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David Whitmarsh
  October 23, 2023

How To Create Accessible Documents for an Inclusive Work Culture

In the modern and diverse work environment, we have today, making things accessible isn’t just a nice thing to do – it’s a must. Accessible documents play a major role in ensuring that everyone, regardless of their abilities, can fully participate and engage. By offering materials that are easy to read, navigate, and understand, companies are leveling the playing field and empowering employees of all backgrounds. These accessible documents aren’t just about following the rules; they showcase a commitment to a workplace that values diversity, inclusivity, and the well-being of each team member.

Crafting Accessible Documents: A Breakdown

1.  PDFs: Tagging for Clarity

If you’re wondering how to make a PDF accessible for the visually impaired, the most crucial step is to utilize the best PDF accessibility services. When we talk about accessibility, we’re essentially talking about tagging the PDF. Tagging gives a structured layout to the PDF making it easier for screen readers to interpret. While the visual appearance doesn’t change, the tagging significantly improves accessibility for people using assistive technologies.

What’s involved in tagging a PDF:

  • Searchable Text: Content needs to be searchable text, not images. If it includes images, they should be converted into searchable text using optical character recognition (OCR) before applying other accessibility features.
  • Alt Text Descriptions: Images and interactive fields must have alternate text descriptions to be read by screen readers.
  • Extractable Fonts: Fonts should have enough information for extracting characters, enabling features like Read Aloud with screen readers.
  • Reading Order and Structure: The PDF should have a proper reading order and document structure tags, including headings, paragraphs, tables, lists, and graphs.
  • Interactive Form Fields: Forms need to be interactive to ensure accessibility.
  • Navigational Aids: Hyperlinks, bookmarks, table of contents, headings, and tab order enhance understandability.
  • Document Language: Specifying the language helps screen readers switch appropriately.
 

2.  Microsoft Word: Accessibility at Your Fingertips

Microsoft Word is loaded with accessibility features accessible through the Options > Accessibility menu under the File tab. These features include high contrast mode and customizable zoom settings for improved visibility. Additionally, Word offers guidance on creating accessible documents, including adding alt-text to images.

3.  PowerPoint Presentations: A Visual Challenge

Presentations are a staple, but are they inclusive for everyone? People with visual impairments won’t fully grasp visual content, while the deaf community won’t capture auditory information. Accessible PPTs should:

  • Include Captions: Videos and audio must have captions for all users to understand.
  • Ensure Color Contrast: Pages should have adequate color contrast for better readability.
  • Verbal Explanation: Explain visual content verbally to assist those with visual impairments.
  • Consider ASL Translation: ASL translators can bridge the gap for the deaf community.
  • Opt for Readable Fonts: Using easily readable fonts benefits everyone.
  • Allow Processing Time: Offer sufficient time for all to absorb information.
 

4.  Excel: Taming the Data Beast

Excel sheets are data powerhouses, but making them accessible is simpler than you might think:

Include Titles: Each data set should have clear titles.

  • Signify the End: Indicate when a table concludes.
  • Blank Cells: Leave cells blank rather than formatting them.
  • Avoid Merged Cells: Merged cells can confuse screen readers.
  • Alt Text for Visuals: Images, graphs, tables, and charts should have alt text.
 

5.  Google Drive: Your Ally in Accessibility

Google Drive offers accessibility features like voice recognition, text-to-speech, and high-contrast themes. The accessibility checker tool identifies potential issues in documents. Add-ons like Grackle help test accessibility across various formats.

Final Thoughts

In a world that celebrates diversity, making documents accessible and interactive is a powerful step toward inclusion. It ensures that all employees can access, understand, and engage with the content they need. From the seamless tagging of PDFs to the clarity of PowerPoint presentations and the readability of spreadsheets, every effort towards accessibility contributes to a workplace culture that truly values every individual. It’s more than compliance; it’s about creating an environment where everyone can contribute their best, regardless of their abilities.

Emilie Brown

Emilie Brown works with the Digital Marketing team at PREP, an AI-based remediation software that enables businesses to create WCAG and ADA-compliant PDFs in minutes. Her approach and methodology is simple, concise, and to the point and connect with readers seeking for solution-driven content on topics related to accessibility and remediation. Apart from her time at work, she loves to spend time with her dog, volunteer and play her guitar.