Microsoft Word can be a highly accessible format. Follow the items below to make sure your documents can be used by everyone. Creating an accessible Word document is the easiest way to make an accessible PDF later.


Accessibility Checker

The Accessibility Checker is an easy to way to check your document for common accessibility issues.

Mac users: Accessibility Checker is available starting with Word for Mac 2016

Document Tips


1. Use easy to read fonts

Use common fonts like Arial and Times New Roman.

Arial and Times New Roman fonts.

2. Use the lists built into Word

Using the list buttons in Word helps screen readers users know when a list begins and makes it possible to move between list items. Avoid creating lists manually with dashes or other symbols.

List buttons can be found on the home tab for both Mac and Windows versions.

List styles are located...

Word for Mac 2016

3. Use colors that contrast well

  • Do the text and headings strongly contrast from the background?
  • Would everything still be easy to understand if printed from a black and white printer?
Use the Colour Contrast Analyzer Tool to find out if the colors meet objective accessibility standards.

4. Avoid using color as the sole way to convey meaning

Some people may not detect change of color. Screen readers don't announce colored text or highlights. You can use colors, but also share the information in a way that doesn't only rely on color to convey the message.

Example of using color to communicate information via text:
"Fox" and "dog" are nouns in the following sentence:
The quick brown fox jumps over the the lazy dog.


Headings are more than just bigger or bolder text. Use Word's built-in headings, which helps all users find them using assistive technology.

How to mark text as a heading

In the home tab in Word, locate the Styles menu. Headings are listed inside.

Styles menu in Word. Heading 1 is selected.

Style headings

If you don't like the appearance of the built-in headings, you can change the style, both color and size.

Apply headings in a logical order

Apply headings in a way that expresses the outline of the document. Some headings are main ideas (main headings), whereas other headings are are expanding upon a main idea (sub-headings). Some sub-headings have sub-headings of their own. Word visualizes heading structure in the navigation pane.

  • Word for Mac 2016: View (tab) > Navigation Pane (checkbox); select Document Map in the side panel
  • Windows: press (Ctrl + F); select Headings in the side panel
Document map in Word for Mac 2016.

Document map in Word for Mac 2016.

Navigation pane in Windows Word 2010.

Navigation pane in Word 2010


Alternative Text (Alt-Text) provides brief descriptions of images for use with screen readers. Read more about writing Alt text

Word for Mac 2016

  1. Right-click image, then select Format Picture...
  2. Select Layout & Properties in the side panel
  3. Enter Alt Text in the description field

Windows Word 2016

  1. Right-click image, then select Edit Alt Text
  2. Enter Alt Text in the side panel


Simple tables with header rows are easily accessible to screen readers.

Accessibility Testing

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?
  • Print your page in black and white. Does the information make sense without color?
  • Read your page to someone. Can they understand everything without looking at the screen?
  • Are data tables created using the table tool? Are row and column headers specified?
  • Confirm that tables are not used for layout purposes.