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.