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WRTG 266 Writing for Social Change (O'Donnell): Accessibility Tips

Resources for making your projects accessible

Accessibility Best Practices

If at all possible, make edits in the original format (Word, PowerPoint, etc.) OR link to materials. Edit a PDF only if that is how the document was created or the only format available.

Headings & Navigation

  • The document begins with a brief, descriptive Heading 1 in the text, such as the document title.
  • The heading structure does not skip levels: Title is Heading 1, major headings are Heading 2, subheadings within level 2 are Heading 3, and so on.
  • Slide or section titles are unique from one another.
  • Document is not scanned as a photograph or image. If it is a scanned document, Optical

Character Recognition (OCR) must be performed, so it is machine readable.

  • If the document is a form that is meant to be filled out, all fields are clearly labeled. For example, First Name, Last Name, Email Address, etc.
  • Reading order is logical and intuitive and must be verified manually in PDF and PowerPoint.
  • Document can be navigated with keyboard shortcuts, such as the Home key and combinations like Ctrl + arrow keys to jump from word to word. If you have created proper headings, verified reading order, and otherwise followed the rules above, this should be true.

Text Formatting

  • Spacing, alignment, headings, bulleted or numbered lists, and other formatting must use the built-in tools associated, not just “appear correct.”
  • Numbered lists are used when a sequence is being described, or order is otherwise important (i.e. step by step instructions).
  • Bulleted lists are used when there is not sequence or ordering (i.e. required text books list)
  • Color has not been used to convey meaning, unless also accompanied by textual emphasis or context. For instance, if something is important, you may use a dark red, but should also add a “Note:” or “Important:” preface.
  • Link text describes where the link will take you. For instance, “Request an appointment” instead of “Click here.”
  • Links are distinguished from the text around them. The Windows default of underline and different color is acceptable.
  • All fonts used are easily legible in their style, size, and color contrast.
  • Use a minimal number of fonts.

Tables, Images, & Figures

  • Visual elements such as images, charts, maps, tables, and graphs need a text-based explanation. These are provided using alternative (‘alt’) text or tags, transcripts, captions, etc.
    • Alternative text should be brief and meaningful, describing the item objectively. For example, “King Henry the Eighth in his hunting clothes.”
      • If it is strictly decorative, it can be left blank or described as “decorative;” or if the image is being used as a link, it should have the destination as the description.
    • If the image requires more explanation than you can provide in a ‘brief and meaningful’ alternative text, please also include a contextual note, caption, or key. Note: you still need to give the item itself alternative text.
  • If the information can be clearly delivered without the use of a table or image (as linear text or bullets), this is preferred.
  • Table header rows and/or columns must be assigned as such and should be set up to repeat.
  • Tables must have alternative text and should be given unique titles.
  • In tables, avoid split, empty, or merged cells and embedded tables. If information needs to be repeated to avoid these so be it.

Video & Audio

  • If possible, request captions for video or audio directly from the recording service (i.e. My Media, YouTube, VoiceThread, etc.). These captions may need to be altered for accuracy, but they will at least be synched up for timing.
  • Provide accurate, synchronized captions for all video content. If you can provide captions and a transcript, this is preferred as a transcript is the only way a user who is deaf-blind can access the content.
  • Provide transcripts for audio-only content.
  • Describe images or visual elements when necessary during a video recording. For example, you might use the same kind of brief contextual description you would for creating alternative text in a document.
  • Use college-sanctioned tools to provide audio and video content, such as Panopto, so there is support if necessary.
  • Alter auto-captions if they are available. This will be easier than writing them from scratch, unless you are working from a script.
  • Provide synchronized captions for live audio-video content, such as synchronous class sessions or presentation via Teams or Zoom.


  • For web pages, use an equation editor that outputs MathML (e.g., MathType).
  • For documents and presentations, use an equation editor that supports accessibility (e.g., MathType).

Accessibility Awareness & Verification

  • Use built-in accessibility checkers in various software tools (e.g., Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat, etc.)
  • Use WebAIM (Web Accessibility In Mind) tools to evaluate your website or webpage and offer guidance for addressing issues (see the link below).