How to Create and Test Documents for Website Accessibility

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Victoria Boyko
Victoria Boyko, Software Development Consultant

More and more cities are realizing the importance of creating ADA-compliant websites. The reasons range from a fear of lawsuits to an altruistic sense of helping citizens with disabilities access website content. We’ve talked before about how to make your website compliant. But what about documents that you upload to your website?

Cities often create documents in programs such as Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel. From there, cities may upload those documents to their websites directly or convert the documents to PDFs before uploading. If you upload those documents to your website, then you also need to make them accessible. Otherwise, all your other website accessibility efforts will be for naught.

Luckily, modern software applications make it easy to ensure that your documents are accessible. In this blog post, we will look at some common formats and cover the steps.

Creating Accessible Microsoft Documents

Microsoft Office programs such as Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel include an Accessibility Checker. To open this tool in a document that you want to check for accessibility, select the Review tab on the Microsoft Word ribbon and then press on the Check Accessibility button (as shown below):

The Accessibility Checker will open on the right side of your document and display both errors and recommended actions (if any errors are found). For example, the Accessibility Checker may tell you that:

  • You need “alternative text” for images in your document. This means that your images need a text description that describes the image to people who can’t see it. The “alternative text” that you include won’t appear visually but a website text reader used by people with a vision disability can hear the text description read to them, describing the image.
  • You need to arrange tables differently in your document. Sometimes, tables might be read by a website text reader in an order that you don’t intend. The Accessibility Checker will ask you to check the reading order for the tables or ask you to fill in essential elements of a table to help a person with a vision disability (such as a header describing what’s in a row or column).
  • You need better text color contrast. People will have trouble reading the color of your text if it’s too similar to the background color behind it.

Read additional information and detailed steps about checking accessibility in Microsoft documents.

Creating Accessible PDFs from Microsoft Word and Excel Documents

If you are ready to create a PDF from a Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel document, then you can follow this process to ensure that it also meets website accessibility standards.

First, run the Accessibility Checker tool in the Microsoft document as described above and address any issues. (The Accessibility Checker tool works exactly the same in Microsoft Excel as it does in Microsoft Word.)

Next, you are ready to export the Word or Excel document into a PDF. Within your document:

  • Select File
  • Select Export
  • Select Create PDF/XPS Document

A dialogue box will appear (see below).

  • Click on the Options button in the dialogue box. A new window will appear.
  • Within this new window, select the “Document structure tags for accessibility” checkbox and click OK.
  • You’re now back to the original dialogue box with the Options button. At this point, you can choose to rename your file or just keep the original name.
  • Click Publish.

After you click Publish, you will have created an accessible PDF document from your Word or Excel document.

Read additional information about these steps.

Creating Accessible PDF Documents

Some cities use Adobe Acrobat Pro DC to create and edit PDFs. If you have this software, it contains a built-in tool to test the accessibility of a PDF document.

To test PDF accessibility, open your PDF document in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC and click on the Tools tab to view the available Tools screen. (The Tools menu can also be found on the Tools pane usually displayed on the right side of the screen.)

On this screen, you can search for “Accessibility” in the Search Tools box at the top of the screen, or you can click on the Show More button to search for the Accessibility tool this way. Once you find the Accessibility tool, you can add it to the application by clicking on the Add button.

Once you add Accessibility to your list of tools, you don’t need to add it again. It will appear as part of your list of Tools. (Adding the Accessibility tool requires purchasing a paid version of the Adobe Acrobat Pro DC application.)

Read more detailed information about how to make PDF documents accessible and test PDFs for accessibility.

Explore more links to resources (including a video tutorial) for making PDF documents accessible.

Web Accessibility Evaluation Tools List from W3C

Explore additional website and PDF accessibility testing tools on the W3C website. This list of tools covers a wide range of scenarios that may work specifically for your city such as 508 compliance, color contrast, page load time, accessibility for the visually impaired, and mobile accessibility.

We also recommend that you read our previous blog posts about ADA compliance:

Need help making your website accessible and ADA-compliant? Reach out to us today.

Original Date: 10/29/2019