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Creating Web Accessible Documents

  • Many PDFs are not accessible if accessibility wasn’t built into the process of creating them.
  • Posting these documents to our website means that not everyone can get the information.
  • The university wants to make sure our students, faculty and staff have equal access to everything we offer.
  • The university must comply with laws for equal access.
  • Attempt to copy and paste content from PDF. If you're not able to copy the information, screen readers cannot recognize text.
  • Try to tab through your document. It if created properly, the tab should take you logically through the information. If not, it's not accessible.
  • Run accessibility checker under Tools in Adobe Acrobat Pro. UMass Lowell offers free download of the entire Adobe Creative Cloud on the IT website.
  • Use a screen reader to test for accessibility, such as NVDA, Voiceover, Narrator, JAWS, etc. These tools are available from Assistive Technology office.

It's easier to create an accessible document than to remediate one. To make accessible documents in Microsoft Word:

  • Provide a descriptive title
    A descriptive title tells the user what the purpose of the document is. The title should be succinct and use proper grammar and punctuation. Do not replace spaces with underscores or hyphens.
  • Use built-in headings and styles
    On the “Home” ribbon, in the “Styles” group, select the appropriate heading (Heading 1, Heading 2, etc.) Use a logical order without skipping headings, Heading 1 first, followed by Heading 2, etc. Typically there should only be one Heading 1 in the document.
  • Include alternative text with all visuals
    Alternative text provides textual information for visual elements (pictures, illustrations, images of text, shapes, charts, etc.) There are two ways to apply alternate text in Word: Use the Description field in the Alt Text field; OR provide information about the content or function of the image in the surrounding text.
  • Add meaningful hyperlink text and ScreenTips
    Screen readers will read the displayed hyperlink text aloud. Instead, hyperlink meaningful words within the text (NOT Click Here!), such as Apply online now, or Learn more about the program. 
  • Ensure that color is not the only means of conveying information
    Visually impaired and/or colorblind readers might miss essential information that is solely a different color, such as red. Use asterisk (*) or other denotation along with or instead of color. 
  • Use sufficient contrast for text and background colors
    Visually impaired and/or colorblind readers might miss essential information that is presented without the proper contrast. 
  • Use standard fonts, font sizing and paragraph spacing
    The key to written communication is convey information cleanly and efficiently. Limit use of italics, all capital letters and font color or shape to convey information. Don't use blinking or moving text.
  • Use proper bullet and number formatting
    Screen readers can best read information that is organized and formatted correctly.
  • Use a simple table structure, and specify column header information.
    Avoid using tables for layout purposes. Use only uniform tables for data.