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College of Education and Human Development

How do I make text documents accessible?

Making a document accessible requires that a hierarchical structure and organization is used. Screen reading software will then be able to accurately convert the text to speech or display the text in a larger format. Screen reading software does not “read” images or visual elements in a document unless they have a descriptive tag attached to them, all visual elements should be tagged so students don’t miss any of them.

Make accessibility a habit when creating all of your documents. This will save time and benefit your students.

How to make documents accessible

  • Choose to use PDF or MS Word documents, or HTML text (e.g., Moodle page) whenever possible as these formats can easily be made accessible.
  • Use “styles” in Word documents to indicate an information hierarchy (Title, Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, etc.).  To do this, apply the Heading 1 style to your initial heading, Heading 2 to subheadings, and so on.  This ensures the document reading order and structure are preserved when using a screen reader.
  • When creating visual elements (charts, graphs, images), include an alternate text description as well as a caption when possible.
  • Try to avoid using red and green as people who are colorblind cannot differentiate these colors. Colors in general should not be used as the only method to convey information.
  • Use high contrast between text and its background, especially when creating a presentation (e.g., lecture slides).
  • When putting a slide deck together (PowerPoint, Keynote, etc.), do not include too much information on any one slide.
  • There are no special tools needed to make a document accessible. Both MS Office and Adobe Acrobat Pro offer accessibility checking tools that will identify issues that require attention.
  • Plan for a little extra time as you prepare documents for your courses. Use this time to make each document accessible.

University of Minnesota Accessibility Resources

http://accessibility.umn.edu/

University of Minnesota Disability Resource Center

http://diversity.umn.edu/disability

Adobe Acrobat Pro Accessible PDF Tutorial

http://helpx.adobe.com/acrobat/using/create-verify-pdf-accessibility.html

Create Accessible Microsoft Documents Tutorial

http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/word-help/create-accessible-word-documents-RZ102644124.aspx

Additional Microsoft Tutorials

https://support.office.com/en-US/Article/Creating-accessible-Word-documents-d9bf3683-87ac-47ea-b91a-78dcacb3c66d

Chronicle of Higher Education: How to Create Accessible Documents

http://chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/creating-accessible-documents/33079

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