Creating Accessible Documents

“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”

~ Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web

In accordance with University web policy, UMB is providing the following guidelines to ensure that various online documents meet accessibility criteria. These guidelines include tips and strategies for creating accessible documents in Adobe Acrobat and Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft PowerPoint.


Adobe Acrobat Icon

Creating Accessible PDF Files
  • Enable accessibility and reflow
  • Use Adobe Acrobat Professional or TouchUp Reading Order (TURO) tool to evaluate, repair, and enhance the accessibility of existing PDF files
  • Use Table Inspector to identify and assign scope to table headers
  • Artifacts are ignored by screen readers so text should never be labeled as an artifact
  • Add document description and instructions
  • Add tags to documents and tables
  • Add document properties
  • Remove any hidden content and comments
  • If the full document is more than nine pages, you must have Bookmarks
  • Reduce file sizes
  • Run a full accessibility check
  • For more detailed information about creating accessible PDFs, please refer to Instructions for PDFs.

Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word Icon

Creating Accessible Word Documents
  • Use a good heading structure with short titles preferably; ensure all heading styles are in the correct order
  • Provide a table of contents, especially for long documents - a good heading structure helps to easily create a table of contents
  • Add alternative text to images and other graphic elements within the document
  • Do not use color as the only way to convey content
  • Use true columns for layout, not tables or columns created by hand with the Tab key
  • Ensure that font size is sufficient, at least 12 points or more
  • Use style elements to format documents
  • Use simple language, whenever possible
  • Use hyperlink text that is meaningful
  • Add Title, Subject, Keywords, Author, and Language to the document properties
  • Limit table usage for formatting data only; specify column header rows in tables and avoid blank cells
  • Avoid using watermarks, floating objects, and blank characters
  • Provide proper tab order and help text for forms
  • Include closed captions for any embedded audio

Microsoft Excel

Microsoft Excel Icon

Creating Accessible Excel Spreadsheets
  • Add alternative text to images and objects
  • Specify column header information in Excel tables
  • Use hyperlink text that is meaningful
  • Avoid using blank cells, rows, or columns for formatting
  • Give all sheet tabs unique names
  • Include closed captioning for any audio or video

Microsoft PowerPoint

Microsoft PowerPoint Icon

Creating Accessible PowerPoint Presentations
  • Add alternative text to images and objects
  • Specify column header information in tables
  • Ensure that all slides have unique titles
  • Use hyperlink text that is meaningful
  • Use simple table structure
  • Avoid using blank cells for formatting
  • Include closed captions for any audio or video
  • Ensure that the reading order of each slide is logical
  • Increase visibility for colorblind viewers
  • Limit amount of information on each slide and avoid long sentences
  • Use plain English and avoid the use of abbreviations
  • Provide text descriptions for pictorial elements or graphs
  • Ensure that font size is sufficient
  • Use a color scheme that presents a sharp contrast between text and background
  • If your presentation will be viewed on a projector, font size may need to be larger and contrast may need to be more pronounced
  • Do not use color as the only way to convey content
  • Use predefined PowerPoint slide templates, rather than creating custom templates
  • Avoid automatic or complex slide transitions, which can be distracting
  • Check reading order of text boxes that are not part of the native slide layout
  • Screen readers will read text in the order created, not in the order in which it appears