Create MS Office Files — Word, Power Point, and Excel

Example File

This Microsoft Word document contains examples of color blindness, captions, alternate text, and sytles. You may want to have it open to try out some of the things listed below. Download: Example Document

Example of JAWS reading a list of items in MS Word and Internet Explorer to let you hear the difference.

Word and Power Point

Generally Word and Power Point files are accessible however there are different degrees of accessibility. For basic Word documents with just text there is nothing special that needs to be done.

Charts, Graphs, Pictures, or Complex Tables

If the file includes charts, graphs, pictures, or complex tables then they need to be summarized with a caption and/or alternative text.

How to add a caption and alternate text.

  1. Add images (Insert → Picture → Clip Art, From File, etc)
  2. Add Caption
    • Right click on the image.
    • Click Caption
    • Add text to the caption text box: "Figure 1: Info about this picture."
    • You can also choose the type of caption and position.
    • Press OK
  3. Add Alternate Text
    • Right click on the image.
    • Click Format Picture...
    • Select the Web tab
    • Type the alternate text (keep it short and to the point)
    • Press OK

Styles — Text Formatting

As documents and presentations get longer and more complex, styles need to be used to keep the document organized and easier to manage. Styles allow you to define heading levels, body text, list, and just about anything else. Many of you have probably used them without knowing it with numbered list and bulleted items. Chances are that soon after you started using it you probably got annoyed when Word didn’t do what you wanted it to do. I will try to explain how to fix some of those problems later on. Do not use a specific style just to make it look a certain way. Set the style first and then change the way it looks. For example do not make a heading bold by highlighting it and pressing the bold button. Define it with the heading style and then change the style to look the way you want it to. With these defined it makes it much easier to navigate and summarize the document or presentation using the Document Map, Outline View, and other methods. It also makes them easier to maintain. If you have hundreds of level one headings defined then you can change the style for that once and it will change through out the document.

How to change styles.

To change the style of text first make sure the Formatting Toolbar is visible (View → Toolbars → Formatting). You should see a toolbar with AA on the left side and a drop down menu beside it that probably says Normal. Normal is the default style. Now to change the style of the portion of text, highlight the text and then choose one of the styles from the drop down menu. Pick Heading Level 1 for example. You will notice that it is now much larger, in bold, and has extra space above and below it. Ignore the way it looks for now. We will change that later.

How to make Word behave.

When you start to type something that starts with a number and period (example: 1. ) Word usually tries to turn that into a numbered list for you and indents it when you press Enter. If you don’t like this you will see an Autocorrect Options box show up near the first number. You can select “Undo Automatic Numbering” or “Stop Automatically Creating Numbered Lists” to stop the numbering one time or turn it off permanently. You can also turn automatic numbering off when you first start using Word by going to Tools → AutoCorrect Options. Select the AutoFormat As You Type tab. Uncheck Automatic Numbered and Bulleted Lists. You may also want to take note of other automatic formatting features that can be turned on and off. Once unchecked press OK and Word will not automatically number or bullet lists anymore.

When you use bulleted or numbered lists it allows assistive technology to give a brief summary of the list. For example it will announce how many items are in the list and whether there are any sub lists. This gives the person a better idea of what is going on and what to expect as they go through the document.


To make charts and graphs in Excel accessible be sure to at least include a description of the chart or graphs. A description should be put in a cell above or below the data itself. It should not be put in a cell above or below the chart/graph unless that is the only thing that is in that sheet. This makes it easier to find for those who can not see the data or have to use the keyboard. If these sheets do not need to be edited then they should be exported in HTML format. The table data will be converted to a table in HTML and the chart or graph will be converted to an image. The description in the cell will also be saved as text in the table that can be read more easily with assistive technology.

Power Point

To save as HTML: File → Save as Web Page... Give it a name and press Save.