An example of a digital document is an Adobe PDF, HTML document, or a Microsoft Office file. All of these types of documents should be made accessible to users with visual impairments. The document should be well-structured and compatible with assistive technology.
Plan & Organize
It is central to plan out how your documents will look and be structured. Most software contains built-in tools to create headers, lists, checkboxes, tables, etc. that allow for accessibility. Remember that it is important to build accessibility features into the document from the beginning, as the process is easier overall. The following features should always be considered:
- Clear, descriptive language and links – Clear, jargon free language is easier to understand. Additionally, the more descriptive your links are the better. Avoid text that says “Click Here”, color-based descriptions (“Click the red button”), as well as other vague statements. A visually impaired user will likely be using a screen reader and could easily become confused.
- Appropriate headings – Heading 1 should be used as the document title, H2-6 should be used for the structure, never used for sizing the text.
- Alt tags for images – Alternative text is used as a description for an image and should always be included in a document or web page where images are part of the information. Certain images such as logos are cosmetic only and do not have to have an alt tag. A blank alt tag will allow the screen reader to skip over the image. If an image is missing or broken, a good alt text description will give the user context still.
Creating Accessible Word Documents & PDFs
In order to create an accessible PDF from an existing document, it is advised that you ensure that the source is accessible. Microsoft Word includes styles and other features that consider the use of assistive technology. It also has a built-in accessibility checker to quickly evaluate your document. To find the accessibility checker in Word go to File > Info > Check for Issues > Check Accessibility.
If the source document is accessible, you may export or save it as a PDF by going to File > Export > Create PDF/XPS. Once the file name box appears for saving items select Options, and ensure that “Document structure tags for accessibility” is checked and select OK.
For more tips on how to create accessible, digital products please see the following: