Have you accessibility checked your document?

When writing documents, how often have you wondered whether it can be easily read by someone with a visual impairment or other disability? If I’m honest, it’s not really something that has crossed my mind that much in the past; I’m usually more worried about the words I’m writing or getting the document out before a deadline.

Before I finish an Office document, I can get Office to check for potential accessibility issues for me, and also explain why something might be a problem.

It has become commonplace to spell and grammar check documents before sending them on, but as far as I’m aware, not many people run an accessibility check. I’ll also admit the first time I ever even heard of this feature was when I was studying for some of the Microsoft Office Specialist exams a few years ago. There are accessibility checks available in current versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote and Visio on Windows, Office online and also Mac versions.

To get started with accessibility checking your document and taking Microsoft Word as an example: on the Office Ribbon “Review” Tab, select “check accessibility”.

A screenshot of a word document with check accessibility highlighted
Check Accessibility on the Review Tab

(If you don’t see the accessibility checker on the review tab, it may be that you are running an older Office version, in which case navigate to File > Info > “check for issues” and use the “Check accessibility” option from there).

In the risual setup, the accessibility checker is running in the background by default. It follows a series of “rules”, and if parts of the document being checked do not fit with the rules, then the checker flags up an error, warning or tip. We can learn more about the rules and what they do in the different Office applications, in the following Microsoft article here. When Check Accessibility is selected in a document it will show a list of:

Errors: Content that makes the document difficult or impossible to read and understand for people with disabilities

Warnings: Content that in most (but not all) cases makes the document difficult to understand for people with disabilities

Tips: Content that people with disabilities can understand but that could be presented in a different way to improve the user’s experience

The following screenshot from my document being checked shows this document has a series of Errors and Warnings:

A screen shot of a word document showing accessibility errors and warnings on the right hand side
Looking a the checker results

Drilling in to these there is an explanation of what the problem is, in this case the picture has no alternative text, and the font colour is too similar to the background:

A screenshot of a word document showing the detail of accessibility problems
Looking at the checker results additional information

Drilling down further on each warning line I can see how to fix the issue, and fix if necessary:

A screenshot of a word document showing the fix of an alt text issue
Fixing an issue with alt text

I can perform the suggested fix from within the checker, in this case the error about the Azure Logo having no alternative text and it will remove the error from the list of accessibility issues.

A screenshot of a word document showing new alt text added
Adding new alt text

In this particular document, there were also warnings where the checker was highlighting that the text colour was too similar to the background. This can also be corrected from within the checker:

Word document showing the fix of a warning about text colour against background
Fixing a warning about text colour and background

With all these errors and warnings corrected, the document shows in the checker as being more suitable for consumption those with disabilities:

A word document fixed showing no current accessibility issues
A fixed document with no issues

One final bit of coolness – Microsoft is using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to enhance the experience in many of its products, and an example here is in Office. If I find a photo of a friend and put it in to Word, AI is able to work out what the image is and put an alternative text description against it automatically. In the risual setup this feature is on by default, it can be found in Word Options > Ease of Access > Automatic Alt Text.

The alternative text on the image below was not configured by a human!

A screen shot of an image on which Word has automatically configured the alternate text
Microsoft AI adding alt text to an image

It is definitely worth running the accessibility checker along with spelling and grammar before finishing a document. Stay tuned for more blogs on more accessibility features in Microsoft products!

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