Creating Accessible Documents

Template Options

University Marketing and Communications offers branded Word and PowerPoint templates through WebDAM. 

Looking for templates for something outside of Case Western Reserve? Check Microsoft's accessible template options.

When you're creating a document—even if it's just something you want to email to a colleague—it needs to be accessible. After all, you never know who it will be shared with and whether or not they will be able to obtain the information in the same manner as you.

First and foremost, before you create any documents, read our content creation section. In addition, you'll want to check our guidelines.

Any document that is shared online—via email or websites—should follow accessibility guidelines.

This means they should have:

After you create your document, there are many quick steps you can take to ensure your document is sharing information with everyone who receives it.

Microsoft Office Files (Word, PowerPoint, Excel)

Microsoft Office provides an accessibility checker in Word, Excel, Outlook, OneNote, and PowerPoint on Windows and Mac. It can automatically detect basic accessibility issues within your content and offer solutions.

If you plan on embedding or linking content from Word, Excel or PowerPoint on your site, follow the instructions to open the accessibility checker.

  1. Click 'Reviewat the top of your document
  2. Select 'Check Accessibility'
  3. In the results, click the issues to see why and how you can resolve them.

Word document to PDF

If you intend to save a Word document as a PDF, you must take additional steps to make it accessible.

When you finish working on your document:

  1. Click 'File' then 'Save As'
  2. Set ‘Save as type’ to PDF and then click the ‘Options’ button
  3. In the options menu, ensure that ‘Document structure tags for accessibility’ is checked—then select OK and Save.


Whether you're building a PDF from scratch or you have one already created, Adobe Acrobat can check your PDF for accessibility issues and show you what you need to fix.

  1. Click ‘Tools’ in the top left corner
  2. Select 'Accessibility.' This will open a tool box on the right so you can check the accessibility of your document.
  3. Run a ‘Full Check’
  4. Fix any remaining issues

The first option under Accessibility is going to be ‘Autotag Document.' This option will do the same thing as selecting ‘Document Structure Tags for Accessibility’ in Microsoft Word. Use this option if you already have the PDF created and need to make it accessible.

Note: Scanned documents, especially photocopies of articles, can very rarely be made accessible. Links to online, website-based versions should be provided.

Check your PDF's accessibility.

Google Docs/Slides

Google's suite of tools, such as Docs and Slides, are intended to be accessible for everyone who uses them—but there are limitations for certain devices.

While work done in the Google Suite can be made more accessible, it may never be completely usable by all people with disabilities.

However, we're providing some steps you need to take to ensure that what you create abides by the basics that Google has designed.


All images, except those used strictly for decorative purposes, should include alternative text.

  1. On your uploaded image, right click and select "Alt text."
  2. Enter a title and description.
  3. Click "OK."

Alternatively, images can have descriptive captions and/or text written within the document that explains their purpose.


Use proper headings (H1, H2, H3, etc.) to help guide users and screen readers through a page. The document title should be in Heading 1, major subsections in Heading 2, further subsections in Heading 3, etc. You can use the drop-down "Styles" menu to designate each heading style. 


Because screen readers often scan a document for links, it's important to make sure your links make sense without surrounding content, and that the link text clearly describes the destination. For example: "Find your class schedule in SIS." Rather than "Click here for your schedule."

Download and Sharing Options

If a user cannot read a Google Doc file, an editor can download the file as an accessible Microsoft Office file.

Slides can be shared as an HTML file to show an entire presentation in a single, scrollable HTML page instead of one slide at a time. This is especially helpful for those who use screen readers. 

To access a presentation in HTML view, use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Alt + Shift + p (Windows or Chrome OS) or ⌘ + Option + Shift + p (Mac).