How accessible are your documents? Do you know how to check? Do you know it is easy and not scary at all? I promise. Let’s run an accessibility check a document.
To follow along, download today’s exercise here: ExerciseDocCheckAccessibility
This document looks familiar if you have attended a Word Essentials training session; it is a final draft document from our Summer Camp Exercise. While this is a Word document, the good news is the checker will work the same in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint; so once you have learned it in one program, you have learned it in all of them.
To check accessibility on this document:
On a PC:
- Go to File
- Select the Check for Issues dropdown
- Select Check Accessibility
On a Mac:
- Go to Tools
- Select Check Accessibility
- Depending on your version of Microsoft, you may see the Accessibility Checker make an appearance in other views and tabs in the ribbon. Go for it! Microsoft is great about putting features in multiple locations, making them easier to find.
Once you select the Accessibility Checker, the results will appear on the right. It looks like my checker has found a few errors and a warning…. Some missing Alt Text and some repeated blank characters. What does this mean?
Microsoft separates these results into three classifications:
- Error. Content that makes the document difficult or impossible to read and understand for people with disabilities
- Warning. Content that in most (but not all) cases makes the document difficult to understand for people with disabilities
- Tip. Content that people with disabilities can understand but that could be presented in a different way to improve the user’s experience
Quick note, depending on your version of Microsoft, your checker may find different results than mine, so don’t be alarmed if your screen looks different. These checkers are constantly being developed and improved upon… the good news is, things are only getting better and more user friendly!
More Information About Errors and Warnings
For even more information, click on one of the errors, and look at the scrolling pane underneath the errors, titled Additional Information. Included in this pane is a Why Fix section with detailed explanations.
I can see, for instance, that my blank characters, which seem innocuous to me, could be very irritating to somebody accessing my document with a screen reader. I might be better off removing some of them or replacing them with a page break, if that is what I am really hoping to accomplish.
What is Alt Text? This is one you will see quite frequently. Alt text stands for Alternative Text. Screen readers will read alternative text aloud to your readers. So, think about the times you have created a document and conveyed a thought with an image rather than text; somebody accessing your document with a screen reader might want in on some of that knowledge so they can understand what is going on.
How to Fix
You probably know how to get rid of blank spaces mentioned above, but are you unsure how to fix problems like Alt Text?
It is worth reiterating that solutions are only getting simpler: if you are using Microsoft Office 365, the newest version of MS Office, Alt Text is accessible on a right click menu.
That being said, most of us on campus are using Office 2016 or 2013, where Alt Text is absent from a right click option.
Microsoft does offer some guidance for How to fix each error:
- In the Accessibility Checker results pane, select the alt text error.
- In the same scrolling pane underneath the errors where we found why to fix the errors (above) is a subsection called Steps to Fix (you may have to use the scroll bar to see it).
These instructions are quite helpful, though I have found that they are more accurate for those using 2016 or earlier versions of Microsoft Office, where Alt Text is harder to find.
It looks like my instructions (For MS Office 2016) are telling me to:
- Right click on the image
- Select Format Picture
- Select Layout and Properties icon (looks like a four-headed arrow)
- Then enter Alt Text: How would you describe this picture to someone?
More about Accessibility
There is so much more to say about this topic, but I will leave you with a couple more thoughts:
An excellent way to make your document accessible and utilize many more fabulous features in Microsoft products is by making use of the Styles. We cover styles at great length in Word Essentials training… I hope you are using them! More on these later…
Instructional Design and Access
Instructional Design and Access is the ultimate resource on campus for accessibility in documents. They offer numerous training sessions and excellent guidance. They can be reached at IDA@wichita.edu
Don’t miss their Blackboard and Accessibility Lab in the C-Space in the library every Tuesday and Wednesday from 1:00 to 3:00.
Congratulations, Power Users!
Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit: wichita.edu/poweruser
- Betsy Main
- Karen Rogers