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Structuring DocumentsĀ Supports Meaning

Clear structure is a fundamental accessibility rule that can be applied to content in a range of digital formats including Microsoft Word, Adobe PDF, and PowerPoint.

  • Make full use of the document format's support for proper structure. When you use an application like Microsoft Word, make use of the Styles feature to identify headings, use the Lists feature to identify content as lists, and use the Tables feature for tabular data. You can then change the styles of headings to make them look the way you want. Don't forget to add a label or caption for images.
  • Generate PDFs from documents with structural markup. The most reliable and easiest way to create a PDF document with accessible structural information is to generate the PDF from another document (Word or PDF) that already has the structural information present. This saves having to add structure to the PDF later, which requires Adobe Acrobat software.

How to Get Started


Headings in MS Word

Use Microsoft Word's Styles feature to identify headings, and to define their visual appearance.

Lists and Bullets

MS Word screenshot showing how to create a list

Use Microsoft's Word's Bullet Library and Numbering Library to format lists, both available with the Home tab. Avoid using asterisks, dashes, or numbers as lists item markers.


MS Word screenshot showing options for creating tables

Use Microsoft Word's insert table function. Table Style Options include making a header row. These options are displayed when the table is selected with the cross icon, see below.

Accessibility Checklist

For each document check:

  • Check each section heading on the page. Is it identified as a heading?
  • Is the heading given an appropriate level of hierarchy for the page structure?
  • Are data tables created using the table tool? Are row and column headers specified?
  • Confirm that tables are not used for layout purposes.