Accessible Document General Guidelines
While the procedure for creating documents is different depending upon the file type, there are some general practices for all documents. The purpose of this page is serve as reminders and provide resources, this does not replace training to create accessible documents.
Headings provide structure and navigation to documents. Ensure headings are in sequential order (do not skip one, i.e. Heading 1 is followed by Heading 2, not Heading 4). They must also be designated as headings. In Word, this is done using styles, in PowerPoint they are designated through the slide master, and in HTML and PDF, they are designated by tags. Generally, there is only one Heading 1 in a document.
Link text needs to be descriptive, human readable and make sense out of context. There are no minimums or maximums for link text. Making sense out of context means that the reader understands where the link leads even if they do not read the text around it.
When text is underlined, even in a Word/PowerPoint/PDF document, it is recognized as a link. Therefore, do not underline words that are not links, such as, headings or for emphasis. For emphasis, use bold or italic. In HTML, make sure to use the <em> </em> and <strong > </strong> tags to denote emphasis.
Bad Link Text
- Click Here
- More information
- Read more
- Link to
Good Link Text
- Presentation on Accessibility
- More on Accessibility
- Measure J Projects
- Renegades Sweep the Finals
- Bakersfield College Accessibility Center
For more information about accessible links, read Link Text and Appearance from WebAIM.
Images can add interest to your document but can also be difficult for a screen reader. Make sure that images you use have little to no text. If your image has a lot of text, you will need to also include the information in the text around it. Images need to have alt (short for alternative) text.
Tips for Alt Text
- Alt-text depends upon the context and surrounding text.
- Make it descriptive and succinct of the meaning the image conveys.
- Keep it to 100 characters or less.
- Avoid images with text, but if you have to use one, the text needs to be in the alt-text if it is not in the surrounding text.
- Do not start with "image of" or "picture of".
- End with a period so the screen reader will pause.
- Do not repeat what is in the surrounding text.
Resources for Alt-Text
- Axess Lab Alt-texts: The Ultimate Guide
- WebAIM: Alternative Text
- W3 alt Decision Tree
- 4Syllables Text Alternatives - a decision tree
- 4Syllables Long descriptions for images
Tables should be used for tabular data, not for layout. In the past, tables were the method used to layout documents. With modern updates to software, you do not need and should not use tables for layout. Here are a few tips for tables.
- Mark headers (rows and columns, process will depend on software)
- Do not break rows across pages
- Best not to merge cells, this can be very confusing
- Put table title before the table, not as a merged cell at the top
- Add a table summary for complex tables
- WebAIM: Creating Data Tables (HTML)
- W3C Accessibility Tutorial: Table Concepts (HTML)
- WebAIM: Word Creating Tables
- WebAIM: PowerPoint Tables
- WebAIM: Acrobat & Accessibility (PDF)
A reminder for documents that include other media. Videos must be captioned and audio files must have a transcript with the audio description.