Accessible Document Support Center

Welcome to the Accessible Document Support Center. The information on these pages is designed to assist you in ensuring that electronic documents you produce are accessible to all users.

What is an Accessible Document?

Documents are considered to be accessible when the information contained in them can be clearly and equally understood regardless of the audience or type of assistive technology which may or may not be used to read them.

Why are Accessible Documents Important?

We cannot assume that our coworkers and customers consume information in the same manner as we do, or that they have access to the most recent software or hardware, nor can we assume that they do not have a disability or health issues which make navigation of electronic information difficult.

This means that when we have something important we need to convey to everyone we need to take these differences into consideration before we decide on how we are going to communicate our information. Even if you plan on uploading the file to a website, this may not ensure access to the information within your document. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Not all websites are accessible, therefore it is always wise to ensure that your information is available in an alternative format.
  • Electronic documents are often the beginning of a larger project. For example:
    • Word documents are often converted into alternative formats such as HTML and PDFs.
    • Documents may be used for braille production or uploaded to a web site as a downloadable attachment.
  • As mentioned previously; you never know who the audience may be or how they are going to view the document. Therefore, you need to ensure that everyone can access the information within the document with or without the use of assistive technology.
  • Finally, Accessibility is far more effective when taken into consideration during document creation, rather than remediating a document for accessibility after it has been created.

Benefits of Accessible Document Design

Accessible document design is valuable to all users, regardless of their use of assistive technology. Most of the features used in accessible design make the end product more valuable to a wider audience. For example:

Clear and Understandable Content

  • For those with cognitive and learning disabilities, or those using assistive technology; clear, concise and consistent language makes it easier to search a document by keywords.
  • Additionally, it can make the document more readable/understandable by all readers, reinforcing key concepts through consistent language and tone.

Good Color Contrast

  • Readers with low vision can find it difficult to read documents if the text and background do not have sufficient contrast.
  • Readers who are color blind can experience loss of contrast.
  • Additionally, readers using small screens may need additional contrast, depending on the environment.

Proper Semantic Structure

  • The document structure is the most important accessibility consideration in documents. Headings allow screen reader users to navigate through the page easily and will make the page more usable for everyone.