Webinar: Tips for Creating Accessible Documents


audio version (opens in new tab)




As long-time readers of my blog may be aware, assistive technology for people with disabilities is a frequent topic on my blog. This week, I summarize an other webinar about assistive technology. On November 23, 2021, the

Great Lakes ADA Center

Moderated a

webinar: “Creating Accessible Digital Documents”.

The webinar recording and presentation materials are available at the archive link above. I heard the recording on November 29, 2021. The event’s moderator stated that the webinar was a collaboration between the

Great Plains ADA Center,

Great Lakes ADA Center


Southeast ADA Center.

The presenter was from the

Rocky Mountain ADA Center.

In this blog post, I will summarize what I learned.


Types of Assistive Technology

Assistive technology can help people with a wide variety of disability. Document accessibility means that people with disabilities can navigate, interact with and understand information. People who are blind tend to use a screen reader. Someone with low-vision may need to use a screen magnifier to increase text size. People who have auditory disabilities such as deaf or hard-of-hearing reply on closed captioning. Some people who have physical disabilities limiting movement may be use a mouse. Navigation using the keyboard is critical, including headings. Accessibility from the keyboard can also assist people who are blind. \ Voice recognition software can convert the spoken word into text. Screen adjustment and magnification can change how the screen looks. On-screen keyboards can help some people with typing. A screen reader is assistive technology which helps someone with low vision or blindness access the screen through refreshable braille or computerized speech. The importance of plain language was also discussed.


Plain Language

Plain language means information is simple and easy-to-understand. Example:


demonstrates the difference between complex and plain language. The way information is presented can improve comprehension. The goal of Plain language is, ultimately, being clear. The presentation then focused on techniques for creating accessible documents.


Accessibility Tips

Tips for Creating Accessible Documents: Microsoft Word

The presenter said that ideally, documents should be designed accessibly from the beginning. Example: If a Word document is accessible, it can also be accessible when saved as a PDF. Descriptive file-names can help everyone understand a document’s purpose. Headings can help with navigation. Font size should be between 11 and 16-point. Images should include clear text descriptions of pictures, knows as alt text, to accommodate people who use screen readers. The presenter provided additional Microsoft Word accessibility tips.


Color contrast can assist people with low vision see information. Built-in styling tools within Microsoft Word can ensure accessibility of lists and columns of data. Links need to be descriptive so that purpose is clear. Tables should not include nested tables, blank cells or merged cells. The presenter also stated that Microsoft Word has an accessibility checker. It is located under the review tab. The checker helps identify accessibility issues in the document. For more information about Microsoft’s accessibility checker in Word, I suggest reading this

article from Microsoft: “Improve accessibility with the Accessibility Checker”.

PDF accessibility was then discussed.


Tips for Creating Accessible Documents: PDFs

Accessible PDFs need to be structured using document structure tags. These tags identify headings, reading order and language among other things. The presenter reiterated that information should be accessible from the beginning. For example: documents created using Microsoft Word can typically still be accessible when converting to PDF It can be difficult for PDF file created as scanned images to be accessible after creation. There was then time for a questions and answer session.


Questions and Answers

Someone asked if there are online trainings for accessibility. The presenter referenced an

online conference: Accessing Higher Ground.

Another person asked if image watermarks should be avoided. The presenter said yes because various screen readers can interpret watermarks differently. Someone asked about the best software for creating accessible forms. The presenter responded that Adobe Pro and Microsoft Word can both create accessible forms. Someone asked about the maximum number of characters when creating alternative text for images. In Microsoft Word, there are no specific character limits. The presenter stated the importance of clarity. The moderator pointed out that there are limits in some cases, such as when posting on social media. Another person asked about resources for creating accessible documents.


Was recommended by the presenter. I myself suggest reviewing a webinar archive and materials from the

“RAISE Center | Resources for Access, Independence, Self-Advocacy and Employment”.

I attended the event virtually on February 16, 2021. The recording and materials from that RAISE webinar are available online. Here is a link to the

RAISE webinar: “Tips and Tricks for Creating Accessible Content”.

Bottom line: It is important to consider the needs of people with a variety of disabilities.


Question for Readers

If you have experienced difficulty accessing digital documents as a person with disability, how did you attempt to resolve the issue? I will return with another article.


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