Digital Content Accessibility

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Content or Document Accessibility refers to documents saved in common file formats, posted to websites or distributed through email, and the need to provide them in an accessible format. Documents designed using accessibility standards and guidelines are beneficial for all users. Accessibility considerations include: document structure, navigation, alternative text descriptions, logical reading order and adequate labels.

Digital content accessibility guidelines are very similar to the guidelines and standards for ensuring web content is accessible, however, the techniques to achieve accessibility will vary depending on the format of the document.

The most common file formats posted on websites and used for sharing and disseminating information are:

  • Microsoft Word .docx
  • Adobe .pdf
  • Mircosoft PowerPoint .pptx
  • Microsoft Excel .xls


  • Ensure that document files posted on websites contain text and are not scanned images. (Copying a document on a photocopier to create a pdf attachment creates a scanned image.)
  • MS Word Documents - Provide document structure by using appropriate headings (<h1>, <h2>, <h3>). Use Word Styles to format headings. Screen readers rely on document structure for navigation.
  • Create accessible PDF documents from accessible word documents.
  • Add tags to PDF files to create document structure.
  • Add bookmarks to PDF files for easier navigation.
  • Provide logical reading order.
  • Add appropriate alternative text descriptions to all meaningful images.
  • Add appropriate alternative text descriptions to charts and graphs.
  • Consider adding long description alt text to complex images.
  • Add appropriate labels to tables.
  • Verify the table reading order.
  • Add appropriate labels to forms.
  • Use meaningful hyperlink text.
  • Provide accurate metadata in document properties.


Create Accessible Word Documents from Microsoft

Microsoft Office Course: Create an Accessible Office Document

Create Accessible Word Documents from WebAIM

Microsoft Word "Cheat Sheet"

Create Accessible PDFs from Word documents

Acrobat X Pro best practices for PDF accessibility

Microsoft PowerPoint 2007/2010 (PC)

PowerPoint Accessibility Checklist from

Creating Accessible Forms in MS Word (Freedom Scientific)

JAWS Forms Mode

Accessible PDF Forms

Creating Accessible Excel workbooks

Find and Fix Accessibility Issues in MS Excel Workbook

GSA 508 Tutorials, Guidance, Checklists