WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

Word 365 and 2019 for Windows
Creating Accessible Documents

Creating and Editing Headings

  1. Select the Home tab from the ribbon.
  2. In your document, select the text to convert to a heading.
  3. Click on the appropriate heading level in the Styles in-ribbon gallery, e.g., Heading 2.
  4. Headings 1, 2, or 3 can also be assigned using Control + Alt + 1, 2, or 3, respectively.
    Screenshot of the 'Heading 2' option highlighted in the 'Styles' in-ribbon gallery.

Word documents with a true heading structure provide at least two benefits:

  • The document retains this structure when correctly exported to HTML or PDF.
  • The document's readability is increased for all users.

Adding Alternative Text

Right-click on the image and select Edit Alt text, then enter appropriate alternative text in the field that appears in the Alt Text sidebar.

If the image is decorative, leave the field blank and check Mark as decorative.


Do not select the "Generate a description for me" button. 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.

Adding Table Headers

  1. Click inside the table. The Table Tools options should become visible, and the Design tab should be open.
  2. If the top row of the table contains headers for each column (most tables do), make sure the Header Row checkbox is checked.
  3. If the first column of the table contains headers for each row, check the First Column checkbox.

In the Table Styles section, select a style where the table headers are clearly identified visually. Make sure the style has good contrast.

Most screen readers will not identify table headers in Word, but we still recommend going through this process. It is important to identify headers visually, and support for table headers in Microsoft Office is improving constantly. Plus, these headers will be identified when saving to PDF.

Creating Lists

  1. Select the Home tab on the ribbon.
  2. Choose the Numbered List or Bulleted List option from the Paragraph group.
    Screenshot of the 'Numbering' option selected in the 'Paragraph' group.

Creating Columns

  1. Select the Layout tab on the ribbon.
  2. Select Columns in the Page Setup group.
    Screenshot of the 'Columns' menu icon highlighted on the 'Layout' tab.
  3. Choose the number of columns.

Using the Accessibility Checker

To start the Accessibility Checker, select the Review tab, then choose Check Accessibility.

The Accessibility Checker sidebar will appear to the right. The checker presents accessibility errors (e.g., images with no alternative text) and warnings (e.g., Hard-to-read text contrast). Selecting an item in the report will highlight the issue within the slide. Information about the issue, and instructions on how to repair it, will also appear at the bottom of the sidebar.

When the issue is addressed, it will disappear from the report automatically.