Accessible Documents

It is easier and more cost effective to plan to make documents accessible at the beginning of any project. The way that your document is structured is important to accessibility. Making a correctly formatted document using a word processing software product is a first step.  This document must consist of correct word processing techniques.  Ensuring clean document coding will make it easier to create large print, Braille, and electronic documents that will be used by persons with assistive technology.

For example, a correctly coded document that uses Microsoft word to generate a table of contents for regular print can easily be reformatted to generate a table of contents for large print or Braille.  Use of page numbering, header styles, hard page returns, make the job easier.

Do's and Don'ts for Word Processing

Most sighted people use visual cues like bold or indented text to tell the difference between titles, subtitles, or columns of text. People using assistive technology, like a screen reader, rely on correct coding to determine the document structure. For example, if you bold and center a chapter title, it will be meaningless to a screen reader.  However, if you use Heading 1, the screen reader readily knows it is the chapter title.  You can then style your header levels for the visual cues for sighted people.

You also need to be aware of the read order.  Screen readers read left to right and top to bottom unless the code dictates otherwise.

The list below provides some key do's and don'ts for word processing:

General Information

Information on Creating Accessible PDF Files, Forms, and Tables

Testing for Accessibility

W3C provides resource information on testing for electronic accessibility and more. For information, go to W3Cs Web Accessibility Initiative at:
Evaluating Web Sites for Accessibility is a multi-page resource suite that outlines different approaches for evaluating Web sites for accessibility:

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