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November 28, 2017

Creating Accessible Documents in Microsoft Word


This article is designed to guide users of Word 2016 through the process of creating accessible documents. This methodology will assist people with visual and auditory disabilities.

Bonus: This is a recommended method for creating accessible syllabi as well. Once the Word document is deemed accessible by the list below or by Word’s Accessibility Checker, the PDF version will also be accessible.

Create your document in Word. When you are finished let’s check the following elements to ensure that they are accessible:

Characteristics of an accessible document

Text and Styles

  • Apply heading styles to the headings in your document to enable assistive technology to read the document allowing for less ambiguity for the user.
    • Note: The default in Word uses a light blue color which has insufficient color contrast so after you select the appropriate heading change the color to something darker with more contrast.
    • Heading 1 is like the title of a book.

    • Heading 2 are like chapter titles.

    • Heading 3 are sub-sections of those chapters, and so on.

  • Ensure your text is readable by using at least a 12 point font. Arial, Helvetica, Times New Roman, and Verdana are recommended for accessibility.
  • If there is an image within your text make sure you add text in the Alt Text field so it will be accessible to people with visual impairment or disability. The screen reader will read that alt text field so the blind student has an idea of what was in the image.
  • Refrain from using floating text boxes, comments, or Track Changes as they are not accessible.


Page formatting is read aloud to screen reader users so the content is understood in context. It is important to format your list properly. If the list order is important use a numbered list. If not important, then use a bulleted list.

Images and Graphics including graphs, maps, and shapes

Provide alternative text descriptions (Alt Text) which should be limited to one or two brief sentences so a person with visual impairment understands the meaning of an image, graph, or map.

1. Select the image, 2. Click on the Format Pane button (in the upper-right corner), 3. Select the Layout & Preferences tab, 4. Select Alt Text and enter a Title and Description.

  1. Select the image
  2. Click on the Format Pane button (in the upper-right corner)
  3. Select the Layout & Preferences tab
  4. Select Alt Text and enter a Title and Description.


When providing links out to other destinations, type text that describes the destination of the link.


The assistive technology will tell the user that a link is there.


Create data tables with column headers; this is essential to screen reader users so they can understand how the information is laid out. Ensure proper reading order in the tables. Screen readers read from left-to-right, top-to-bottom, one cell at a time. If you merge cells or split cells this can throw off the screen reader.

To determine how your table will be read place your cursor in the first cell in the table. Now tab through the table; this is the route the screen reader will take. If you need to merge, split, or nest cells make sure the table is constructed in good screen reader reading order. You should also add the alt text descriptive tag to explain the data table content.  You will not see this on the screen but a screen reader will read it and let the person know the contents of the table so they can choose to move past it or read it.

Insert a table then go to the Table Design tab to add the header row.

To add the header row, insert a table then go into the Table Design tab and click the box for Header Row.

Note: It may be easier to showcase the table data in another way to help prevent confusion. A list or series of lists may be easier due to the way assistive technologies are programmed to read tables.


Don’t use color alone to convey meaning as those that are colorblind will not be able to differentiate that green is on and red is off since they won’t see the two colors as different.

Use sufficient color contrast. We are seeing a trend toward font color and background color being too similar, not enough contrast. If you like to use lots of color please consider using the Colour Contrast Analyzer Tool (redirect) to ensure there is enough contrast.

Run the Accessibility Checker

Microsoft has an accessibility checker built into their software products that will help you with this process.

If you are running Word 2016 for Windows: Go to the File tab and select Info. Look at the Check for Issues button and select Check Accessibility from the drop-down list.

If you are running Word 2016 for Mac: Go to the Tools menu and select Check Accessibility to proceed.

The accessibility checker will provide a list of errors and warnings. When you click on an error or warning, an accessibility checker pane will appear on the right-hand side of the document window with instructions on how to fix any issues that appear.

Links to Additional Content

November 27, 2017

How to add subtitles to YouTube videos


This article is designed to assist users through the process of adding subtitles to YouTube videos—both to videos users create and to videos created by others.

Closed captions and subtitles are a necessary component to the process of making content more accessible to people with auditory disabilities, visual disabilities, second-language learners, and/or visual learners among the population.


In order to create or submit subtitles, you will first need the following:

Creating subtitles for your own video

The process is fairly straight-forward and there are a few steps in the process.

Step 1: Upload a video to YouTube

Click on the Upload icon on the upper-right corner of the page then select the video file you wish to upload. Once the video is uploaded, subtitles can be added.

Click the Browse button or drag-and-drop the desired media file to the upload box.

Step 2: View the video the Video Manager to add Subtitles or closed captions (CC)

Once the video is uploaded, go back to the Video Manager and click on the Subtitles/CC tab along the top of the page above the video box. This screen can also be accessed by viewing the video, clicking on the Settings menu > Subtitles/CC > Add new Subtitles/CC to proceed.

Click Done to finish the upload then go to the Video Manager to add subtitles or closed captions

You can contribute subtitles to videos as well, click here for more information.

Step 3: Transcribe the subtitles into the video

Subtitles are automatically installed by YouTube using its own service and those can be automatically translated into other languages. If your microphone is good enough, YouTube’s auto-transcription service works well.

If you would like to add your own subtitles to ensure complete accuracy, subtitles can be added to the video from this screen. Once added, how they appear can be edited to fit as desired.

1. Add the subtitles, 2. Adjust the timing of when the subtitles appear by clicking and dragging the bounding boxes in correspondence with the video timeline, 3. Save changes when complete.

  1. You can add subtitles to the Subtitle field then press Enter to add.
  2. You can adjust when the subtitle will appear by clicking on it then dragging the bounding box to the appropriate length based on the overall video timeline.
  3. Once all changes are made, click Save Changes to finish.

Note: Submitted subtitles cannot be edited once saved. You will have either delete the submitted subtitles. If your microphone is good enough, YouTube is able to automatically insert subtitles which can be translated using Google Translate.

A completed example

The video linked below is an example of how a video will look with subtitles added. Viewers can click the CC button on the player in the bottom-right corner to view them.

Links to Additional Content

November 14, 2017

Resources for Content Accessibility


This post is a compilation of University resources regarding content accessibility specifically focused on Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat.

Creating accessible Word Documents and PDFs

The Center for Media and Educational Technologies (CMET) conducted a training session on how to create accessible files using a Windows-based machine. Links to their documentation can be found in the Tutorials section below.

Additionally, Microsoft Office Support has documentation on how to ensure that your Word documents are accessible. Tips include how to add alt text to images, tables, charts, SmartArt graphics, color-coding text, and more.


Creating accessible Excel spreadsheets

Microsoft Office Support has documentation on how to ensure that your Excel spreadsheets are accessible. Tips include how to add alt text to images, tables, charts, SmartArt, and more.


Creating accessibility PowerPoint presentations

Microsoft Office Support has documentation on how to ensure that your PowerPoint presentations are accessible. Tips include how to add alt text to images, tables, charts, SmartArt graphics, determining slide order, and more.


Universal Design in College Instruction

The Teaching Effectiveness Program (TEP) has created a resource on how to plan and implement tenets of universal design for college instruction.

Universal Design or Inclusive Design is the formation of a classroom experience that is accessible to the diverse learning communities we encounter in higher education. Course design following these guidelines is accomplished through thoughtful planning, implementing, and evaluating instruction.

Links to Additional Content