Login | April 23, 2019

Making documents accessible

Technology for Lawyers

Published: August 10, 2018

Word 365 is rolling out an accessibility checker in its next update. It will operate in the background and check what you’re writing for accessibility as you write. What/why, you may ask.

Well, certain disabilities make it more difficult for some people to understand the material in the document. For instance, a color-blind person couldn’t distinguish different color-coded charts, and some color schemes make a document unreadable. Sending incomprehensible emails and documents around militates against the communication you’re trying to accomplish, would you not think?

So here are some tips for making your docs more accessible so that everyone will get the message, and so that you’ll be ready for this new update (courtesy of TechRepublic, one of the many tech mailing lists I’m on). Many of these tips are for an audience of visually-impaired people, but there are also people who have a hard time moving a mouse around, so saving them time and effort is also a kindness.

First, be sure to include alternative text with all visuals. This includes images, SmartArt, diagrams, embedded objects, and videos. The text describes the images, and can be read for people who have vision difficulties.

As indicated above, don’t get so colorful. Maintain sufficient contrast for text and background colors. Particularly for Excel and PowerPoint, always check to be sure that color is not the only means of conveying information. Conditional formatting in Excel can be impactful visual communication for many, but not everyone.

Keep it simple. Use a basic table structure and specify column header, and if necessary, row header information.

Make sure your hyperlinks go somewhere useful.

In Excel, give all sheet tabs unique names and remove any blank sheets.

In PowerPoint, make sure you give every slide a unique title. When read aloud, the slide title will indicate advancement of the presentation.

In Word, use the built-in headings and styles. The built-in features will always be read aloud in the proper and logical order. This also saves time in writing.

Note: There is already a “check accessibility” button under the Review tab of Word, but the update will automate this. But you can check your docs now with this button.