Creating Accessible Web Pages

Why do I need to create accessible documents?

Many people need to use assistive technology like screen reading software, refreshable Braille displays and screen magnifiers to access web pages and electronic documents. For those assistive technologies to work, document creators need to format documents correctly.

Accessibility to electronic documents is a right that's protected by federal law. Creating documents that are accessible is important to ensure access for persons with disabilities.

What programs do I use?

While a lot of products do create accessible documents with the right input from you, the creator, I'm going to focus on just one product: Microsoft Word. This software is available to everyone in the district, and it makes more accessible documents than does Google Docs.

If you can send the webmaster a well-formatted Word document, it can be exported as a PDF for web use.

Six steps to accessibility

If you plan to create a document that will be available on our website, you can help make sure the document is accessible by taking the following steps using Microsoft Word. If you follow the steps below in Word, your document can be easily converted as a PDF by the webmaster:
  1. Use appropriate font style and size. Choose Arial or Verdana. Make sure the size is at minimum 12 points.

  2. Use color appropriately.

    Contrast: Low-vision or color-blindness affects the ability to read documents when text color does not strongly contrast with background color. Readers with macular degeneration, glaucoma or other eye diseases may have difficulty reading small or low-contrast text. Use a high level of contrast when choosing colors. The best would be black text on a white background.

    Don't use color alone to convey important information: when developing documents, make sure to provide redundant elements to allow for understanding. 

  3. Add alternative text and captions to all images and graphics. People with visual disabilities often can not see photos and graphics and instead need text that describes the photo. Here's how to add alt text using Microsoft Word 2016.

    When adding an image or graphic always set the wrapping style to "in line with text." That way, screen reader programs won't be confused by the image.  You can do this by right-clicking and selecting Text Wrapping. Choose In Line with Text.

  4. If you're using a table, specify column header rows. Here's a video on how to create tables in an accessible way. Don't use tables to format your text into columns, etc. Don't use a colored background. Keep it simple--only create one row in the header, don't split or merge cells, and don't leave cells, rows or columns blank!

  5. If you use hyperlinks, you must add display text to the hyperlink. Here's how to do that.

  6. Use built-in formatting styles. This is very important in making sure that there's a logical reading order set up for those using assistive technologies. Learn how to use formatting styles.

What's next?

After you create your super-accessible Word document, you can either send the webmaster your Word document to be converted or convert it yourself. Before you do that, make sure to check that the document is truly accessible. Use Word's tool for that: Accessibility Tool.

If you want to export this document to PDF, here's the documentation for that.

More resources

Would you like to find out more about accessibility? See the links below.
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