information on the Notes pane will not be read.
- Go to File > Export > Create Handouts. Your slides and notes will be created in Word document and can be distributed as handouts.
- Or, create a new slides to include your notes.
Both PowerPoint and Word have built-in accessibility checker that allows you to check for accessibility problems in your document. To access Accessibility Checker:
- Select File > Info > Check for Issues > Check Accessibility
Follow instructions to identify and fix accessibility issues in Word and PowerPoint.