Microsoft Word

Accessibility Barriers

  • Components of a document such as titles, sub-titles, and images may be inaccessible to screen reader users unless information about each component is embedded in the document.
  • Titles and sub-titles created by simply using the Word Format toolbar to center, bold, and increase the font size of the text will not be accessible to screen reader users.
  • The identification, description, or conveying of information communicated by an image will be inaccessible to screen reader users when alternative text is not included.
  • Detailed or "busy" page backgrounds or watermarks may make it difficult or impossible for users to discern overlying text, particularly users with low vision.
  • The grouping or conveying of information through the use of color alone may be difficult or impossible to access for individuals who are color-blind, screen reader users, individuals with low vision, and users of devices that do not support the displaying of color.
  • The use of non-standard tables (i.e., tables in which a cell spans more than one row or column) can make some information inaccessible. Unlike HTML, information about the relationship between table cells cannot be embedded in a Word document.

Best Practices


  • Headings should be used to convey structural information about a document, indicating main points and sub-points.
  • Use styles to create titles and section headings.
  • Use numbered and bulleted lists when appropriate.

Images and Color

  • Include alternative text for images, charts, and diagrams.
  • Do not use background images.
  • Use font color as an enhancement, not as the only means of conveying information.
  • Use multiple ways of distinguishing items. For example, place a green "x" by completed items and a red exclamation point by open items. If images are used, provide appropriate alternative text.
  • Test the use of color to convey information by printing a copy of the document in black and white to verify that all information is still conveyed.

Additional Resources