Microsoft Word files, either .doc or .docx, have become a near universal standard for word processing formats. Fortunately, a Word document can be made mostly accessible quite easily as long as some basic principles are kept in mind.
- Before beginning, ask yourself if this particular document needs to be ultimately delivered as a Word doc, or could it be delivered as a more flexible and universal HTML file.
- When designing Word documents, use the built-in styles like Heading Level 1, Heading Level 2, etc. to provide a semantic structure to your document. This will help provide a consistent layout and make the document easier to for users of certain assistive technologies to navigate. The default styles in Word can be customized to meet your own needs.
- Avoid using text boxes as they make it difficult for screen readers to read the contents of the text box in the proper context of the page.
- Be sure to include textual descriptions of images.
- When creating lists, use the built-in bulleted or numbered list feature instead of manually inserting asterisks, numbers, or tabs.
- In Office 2010 you can use the new built-in Accessibility Checker to check for common accessibility issues. Some of the warnings it gives will be subjective, so discernment must be used in some cases.
- The Institute of Applied Information Technology at Zurich University has created a Microsoft Word add-in to check for accessibility issues and create accessible PDFs.
- This tool is also available in the VCL as "Microsoft Office Document to Accessible PDF
- Be sure to include a link to the free Word Viewer from Microsoft so users who don't have Microsoft Word installed can view your Word documents.