When putting a document together, it’s best to follow writing for the web practices so your document is accessible for those not just with visual impairments, but those with cognitive ones as well. However, when it comes to accessing a document via a website, there are several steps you can take to ensure your document is accessible.

Before linking to a document on your webpage:

When linking to a document on your website, do not upload a Word doc to the media library. Documents should only be displayed on a webpage if the intention is for someone to print the document. If you must include a document, it should be presented as a PDF. This also ensures your formatting doesn’t get altered or the content edited. Additionally, not everyone has the programs to open specific file types on their device, but everyone can open a PDF.

Here are a few items to consider before displaying a document on your webpage:

  • Is it a form? If so, this content may be better replicated using a web form instead of linking to the paper form.
  • Is it solely informational? If so, this content may be better presented as native web content instead of linking to a PDF. PDFs are unpleasant to read online, and people are much more likely to read the content if it lives natively on a website.

Whether using Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or another word processor, here are some basic guidelines you should follow to make the document accessible for all:

  • Use headings, lists, and paragraph breaks when possible to break up the content.
  • Be mindful of colors. Your document should have significant color contrast. If you’re not sure about the level of contrast, use an online tool (Color Contrast Checker by WebAIM). Additionally, avoid using colors to convey meaning as those who cannot see color won’t be able to comprehend these differences.
  • Keep accessibility settings when converting a document When converting a Word doc or Excel file to a PDF, use settings that retain tags and accessibility formatting.
  • Add alt text on images and graphs. In most programs, you can right-click on an image to bring up a menu to either “Add Alt Text” or “Edit Image.”
  • Use descriptive links. This means no using “click here” or pasting full URLs, but rather linking the language that describes where the user can expect to be directed when clicking the link.
  • Use appropriately styled text:
    • Standard size text (11-point minimum) or larger
    • Legible font such as a Sans Serif
    • Set line spacing to 1.5 or larger
    • Keep text left-aligned when possible