When it comes to Word docs, the truth is, there a lot of errors you can make if accessibility isn’t top of mind.

In this video, Billie Johnston, Senior Accessibility Consultant at Siteimprove, explores one major change you can start making your Word docs today to make them more accessible.

The important takeaway from this video is to always use styles for text. To apply a style, select the text you want to format and click a style to apply it to the selected text.

Styles provide accessible structure and clarity. Screen readers and other assistive technology users often navigate documents by using Styles. For example, with Styles, users can quickly scan the headings to find the topic they want to read about.

As a screen reader user moves through a document, the Styles allow them to more easily understand the structure and relationship of information. Using formatting buttons to make text larger and bold to look like a heading won’t translate to screen readers.

You can customize Styles to look however you want them to, just make sure you actually use them.

  1. Right-click the Style you want to customize
  2. Select Modify
  3. Modify the Style and click OK

Creating your own style and calling it “Heading 1” won’t always work correctly with assistive technology, so it’s better to modify the default Styles that are already there.

Along the same lines, use the “Strong” or “Emphasis” Styles instead of the Bold and Italic buttons. Otherwise, the effect you’re trying to create with that formatting won’t be the same for screen reader users.

Word also has a built-in accessibility checker – so in addition to the considerations mentioned in this video, make sure you’re running an inspection before sending off your document!

Looking for more resources to help you create a more accessible website? Check out this toolkit of resources!