Skip To Content

Microsoft Word Accessibility

This page covers techniques that can be used to make accessible Word documents. Steps may vary depending on the version of Microsoft Word and the type of Operating System that you are using. The version used on this page is Microsoft Word 2013 for PC.

Page Contents

video of all Word accessibility topics
Word Accessibility Video


Heading and paragraph styling benefits both sighted and visually impaired users. These styles help users to understand the basic structure of the document by allowing them to quickly scan for sections they are interested in reading. Screen reader users can view a list of the document’s headings and quickly jump to any particular heading. Avoid simply bolding or enlarging font, this is not the same as using true Word styles.

Adding Styles to your text:  video of creating accessible Word styles and themes

  1. Highlight the text you want to change the Style of.
  2. Under the Home tab, locate the Styles menu.
  3. Select the desired Style to be applied.
Word styles bar

When creating a hyperlink, make sure to provide a clear description of the destination of the link, do not simply provide the URL. It should be clear to users where the link will be taking them before even clicking on it.

Adding meaningful Hyperlink descriptions:  video of creating accessible Word hyperlinks

  1. Copy and paste the desired URL into the Word document.
  2. Right click on the URL and select Edit Hyperlink.
  3. In the Text to display box, enter a clear description of the link destination.
  4. Click Ok.
Right click menu to display edit hyperlink option. Edit hyperlink window with text to display text box.

Alt Text

Alternative text, also known as alt text, is hidden text that describes what is happening in an image. Alt text allows those that are visually impaired to use a screen reader to understand the content of an image. Purely decorative images, or images that don’t help with the understanding of the content, should include alt text with an empty description. Do not begin the alt text description with “This is an image of...” because images are identified to the user as images by the screen reader.

Adding Alt Text to your images:  video of creating accessible Word images (alt text)

  1. Right click the image and then click Format Picture.
  2. Click Layout & Properties.
  3. Click Alt Text and enter a description for the image in the Description field (Title is not needed).
  4. Click the X to close.
Right click menu to display format picture option. Format picture window with alt text, text field.


When making a table, be sure to include alt text and column header rows. Providing a header row will allow users to better understand the layout of the table. (Tip: To view the order in which a screen reader will read the table, click within the top left corner cell and begin pressing the Tab key on the keyboard.)

Adding Alt Text to your tables:

  1. Right click the table and then click Table Properties.
  2. Click the Alt Text tab.
  3. Enter a description for the table in the Description field (Title is not needed). Note: If the Alt Text Description field is greyed out, make sure the document is saved in .docx format.
  4. Click Ok.
Right click menu to display table properties option. Table properties window with alt text field.

Adding Column Header Rows to your tables:

  1. Select the table.
  2. Under the Table Tools Design tab, at the top of the document, find the Table Style Options menu and check the box for Header Row.
  3. Enter appropriate titles into the Header Row of the table.
  4. Select the top row of the table.
  5. Under the Table Tools Layout tab, at the top of the document, click on the option Repeat Header Rows.
select header row from table style options     select repeat header rows from layout tab

Accessibility Checker

The Accessibility Checker is used to check your document for issues that could potentially make it inaccessible to those with disabilities. The Accessibility Checker results can be clicked on to provide details about why the issue should be changed and how to go about changing it.

Running the Accessibility Checker:  video of using Word's accessibility checker

  1. Click on File, at the top left corner.
  2. Click on Info.
  3. Click on the Check for Issues dropdown menu and then choose Check Accessibility. The Accessibility Checker will run and then open within the document.
check accessibility under info tab and check for issues menu     accessibility checker pane listing the results of the scan

General Word Accessibility Guidelines

  • Keep heading titles short.
  • When making a list, use numbers if sequence matters or bullets if it does not.
  • Do not use too many blank characters (ex. extra spaces, tabs, table cells, etc.).

More Help

For more help with creating accessible Word documents, please contact Studio 6.

Additional Resources