Word and PowerPoint Accessibility Evaluation Checklist
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This resource is designed to be printed as a one page PDF file. An HTML version is also available below.
The following checklist uses the Accessibility Checker in Microsoft Office 2016 and newer. See our Word and PowerPoint articles for more information on using the checker and creating accessible electronic documents.
To start the accessibility checker:
On Windows: File > Check for Issues dropdown menu > Check Accessibility
On Mac: Review tab > Check Accessibility
Errors, Warnings, and Tips indicate automated feedback from the Accessibility Checker. These may vary slightly based on your operating system and how recently your version of Office was updated. Manual review items will require manual checking for accessibility issues.
Headings use Word "Styles" (Heading 1, Heading 2, etc.)
Manual:View > Navigation Pane. Text that should be a heading is present in pane.
Apply the correct heading style in Home tab > Styles gallery
Headings do not skip levels (e.g., Heading 1 to Heading 3).
Error:Missed heading level (not in all versions)
Manual: Headings do not skip levels in Navigation Pane
Apply the correct heading style in Home tab > Styles gallery
Headings are not empty
Manual: There are no empty lines in Navigation Pane.
Delete empty headings
Slide Titles (PowerPoint-only)
Slides have descriptive titles (See Note)
Error: Missing slide title
Manual: Title describes the slide content.
Enter a descriptive slide title in the Title placeholder.
Slide titles should typically be unique
Tip: Duplicate slide title
When appropriate, change the slide Title text so it is unique on every slide.
The PowerPoint checker requires a descriptive title for every slide. If it is not appropriate to have a title on a slide, either omit the title (which will be flagged as an error) or hide the slide visually (but not from screen readers) under Home tab > Arrange > Selection Pane > click the Eye icon to toggle visibility.
Slide Reading Order (PowerPoint-only)
Slide reading order is logical
Warning: Check Reading order
Home tab > Arrange > Selection Pane; Ensure reading order is bottoming to top
Images and other non-text content have alternative text (see Note)
Error: Missing alternative text
Right click > Format Picture > Size and Properties tab > Alt Text. Enter alternative text in the Description field
In some newer versions, Right Click > Edit Alt Text
Alternative text is equivalent
Manual: Inspect text in the Alt Text >Description field, or Alt Text field in newer versions
Enter alternative text in the Description or Alt Text field
Images that present content are positioned "In Line with Text" (Word-only)
Warning: Image or object not inline
Right click > Wrap Text > In Line with Text
There is not a reliable way to hide decorative images from screen readers in older versions of Word or PowerPoint. If an image is decorative, or if the alternative text is already presented in nearby text, we recommend leaving the image blank. Unfortunately, that means it will be shown as an error in Accessibility Checker.
If you have a newer version of Office with the "Edit Alt Text" option, there is a "Mark as decorative" checkbox. Check this box if the image is decorative.
Some never versions have a "Generate a description for me" button. Do not select this. The quality of the automatically-generated descriptions is usually very poor, and a description of an image is often not the same as alternative text.
If a document has images with automatic descriptions. "Intelligent Services: Suggested alternative text" will appear in the Accessibility checker. Review and repair the alternative text of these images.
Some older versions of Office will prompt you to add alternative text to tables. This is not recommended.
The first row in a table contains correctly-defined column headers.
Error: No header row
Table Design tab > Check Header Row checkbox
When the first column of a table should contain headers, they are correctly identified as row headers.
Manual: Click within the Table Design tab > make sure the First Column checkboxes match the table header structure.
Check or uncheck the "First Column" checkbox to match the table header structure.
Table has a simple structure, avoiding merged cells or split cells
Warning: Merged or split cells in table. Use the Tab key to ensure the order of the cells in the table is logical.
Table Layout tab > Merge Cells or Split Cells
Tables don't use blank columns or rows for visual formatting
Manual: Visual Inspection
Right Click empty column or row > Delete Cells
Avoid tables that are used for layout when possible. If used, or ensure table reading order is logical.
Warning: Check reading order (for tables with no borders or styles). Use the Tab key to navigate the cells and ensure reading order is correct.
If the content can be removed from the table: Click in the table > Table Layout tab > Convert to Text.
If this isn't possible, use the Tab key to navigate the cells and ensure reading order is correct.
Support for table headers is still incomplete in Office. If you are saving a file as a PDF, the table structure should be reviewed and improved in Acrobat Pro.
Hyperlink text is descriptive (see Note).
Warning: Unclear Hyperlink Text (not in all versions)
Manual: Link text describes the link target
Right click > Edit Hyperlink > Text to display
If you are creating a presentation that is intended to be displayed in a printout, you may want to include the URL and a description in the link text—e.g., "WebAIM Introduction to Web Accessibility (webaim.org/intro)."
Color and Contrast
Text (and images of text) have good contrast
Warning: Low-contrast text (Only present in newer versions)
Manual: Search for text that has low contrast.
Home tab > Font Color to change in one place.
Home tab > Styles gallery or Design tab > Colors to change document-wide.
Color is not used as the only way information is presented
Manual: Visually review the document for color reliance.
Use text or other visual presentations in addition to color.
Document has a descriptive file name
Manual: The filename that appears at the very top of the application window accurately describes the file.
File > Save As >
File Name field in Windows
Save As field in Mac
Document has a descriptive Title
Manual: Verify title is descriptive
Windows: File tab > Title
Mac: File > Properties > Summary tab > Title
Enter a descriptive document title in the Title field
There are no spelling or grammar issues
Word: Review tab > Spelling & Grammar
PowerPoint: Review tab > Spelling
Manual: Proofread for other spelling, grammar, and readability issues
Correct any spelling and grammar issues
Bulleted and numbered lists are used correctly
Manual: Click on text that looks like a list. In the Home tab, Numbering or Bullets is highlighted.
Change text to use the correct type of list.
Multiple spaces/lines/tabs are not used for layout.
Warning: Repeated blank characters (not in all versions)
Manual: Spaces, tabs, empty lines are not used excessively for layout.
Use Paragraph styles or columns to control spacing between elements.
Media has captions and/or transcripts
Warning: Use captions for audio and video (embedded media in PowerPoint)
Manual: Embedded and linked media has equivalent captions and or transcripts.