Create Accessible Documents

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Create Accessible Documents – Learn about accessibility concepts that help make any content you are creating more accessible.


Use tables only to represent data, not to control the design or layout of a document.

Reasons to avoid the use of tables solely for design layout:

  • Tables are difficult to read and navigate for some people with disabilities.
  • Assistive technology users must switch to complex table navigation commands to access and read the table.
  • Tables can’t effectively be converted to Braille. The table structure must be removed because the content in Braille is too large to fit in a table format.
  • If there is no other way to represent the information, such as when representing data and other reporting, describe or summarize what the table shows.
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When using a table that does not represent data, ask yourself if someone couldn’t see this, how would it be described or summarized. If the answer is “it’s too much information to describe,” then it may not belong in a table. A list with a heading is better design and provides better access.


Use accessible fonts.

Accessible font choices:

  • Use only sans-serif fonts when creating documents.
  • Sans-serif fonts have plain endings without extensions.
  • Serif fonts have flared extensions and stokes which will distort when enlarged for low vision users.
  • Do not use cursive fonts or fantasy fonts.
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Use at least 12pt font size when creating documents, 24pt for PowerPoint. Users can enlarge to their specific needs. Do not use ALL CAPS to convey emphasis, use built in formatting feature instead to add emphasis.

Sans Serif font examples:

Serif fonts examples:

Cursive and Fantasy fonts examples:


Use built-in formatting features such as “Styles” in MS Office and “Format” in D2L to identify titles, main and subtopics, and section headings.

  • Using the built-in formatting features to organize the information makes your document easier to navigate for everyone, including students with visual or reading disabilities.
  • For assistive technology users, only increasing the font size does not help to identify a heading.
  • Formatted headings allows assistive technology users to navigate the document with equivalent ease of use.
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  • Headings are hierarchical and will form an outline, so use them accordingly.
  • If sections of your document are not hierarchical, use the same level heading to identify unordered or unrelated sections.
  • Heading Level 1 = main topic.
  • Heading Level 2 = subtopic of Heading Level 1.
  • Heading Level 3 = subtopic of Heading Level 2.

Color and Contrast

Use accessible color and contrast.


For some users with disabilities, color cannot be perceived and used to understand content.

  • Color should not be the only visual means of conveying information or an action.
  • Color alone should not be used to identify between groups of information.


Accessible contrast is necessary so that all users can read the content. If the contrast is poor, the low vision reader may not be able to see your content.

  • A good rule of thumb is dark letters on a light background, or light letters on dark background.
  • When using a colored text on top of a colored background, ensure that there is still good contrast.
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The built-in templates available in all Microsoft Office suite software are color contrast accessible. D2L course templates are also developed to have good contrast.

Ordered and unordered lists

Use the built-in formatting for list and column features to make lists.

  • Structuring your document using the formatting features allows the assistive technology user to navigate the document with equivalent ease of use.
  • A sighted user may be able to scan a document and skip to relevant information.
  • Using the built-in document features provides equivalent ease of use to the assistive technology user.
  • Using lists makes it much easier for a screen reader user to understand that the items are related and appear in a list. Use “” to indicate an empty ALT attribute.
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  • Use bullets for unordered lists.
  • Use numbers for ordered lists.

Columns-use only when necessary

Columns don’t translate well to mobile devices. Using the built-in formatting to make columns allows screen reader users to detect column page structures.

  • Avoid using the tab key to separate content on one line.


Make images accessible by describing them.

Images are inherently inaccessible for those who cannot see them, but providing a description of the image will help users who are blind or visually impaired to understand the image and its purpose in your content.

Images can be divided into three categories to better determine the level of description needed.

Decorative - purely decorative and not informative

  • an icon or logo
  • identity as decorative, so users know it’s not essential

Simple - conveys simple information

  • photo or other simple image
  • use a short, concise description–called alternative text (alt text)

Complex - conveys complex information essential to the lesson

  • chart, graph, or table, or other Learning Object
  • describe in paragraph form, before or after the image
  • still be sure to identify the image using alt text


Make website links live and descriptive.

If the website URL is not a clear website title, change the name and make the link live.

  • don’t leave a URL that is a long jumble of letters or numbers
  • describe the target website with a word or two
  • Don’t use click here, read here, learn more

Not descriptive: To read more about this topic, click here.

Descriptive: Read more about link accessibility.