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Re: Are Forms in MS Word Accessible?

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From: Steve Green
Date: Dec 1, 2021 4:41AM


Hi Jim,

I have done a load of research into this and the answer is categoric - Word forms are hopelessly inaccessible to a variety of user groups even if you do absolutely everything possible. As you have found, converting to PDF just makes things worse and you have to add all the form controls again in Acrobat.

The best solution is to author the form in InDesign and export as PDF. If you do everything right, my understanding is that you shouldn't need to fix anything in Acrobat.

BTW, Ted Page of Accessible Digital Documents knows more about the topic than anyone I know. It's all he's done for the last 15 years, so you can trust what he says. We used to subcontract our document remediation to him, but he's always booked solid with training courses so we now do it all in-house again.

I'd be happy to collaborate if there are any parts of this you don't fancy doing yourself.

Steve Green
Managing Director
Test Partners Ltd


-----Original Message-----
From: WebAIM-Forum < <EMAIL REMOVED> > On Behalf Of Jim Byrne Accessible Web Design
Sent: 01 December 2021 11:17
To: WebAIM Discussion List < <EMAIL REMOVED> >
Subject: [WebAIM] Are Forms in MS Word Accessible?

Hi,

I’ve been trying to figure out if it is possible to create accessible forms in Word - but there seems to be a lot of competing views on the issue.

I’ve watched videos that imply that as long as you use good accessibility practice they will be accessible. And I’ve seen articles that say they might be technically accessible but in practice they are not - because of the way the security protection works:

"You can't make Microsoft Word forms accessible (enough) …"
https://accessible-digital-documents.com/blog/you-cant-make-microsoft-word-forms-accessible-enough/

Are these security issues still relevant to the current version of Word?

Assuming they can’t be made accessible, what’s the recommended practice for converting them to PDF? Again I’ve seen competing advice. The standard advice for creating accessible PDFs is to export them as tagged documents - but I’ve also seen advice (on the Adobe website) saying that, unless the forms are simple, the tagging should be done in the PDF editor itself and that documents should be exported untagged?

As a test I created a form in a Word document and exported it to PDF, but when the I opened it the form fields had gone, apart from the checkboxes. Creating forms in word doesn’t seem to be a work well. ????

So is the best advice to create everything in Word apart from the forms - and create the form fields in the PDF editor? (I am aware that accessible forms can also be created on a web page.)

Sorry for the long email. I’ve been getting frustrated trying to get a clear picture on this.

Jim










About Jim Byrne
With over two decades of experience Jim Byrne is one of the UK’s most experienced practitioners in the area of accessible web design. Jim provided feedback during the development of WCAG 2 as part of the Guild of Accessible Website Designers. He is the author of a number of technical books, training courses and accessibility guides. Jim was a winner of the equal access category of the Global Bangemann Challenge.

Jim Byrne: Specialist in Accessible Website Design.

Web: http://www.jimbyrne.co.uk

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