Monday, September 3, 2018

Digital Accessibility Challenge Week #2

Simple Steps to Make Documents and Digital Content More Usable by Everyone


This weeks challenge will provide simple steps to follow to make documents digitally accessible, it does  include hyperlinks and resources for a variety of document creation needs.
Manhattan College ITS is encouraging employees to begin to take some simple steps that will structure your documents so that they are more accessible. When creating documents, spreadsheets or presentations it is important to provide structure to all your documents. Fortunately many word processing tools such as Google Docs and MS Word are very advanced in the accessibility area and allow you to use features generally available within each tool.

How Does Digital Accessibility Impact Manhattan College Faculty, Staff and Students?

  • Faculty creating instructional materials and presenting lessons.
  • Employees creating documents, forms, newsletters and correspondence for distribution.
  • Students writing reports and preparing presentations.

Page Structure and Formatting

The following guidelines can be applied to Microsoft Word, GoogleDocs, HTML, or other source document files.


All documents should have a title that represents the content of the document. The title is typically added to the Properties of a document.


Organizing web pages by headings helps users get a sense of the page’s organization and structure. Visually, headings are presented as larger and more distinct than surrounding text. Making texts larger helps guide the eye around the page. Using headings and making them visually apparent is especially helpful for users with cognitive disabilities.

It is best to plan out a heading structure before composing a page. Doing so will help you both select appropriate heading levels and keep your thoughts organized overall.

Use headings hierarchically, with Heading 1 representing the most important idea on the page, and sub-sections organized with Heading 2 level headings, etc.

Do not use bold instead of a heading. One of the most common accessibility mistakes is making text bold when a heading is needed. Though the text may look like a heading, the underlying code is not set correctly, and screen reader users will not benefit.

Use (built-in) Headings

  • In Google Docs you can apply heading to words or sentences. To do this, navigate to the Format menu and select Paragraph styles to add headings to sections of your document.
Image of the toolbar and arrows pointing to how to navigate to built in Headings menu in Google Docs
      Example in Google Docs
  • In Microsoft Word you can apply headings to words or sentences. To do so, highlight a word or sentence in Word, and navigate to the Home tab towards the top of the screen. There are many different styles to choose from, making your document clearly organized and easier to read.

Image  of the Toolbar in MS Word point out how to navigate to built in Headings menu
Example in MS Word


Links are important for helping direct people where to go through or from your document. Often displayed as text, links should be functional and usable.

Use Descriptive Text for Links

  • When linking to another website, do not just paste the link into the field. Most text editors have a button that allows you to insert a link. Inserting a link this way allows you to add a descriptive link title. This makes it easier for screen readers to read a link. Make link text is clear and self explanatory to support quick and effective navigation.
  • Example: Avoid writing: "Click here to view our academic programs.”
  • Instead write: “Explore our academic programs."
  • Example: “Click here to view today’s weather.” can be shortened to    “Today’s weather.”

Linking email addresses

  • Linking email addresses offers quick access to communication tools. If the link activates an email program to open, use the person's email address (e.g. as the linked text. For links to contact forms or pages of information, use text such as “Contact Reggie” or "Send Reggie an email."

Use Lists

When creating lists, rather than just listing items in a single paragraph with no format, your options include:
  1. Numbered List
  • Bulleted List
Image of a taskbar highlighting where the Bulleted Lists and Numbered Lists are located
Example in Google Docs

Image of a toolbar highlighting where the Bulleted Lists and Numbered Lists are located
Example in MS Word


  • Use the true column features in document editors to divide page content. Avoid using the tab key to separate content on one line. 
  • Using the column tool allows assistive technology to detect and communicate the page structure to the user.
Top image has a red circle, bottom image has a green check, examples of best practice for creating columns

Images/Non-Text Content

Add Alternate Text for Images (Alt tags)

  • When uploading a picture to a document or website, make sure to always add an Alt tag to the image. Alt tags are used to describe images to a screen reader, so utilizing alt tags that describe the image with detail is important. 
  • To add an alt tag, you must view the properties of the image. 
  • In most cases, all that is required is to simply right click the image within the editor, and select alt tags. 
  • Sometimes you may have to right click and then select mage properties before having the option to add an alt tag.


Use Tables for Data

  • Use tables for presenting data, not for changing the visual layout of the page. In the table, include a heading row (rather than starting with data in the first row) because screen readers automatically read the first row as a heading row. 

Choosing Color

Color alone should not convey meaning

  • Avoid using color alone as the sole source of meaning or information. Some people may not be able to perceive color and will experience difficulties accessing your content. 
  • For example, hyperlinks are typically underlined colored text. Both the color of the text and the underline is necessary to show the text as a hyperlink. This is not to say, never use color in your document, but where you are able to edit color be sure there are multiple ways to determine meaning or information.

Use sufficient color contrast

  • If you must you color in your document, make sure the color contrast between the foreground (i.e. text or content) and the background color are sufficient.. 
  • Some color combinations can be more difficult to read, be selective and conscious of the colors you choose. For example, avoid light gray text on a white background.


Web accessibility is essential for people with disabilities and useful for all. This video gives an overview about the impact of accessibility and the benefits for everyone in a variety of situations.

Web Accessibility Perspectives: Customizable Text

Once you complete reviewing the materials from the second week of the Digital Accessibility Challenge take a few minutes to answer these questions:
Week 2 Accessibility QuestionnaireParticipants who complete all 5 weeks of the Digital Accessibility Challenge will be awarded a Credly Digital Badge in recognition of their effort, for more information review ITS to Launch 5 Week Digital Accessibility Challenge.

Other Resources:

General Accessibility Resources for Specific Programs and Apps:



Partially reposted from: Making your Word Documents Accessible