This blog post continues the last on Microsoft Word and accessibility. This post will cover Content Element. Content elements such as text effects list formatting assist readers, coloration and contrast are low vision considerations, and there are some formatting tools you’ll want to avoid in the quest for accessibility.
The accessible fonts have already been discussed. So this part deals with the text effects options with in Word. To find these effects,
Home tab > Text Effects
a drop down with a series of pre-selected options will be available. Choose one, or click on one of the options at the bottom: Shadow, Reflection, Glow, and Outline.
These can be fun to use, and add to your document, however, be careful using them as it could confuse those with low vision, or those with difficulty reading or concentrating.
List formatting may seem easy, just make a list, but for Word to code it correctly for formatting and screen readers it is a bit more. There is are 3 list buttons that you should always use. These take care of the coding for you.
This is the bullet list option:
Home tab > Paragraph > 1st button top row left > drop down > choose format or create
This is the numbered list option:
Home tab > Paragraph > 2nd button top row left > drop down > choose format or create
If you need an outline format:
Home tab > Paragraph > 3rd button top row left > drop down > choose format or create
Using these also make your documents look and read better, generally. Frequently Word is defaulted to make a list if you use things like a hyphen or type numbers with a period on each line. If you don’t like the format Word chooses use the drop downs to change it to another style.
Coloration and Contrast
Coloration and contrast was touched on in additional consideration when accessible PDFs were discussed. There are two big things to remember.
Don’t rely on color or sensory characteristics alone to convey meaning.
This can cause problems for those with color blindness, low-vision, or are completely blind. Use the Automatic setting for font colors, this is typically set to black. Information that is conveyed in color must have a textual equivalent to meet 508 compliance.
Use of color combinations that provides a sufficient degree of contrast
This makes it easier for people who need a gray-scale display, or have trouble differentiating color shades, or have low vision. The accessibility checker can assist in finding insufficient contrast in the document; the ratio should be at least 4.5:1. Be careful of watermarks, they can confuse those with cognitive and concentration difficulties and low vision. If they must be used be sure to provide sufficient watermark to foreground contrast. Also make sure that all text, images, and non-decorative graphics (bullets, dividers, etc) are clearly visible in “High Contrast” mode.
Formatting Tools to Avoid
The last item in this post is the formatting tools to avoid for accessibility. This doesn’t mean you can never use them, but if accessibility to the widest audience possible is the goal just skip these.
- Text boxes
- Quick Parts
- Drop Caps
Any formatting tools that puts or allows text to be input into it will not be accessible as screen readers don’t recognize texts in the boxes as something to be read.