Accessible Word Documents

Document Properties

It's important to enter in a document title within the Document Properties for assistive technology devices.  It's also important to enter this information for search engines as leaving this field blank can impact how the document pulls up through search results. 

  1. Select the File menu.
  2. Select Properties.  
  3. Ensure the Title field reflects a friendly document title (don't put dashes, underscores, or such).  For example, "UMass Word Accessibility Checklist" would be a clean, concise document name.  
  4. You can enter in other relevant information (which will improve searchability of the document on websites and via Google), such as the Author name and Keywords.


Basic Heading Rules

Pages should be structured in a hierarchical manner:

  • Heading 1 is the document title. It is the most important heading, and there is generally just one.
  • Heading 2 is a major section heading.
  • Heading 3 is a sub-section of the Heading 2 and so on, ending with Heading 6.

Applying Proper Headings

  1. Select the text you would like to make into a heading.
  2. On the Home tab, in the Styles group, select a heading style, for example, Heading 1 or Heading 2.

Navigation Pane

To confirm you have added the headings properly, open the navigation pane.

  1. Select the View tab in the Word menu.  
  2. Select the Navigation Pane checkbox.

Table of Contents

The table of contents should be created through the built-in table of contents function after headings have been assigned.  

  1. Navigate to the toolbar and activate the References tab.
  2. Locate the Table of Contents pane.
  3. Select the Table of Contents button.
  4. Select one of the Automatic or Manual table options from the menu.
  5. Confirm a Table of Contents structure appears in the document.

True Columns

  1. Navigate to the Layout tab and click Columns.
  2. Click the layout that you want.


  1. Select the text to which you want to add the hyperlink, and then right-click. Remember that you should have a descriptive title for the url rather than a hyperlink, such as "Human Resources Website."
  2. Select Hyperlink.  The text you selected displays in the Text to display box. This is the hyperlink text. If necessary, change the hyperlink text.
  3. In the Address box, enter the destination address for the hyperlink.
  4. Select the Screen Tip button and, in the Screen Tip text box, type a Screen Tip.

Alt Text

Length and Additional Context

The maximum length for alt text is 125 characters. If you feel that 125 characters cannot sufficiently convey the information in your image (such as a data chart), you should provide a simple alt text description and then add contextual information to the document either before or after the diagram.

Images, SmartArt, Graphics, and Charts

  1. Right-click an image or graph.
  2. Select Format Picture, SmartArt, or Chart > Layout & Properties.
  3. Select Alt Text.
  4. Enter the Alternate Text in the Description field, not the Title field. 


  1. Right-click a table.
  2. Select Table Properties.
  3. Select the Alt Text tab.
  4. Enter the Alternate Text in the Description field, not the Title field. 

Table Headers

Adding Table Headers

  1. Position the cursor anywhere in a table.
  2. On the Table Tools Design tab, in the Table Style Options group, select the Header Row check box.

Associating Headers with Rows

  1. Right click the table in the Header Row.
  2. Select Table Properties.  The Table Properties popup window will open.
  3. Select the Row tab.
  4. Select the “Repeat as Header Row at the top of each page” checkbox.
  5. Select the Ok button.

Running the Accessibility Checker

  1. Select the File menu.  The File menu will open defaulted to the Info tab. 
  2. On the Info tab, select the “Check for Issues” button in the Inspect Document section.  A sub-menu will open.
  3. Select the Check Accessibility sub-menu item.  The accessibility check will run and a window will appear to the right of your spreadsheet with any issues that were identified.

Last Updated

Kelly Weeks
July 28, 2019