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Workshop: Create Accessible Documents for the Web

This workshop is designed for anyone who creates documents, including Word documents, PDFs, presentations, and online content. This course prioritizes core accessibility principles and provides a basic understanding of creating and repairing accessible documents.

In this workshop you’ll learn more about the following topics:

  1. Understand the importance of creating accessible documents.
  2. Recognize key points of University policy on accessible documents.
  3. Gain practical skills for creating accessible PDFs, Google Suite, and Microsoft Office documents.
  4. Learn basic techniques for repairing accessibility issues in existing documents.

Estimated Time to Complete

The time estimate to read and review the content in this workshop is 1 to 2 hours. We recommend completing the workshop in one session.

At the end of the workshop is a reflection form for you to assess your awareness and ask any questions.

Learning Objective #1: Understand the importance of creating accessible documents.

What is Web Accessibility?

Web accessibility is the inclusive practice of removing barriers preventing interaction with, or access to websites by people with varying abilities and technology.

When we design for accessibility, we lower barriers to access and make digital content easier to navigate for everyone.

What are some Common Barriers?

Not everyone can access information in digital documents easily. While mobile devices can present challenges, there are also accessibility barriers for many users.

People with Visual or Motor Disabilities

wheelchair, cane, and glasses icon

Documents can be barriers for people with visual or motor disabilities.

Those with vision impairments may struggle without proper formatting and image descriptions, while people with motor impairments may find tasks requiring a mouse difficult.

Understanding how users access your documents allows you to create a more inclusive and user-friendly experience for everyone.

People with Learning or Cognitive Disabilities

person working in distracting environment icon

Some people may find documents hard to understand if the information is presented in a confusing way or there is just too much of it.

This can be especially challenging for people with dyslexia, ADHD, or autism. Additionally, reformatting the document to make it easier to read might be difficult or impossible.

Non-native Speakers or No Access to Printers

conversation bubbles with text and characters

Documents written in complex language without explanations can be difficult for anyone to understand. Additionally, language barriers arise when documents are not available in a user’s preferred language.

Missing access to a printer can also be an obstacle. For instance, if a required form needs printing, users without a printer might be unable to complete the process.

Learning Objective #3: Recognize key points of University policy on accessible documents.

What are our Legal Obligations?

Aside from making your content easier to use by the widest possible audience, creating accessible content is also required by law and university policy.

Federal Law includes:

  • Section 504 and 508 of Rehabilitation Act
  • Americans with Disabilities Act

University policy includes:

  • Policy 8040 on University Web Pages and Electronic Publications
  • Policy 8140 on IT Accessibility
  • Policy 1075 on Nondiscrimination on the Basis of a Disability

Digital Documents Lock Content Away

Not everyone may have the same ease of access to the information. What may take a few minutes for one user, may be hours worth of effort for another. We should ensure everyone can find the “key” to unlock the content.

Documents require the same structure as a webpage for users to navigate effectively. Unlike a webpage, which contains a web theme to handle most of the design elements, you personally have to create your document structure from scratch every single time you open a document.

Layers of (in)Accessibility with Documents

Creating accessible documents has several more layers than creating an accessible webpage.

Responsible for Everything

This means paying attention to document’s content, design, structure as well as accessibility and brand standard requirements for every single document you create.

Document Readers

Another barrier to documents is that they require a reader independent of the browser. This means that even if your document is fully accessible, if the user is using an inaccessible reader tool, your document isn’t accessible.

Inequitable Experience

This creates an inequitable user experience before your document is even opened by your readers. Since the potential for barriers with documents is so high, like tables, you should only use documents when absolutely necessary.

Think beyond documents and Choose the Right Format for Your Message

There are many engaging formats to present your content, depending on what you want your audience to do with it.

Before you share a document on the web, consider:

  • Could this information be a webpage instead? Webpages are often more accessible for everyone.
  • Can parts of the document work better online? Break down your content for a more user-friendly web experience.

If your content can be shared as web content, even a portion of it, that is a more accessible alternative to a document. Review the video for tips on how you can shift your mindset from a print document to a digital resource. Closed captions are available and a transcript is provided.

Using Documents Effectively

Inaccessible Content Notice

All efforts must be made to ensure all content is accessible at the time you publish it. If you don’t take the time to ensure your document is accessible, you risk it being taken down from the site for violation of university policy.

The Office of Information Technology will remove any inaccessible documents or web content uploaded or published after October 1, 2021. Site administrators and department staff are responsible for ensuring all web content is accessible on university websites per university policies including Policy 8140 Information Technology Accessibility and Policy 8040 University Webpages and Electronic Publications.

Requesting an Accessibility Review

We understand that some content does require a document format. And that sometimes, you may need assistance making this content accessible. Before you publish a document on WordPress, you can request a Document Accessibility Review by the accessibility team.

During our review, we consider whether a document is:

  • Required by law
  • Required for accreditation
  • Required to support the university’s mission or operations
  • Granted an exception based on its purpose
  • Has a fully accessible web alternative of the content available

Additional Resources for Accessible Documents

For more tips on creating and publishing accessible documents, review the following resources. You can either review them now or bookmark them for future reference. Links will open in a new window.

  1. Are Google Docs and Microsoft Word Accessible?
  2. Webguide: Publishing Documents
  3. Boise State Brand Standards
  4. How’d they do that? Creating an Accessible Student Policy Manual
  5. Screen Reader Demo: Accessible Documents
Learning Objective #2: Gain practical skills for creating accessible PDFs, Google Suite, and Microsoft Office documents.

Accessible PDFs start with Accessible Source Documents

If you can create an accessible webpage, you can create an accessible document. An accessible webpage contains:

  • Structured headings
  • Lists (possibly) and paragraph breaks
  • Images with alternative text descriptions
  • Clear hyperlinks
  • Accessible tables

All things you can add to your documents!

Whatever tool you're using to create your document...

Take some time to explore the accessibility resources available for that platform.

Word Processor Platforms

Two common word processor platforms are Microsoft and Google.

Presentation Platforms

If you need to create a slide deck for presentations, Microsoft and Google are good options.

Graphic Design Platforms

If you need or want more of a graphic design focus, Adobe InDesign or Canva are options to consider.

Practice with Google Docs or Microsoft Word

Use the following document to practice adding accessibility either in Google Docs or Microsoft Word.

After opening the document, select File, then either Save as Google Docs, or Download as Microsoft Word.

Download Demo Doc to Practice
Learning Objective #3: Learn basic techniques for repairing accessibility issues in existing documents.

Practice with Adobe Acrobat

Use the following document to practice making an existing PDF accessible.

After opening the document, select File, then either Save as Google Docs, or Download as Microsoft Word.

Download PDF Checklist

Final Reflection

Please complete this short reflection to:

  • Assess your current confidence level about creating accessible documents
  • List your main takeaways from the workshop
  • Identify steps you plan to take to ensure your document content is accessible
  • Ask any final questions

Reflection Form

Enter your Boise State Email Address
Before today's workshop, how would you rate your knowledge of digital accessibility?
After completing this workshop, how confident do you feel about creating accessible digital content?
If you have any questions for the Web Accessibility Team, please list them here and someone will be in touch with you.
Going Further

Web Tools and Remediation Micro-Certification

For more tips on using hyperlinks effectively, review the following resources. You can either review them now or bookmark them for future reference. Links will open in a new window.

  1. Recommendations for Accessible Panels
  2. WordPress Text Editor