How Microsoft Word can help you create accessible web content

Did you know an estimated 80% of web content starts out as a Word document?

When you combine this with the need to make sure web content is accessible, it becomes obvious the first step in making web content accessible is actually in Word itself.

Vision Australia’s Digital Access team created the Document Accessibility Toolbar (DAT) in 2015 and it’s a one stop shop to making sure your Word documents, and subsequently web content, is accessible by placing all of Word’s accessibility functions into one convenient ribbon.

Vision Australia Digital Accessibility consultant Matt Putland talks us through four of best features and benefits of the DAT.

Set alt text

The set alt text button allows a user to quickly and easily add alt text to images. Alternative text is used to provide information about the content of images for people who are blind or have low vision.

Tools such as screen readers announce the alt text to users, and search engines can use it as additional information to improve your websites SEO.

Matt said especially with Word 2010 and 2013, the alt text function is hidden away within the picture properties making it a pain to open up for every image in your document.

“With the toolbar, setting the alt text is one click away and enables you to set the alt text for every image by using ctrl + a to highlight all the content before clicking the set alt text button,” he said.

Colour contrast

For people with low vision, a crucial aspect of accessibility is colour contrast.

Matt explained, “Word has no way of telling you if your audience can easily make out font due to your colour choices, but the DAT can scan your document for non-conforming or difficult to read colour contrast. It then uses the colour contrast determinator to help you find a colour scheme that is readable.

“It is a function that not only helps content authors, but can help designers from all different fields.”

Table type

Word only really has support for tables laid out with column headers, but what if you want row headers or both column and row headers?

You guessed it, the set table type function in the DAT enables you to effortlessly mark up your tables with row headers.

HTML converter

Likely the DAT’s “most useful function”, according to Matt is how it can convert a Word document into clean HTML, stripping out all the in-line styling.

“This is of significant importance for users who require screen readers to access documents without dealing with excess noise and read-out spaces.

“It also means the user can copy and paste Word content into a website authoring tool without having to worry about bad HTML markup or Word styling mucking up the article.”

Want to learn more?

You can download the DAT here and learn more about the Vision Australia Digital Access team including training on web accessibility, inclusive design or even the DAT by emailing digitalaccess@visionaustralia.org.

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