Creating Accessible Documents

October 16, 2023

October is Accessibility awareness month! 26% of adults in the United States have some type of disability. Designing for accessibility doesn’t just benefit those with a disabilities; it helps everyone navigate online easier. This month we will be passing on more tips and tricks on how to make sure your instructional materials are accessible, starting with creating an accessible document. Here are a few ways to help improve your document accessibility.

1. Use Proper Formatting. Proper formatting allows for easy document navigation.

  • Headings and various styles will differentiate sections on a document helping those use a screen reader navigate through the information.
  • Alt-text helps screen readers interpret images. Right click on the image and then select “format picture.” Click “Alt-text” and type a description of the image.
  • Use the List tool for bulleted and numbered lists rather than creating your own dashes.
  • Tables should summarize data and not organize the layout. Add captions to your tables, and double check the columns and rows have headers. 
  • For Spacing, make sure to use page breaks and insert columns where information is separated.

2. Utilize the Accessibility Checker. Both Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat have this great tool to ensure each aspect of your document is properly formatted. Keep in mind the accessibility checker is not 100% accurate. You must manually go through the document alongside the checker to make sure every aspect is addressed.

Accessibility Checker in Word:

  • Select the Tools ribbon.
  • Click “Check Accessibility.”
  • Any error messages will appear in the panel on the right of the document. 
  • Adjust the document as needed.

Accessibility Checker in Adobe Acrobat:

  • Locate your tools panel. (Different versions of Adobe will have them along the right side or along the top of the page.) 
  •  If you do not see the  “Accessibility” toggle click “More Tools.”
  • Add the Accessibility tool.
  • Open this tool and click “Accessibility Check.” 
  • Make sure the Check is set to the proper settings and scans the whole document. 

Adobe has a feature that allows you to have accessibility aspects explained if they do not pass the check. This is a great resource to understand why and how errors can be fixed.

3. Convert Word documents to PDFs. Once you have finished checking your document for errors in Word, save and export the document as a PDF. Make sure the document use optical character recognition (OCR) to convert the PDF image to text. Without doing this the PDF will be scanned as an image and screen readers will not be able to pick up on the information.

The next step is to properly tag the PDF. Tags allow for different aspects of your document such as headings, tables, or lists to be easily identified. Open Acrobat and click document properties. On the bottom there will be a toggle that say “tags” with a yes or no. Make sure yes is checked. Click on Tags to open up a side panel to review more detail about the document tags.

Tips for Adjusting Tags:

  • Make sure Tags are located in the correct part of the document.
  • Highlight and drag tags in the left hand panel to move them to the correct spot.
  • Organize tags by order of occurrence non the page.
  • If tags are attached to space, click “background artifact.”

Using the Print Production feature is the last step before saving your accessible PDF. Print Production is another tool to ensure accessibility. Use the preflight aspect in print production to make sure links have alt-text. Click “PDF Standards” and expand PDF UA option to adjust and analyze tagging issues.

It is easy to make minor errors when creating a document. Remember to take extra time to review documents and reach out for help if needed. Following these basic guidelines will be the first steps to making sure all your learners are able to access your documents properly!

Learn more about making your course documents accessible by enrolling in COFFEE: Accessibility!

Upcoming Events

Applying Accessibility Principles

Wednesday, October 18, 1:30-2:30 PM

Providing alternative means of accessing course materials is essential for learners who require accessibility support; they are also entitled to it under the law. Join this presentation to learn about basic principles of accessibility you can start using in your course today. This presentation will discuss the accessibility guidelines in General Standard 8 of the Quality Matters rubric.

Facilitated by Sharyn Emery, Ph.D., Digital Learning Manager

Modality: Virtual and synchronous—an Outlook Calendar invite, with the Zoom link, will be sent.
Registration: Applying Accessibility Principles October 18th

NDEAM: Expanding Accessibility Awareness for Faculty

Wednesday, October 25, 1:00-2:00 PM

Every year Clemson University celebrates National Disability Employment Awareness Month by providing opportunities for the community to engage with and learn from professionals with disabilities as well as other accessibility advocates.

Facilitated by Sharyn Emery, Ph.D., Digital Learning Manager

Registration: Expanding Accessibility Awareness for Faculty October 25

Clemson Online Fall 2023 Events Calendar

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Review our Fall 2023 Events Calendar to see what Online Instruction Development opportunities await!

We have a robust Summer lineup of topics and live training formats to support your use of Canvas and other e-learning tools. Topics cover demonstrations of using Kaltura, presentations on inclusive practices for online education, and workshops to get your Canvas site ready to teach!

All of our live training is recorded. Registrants will automatically receive a link to that day’s video after it has been processed.

Contact James Butler with any questions regarding these sessions. 

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