Accessible digital content is fundamental to good communications. Inclusive, user-centred design is fundamental. The content you add and how you format it can make a huge difference to accessibility. Following this checklist will help you to create accessible, user-centred documents.
Use the built-in heading features of the authoring tool.
Headings should form an outline of the page content:
Heading 1 for main heading
Heading 2 for first level of sub-headings
- Heading 3 for next level of sub-headings, etc.
Don’t simply edit the appearance of text to make it stand out as a heading (i.e., increase font size and underline).
The heading tools create structures that allows screen reader software to identify different sections. This enables screen reader users to understand how the page is organised, and to quickly navigate to content of interest.
Microsoft guidance on accessible headings.
- Make sure that text can be selected, copied and pasted into another location; for example, do not embed or design text in an image (see point 5).
- When converting documents from physical copies to digital, use Object Character Recognition (OCR) or re transcribe documents, rather than creating scanned images of text.
Write meaningful link text (text that links to a web address) that describes its destination. It needs to make sense when it is read out of context so embed the link in to text that describes where the link is going to take you:
- Don't include full links: https://www.makethingsaccessible.com/
- Don't write: "Click here to visit the Make Things Accessible website
- Write: "Visit the Make Things Accessible website "
Microsoft guidance on accessible links.
Use bullets or numbered lists to help people scan your content and quickly find what they need.
Use the list styles so that screen readers (and those that use them) know that it is a list.
Don't add spaces and dashes manually.
Use bulleted lists instead of tables where you can.
Remember to use the correct type of list for the appropriate purpose:
- Use bullet lists where there is no required order for items to appear.
- Use numbered lists where there is a clear order such as for a step by step process.
Add appropriate alternative text (alt text) if possible – or a full text alternative if the image conveys information not otherwise available.
Complex graphics such as infographics or flow charts can't be described through the 'alt text'. You will need to provide a full text alternative. In Microsoft Office:
- Right-click the object and select Edit Alt Text. Select the object and then select the format menu for the object, for example, Picture Format. Select Alt Text.
- In the Alt Text pane, type 1-2 sentences in the text box to describe the object and its context to someone who cannot see it.
For purely decorative images you should 'mark them as decorative'. In Microsoft Office:
- Open the Alt Text pane, do one of the following:
- Right-click an image, and then select Edit Alt Text.
- Select an image, select Format > Alt Text.
- Select the Mark as decorative checkbox. The text entry field becomes greyed out.
Most social media platforms have an accessibility option with alt text for posts, but they have varying character limits. You can also describe the image in the post or as a caption.
Microsoft guidance on alternative text.
Make Things Accessible guide to creating meaningful alternative text.
If your data is best presented in a table, try to keep the table simple. Table structure matters. Don't use tables simply for layout; only use a table to display data.
- If the table is complex, consider whether you could use lists or divide it into multiple smaller tables with a heading above each.
- A key to making data tables accessible to screen reader users is to clearly identify table header rows.
- For screen reader users, it is also useful to add a short descriptive caption for each table under Table Properties > Alt Text.
- Keep the structure simple: don't split cells, merge cells, or use nested tables.
Microsoft guidance on creating tables in documents.
Don't use colour alone to convey meaning (many people are colour blind). For example different coloured lines on a line graph, or Red, Amber, Green (RAG) status boards, without accompanying text for each status, or different line patters such as using dashes.
If using text on a coloured background or image background, you need to check its colour contrast. There are online tools available to help you check colour contrast:
Fonts and styles can make a big difference to how accessible your information is.
- Avoid underlining text unless it's a link.
- Avoid italics or all capitals, especially for paragraph blocks of text (they're harder to read if you have dyslexia).
- Always left-align body text (to help dyslexic readers).
- Use bold sparingly as it slows down reading and can look 'shouty'.
Use these Plain English techniques to help you edit your draft texts and documents. Editing your text into plain English will make it clearer and more concise; this helps everyone quickly understand your message and is especially helpful to assistive technology users and those with dyslexia.
Check the accessibility of your work for example using the Accessibility Checker in Microsoft Office.
Microsoft Office's Accessibility Centre.