Checklist for accessible Word documents

When creating a document on Microsoft Word, are you considering your readers' diverse needs?Checklist with check marked boxes

Writing with accessibility in mind means that you are trying to ensure that your content can be read and understood by as wide an audience as possible. There are several things you can do to check if a Word document is accessible.
Below is a helpful checklist for improving the accessibility of documents or publications, both print and online:

1. Use a proper heading structure

The use of headings can help structure your document and enables screen readers to navigate your document by its headings. 

It is even more easier for users to navigate your document if your headings are descriptive.

In this snippet from our popular Accessibility for copywriters training course, Jack Baker, Senior Accessibility Consultant at AbilityNet shares how to write descriptive headings and labels.

2. Write in plain language

Plain language means communication that the reader can understand the first time they read it. It can be defined as a simple, clear, conversational style that uses everyday words and an active voice.

3. Use accessible fonts and text size

Using an inaccessible font can slow your receiver from reading your document. When typing up your document, select a clear and easy to read font. The weight and size of your text need to also be considered. These formatting considerations are especially important for your readers with sight impairments.

4. Provide meaningful description/alt text for any images included

Do you want to learn more about meaningful alt text? Learn the five golden rules for compliant alt text in our blog.

5. For content-heavy documents, use lists 

Using numbered or bulleted lists in documents can be a very useful way of breaking up complex, content-heavy information, making it easier to read and follow.

6. Ensure hyperlinks make sense as standalone information

Adding hyperlinks in Word is very easy through right-clicking on any word or group of words. However, the hyperlink makes sense as standalone information. It can be useful to provide the full URL in brackets after the descriptive link so that it is available if the document is printed or if users wish to cut and paste it.

Screenshot of a Microsoft Word document with the heading "Checklist for accessible Word documents".

7. Assess the accessibility of your document using Microsoft Word’s built-in checker

You can check the accessibility of your document in Word by using its built-in checker. The ‘Check Accessibility’ button is available under the ‘Review’ menu. This will highlight any accessibility-related problems with your document, describe why you should fix them, and give you guidance on how to do so.


For more complex documents, you will need to consider the accessibility of data tables, use of colours and metadata. Check out our factsheet on creating accessible documents for more information. 

If you're interested in learning the steps needed to make inclusive Word documents and PowerPoint presentations, we can teach you in our how to create accessible documents and presentations training course.

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Educate your teams about accessibility and inclusion dos and don'ts via our cost-effective customisable eLearning options, including instructional videos. We now have new modules on Office 365. Learn how to use the key accessibility features within Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint to help you create accessible files.

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Further Resources