Accessible documents: 2 things you should ask yourself

Over 1 billion people in the world have a disability, many needing assistive technology but only 1 in 10 have access to the products they need. And the needs are not just people with a permanent disability – it can be short term/ temporary or situational. The classic example is:

Permanent – a person with one arm

Temporary – a person with a broken arm

Situational – a parent holding their baby

Accessibility is an opportunity, and a responsibility across all workplaces.
Obviously, the core aim is to support people daily in their work and interaction with your organisation. From the view of the organisations – it has been reported that those who are more inclusive outperform their peers and attract top talent – people are driven towards organisations that reflect their values and these days diversity and inclusion is a top priority for many.

Something crucial to this is the content you create and share. For this blog I want to focus just on documents. With this in mind, there are the 2 things I feel you should ask yourself.

Ask yourself: Has your organisation made their templates accessible?

It’s not just about getting people to be aware of accessibility needs. The organisation needs to drive awareness, but also drive this forward with key templates and documents that have built in features.

Do you know if your brand colours cause issues?
If so, this would carry across most of the collateral you provide internally, with clients, or public.

It really should start with the individual, or team, who control the templates across your organisation. If these are made more accessible to begin with, that will have a huge impact flowing through the organisation.

So, talk to the right people. Ask if this has been addressed. Suggests an expectations slide in all org templates.

What is it accessible content?
Start with reviewing colour contrast across your templates and brand.
Review if you use meaningful alt text on images in documents.
Consider simple table structures.
Could there be larger font size? This may be useful in your default email font but also some organisation collateral.
If suitable, consider input messages across some templates like in excel to help guide people.
Want to know more about using and creating accessible templates, review this page: Get accessible templates for Office (

Even better, don’t just make your organisation template accessible, use the accessibility office add-in to have accessibility reminders.

The Accessibility Reminder is personal and customizable. You can create custom comments and notify specific authors, add personalized links to training materials, cite organization-specific guidelines relating to accessibility, and more. Using the Accessibility Reminder will help increase awareness and education of accessibility best practices.
Learn more about it here: Use the Accessibility Reminder to notify authors of accessibility issues (

What about Accessibility Checker? 

Even just using Accessibility Checker in templates is a start to have it verify the file against a set of rules that identify possible issues for people with disabilities, the then classify each issue as an error, warning, or tip.

In Accessibility Checker:

  • An error is content that cannot be read by users with disability. Especially if they rely on screen reading programs.
  • Warnings are less serious but can still cause challenges.
  • Tips help you understand what could be different.

You can work your way through the alerts and areas of your document to review and make changes. I particularly love that for each one it has ‘why fix’ content. This constantly teaches us about the reason behind alerts to help drive understanding.

The detail not only alerts you to issues, but the fact also that it gives you tips and helps you make changes ensures this process is straight forward. So why haven’t you done it?

More detail on Accessibility Checker is here: Improve accessibility with the Accessibility Checker (

While yes having the organisation on board and having templates reviewed and setup to be more accessible to begin with, each of us needs to play a part.

Ask yourself: Do you ever check the accessibility of your work?

Become familiar with Accessibility Checker and review your own files.

It blows my mind that this isn’t the norm. Most people never do it. Which means you don’t bother to assist others.

In apps like PowerPoint and Word, go to the ‘review’ area of the ribbon, then select ‘check accessibility’. It’s quick to locate and select this option. Give it a moment to assess your file, then expand and review the results to check issues that can be fixed.
The answers or info is being given to you. There isn’t anything you need to learn or know and search for. It’s buttons to click and things to review.

For example it may suggest you add ‘alt text’ to an image. To learn more about writing effective alt text click here: Everything you need to know to write effective alt text (

You can also review headings, links, tables, and images. Review and learn more about each of these areas here: Video: Check the accessibility of your document (

Why should you care?
Make your content accessible.
Make things more inclusive for people with a disability, whether permanent, temporary, or situational.

Fixing the issues helps optimising your document readability for everyone.

You don’t know who may have a challenge – remember not everyone discloses their disability, and many can be hidden.

As said in one of the above Microsoft sites – make accessibility part of your editing flow. And if this isn’t something you have incorporated into your work, ask yourself why you haven’t made the change. You should care.

The more you understand accessibility features, you can model them, pay it forward and share.

Ensure you have best practices embedded across your organisation to become more inclusive. Start with your documents, or presentations and email. Move to your meetings – consider what could be different. Get people familiar with the Accessibility Checker across Microsoft 365 and Windows 11. Ensure wherever possible that the collateral your organisation shares is accessible. Check with your comm’s team about any external public facing collateral or templates used for clients. Be an advocate for change and help drive everyone in your organisation forward.

Microsoft Code of Conduct includes accessibility requirements for people with disability. It is time for the rest of us to catch up.

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