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Accessible Document Basics

Pictures of words are not words.

If you are uncertain if a document is accessible, open it in a new window and attempt to select the text. If you are unable to select the text, the document is probably not accessible.

Creating Accessible Documents

Always check your L.I.S.T.

If the document you are creating contains links:

  • DO NOT use vague or generic text such as "Click Here" as the link to a document or web page.
    • Screen readers can be set to provide a list of links on a page, and a list of "Click Here" over and over is not helpful!
  • DO use text in the link that accurately and concisely conveys where the link goes. Examples include document names, descriptions, or an action phrases, such as "Download Document Z" or "Visit the Financial Aid Department"

Benefit for you:  Linking to documents and pages by their names makes it easier for you to keep track of your links and update them.

Benefit to others:  Makes it clear what you get when you click on the link, and enables screen readers to compile a useful list of the links on the page or document.

Images and Graphics - Adding Alt-text

First, determine the purpose of the image or graphic within your document - is it purely decorative, or is it informational?

  • If it is decorative, a simple description is adequate, such as "flower decorations" or "students walking on campus."
  • If it is informational, try to summarize the information as briefly as possible, without repeating information that is already in the text. Ask yourself, "What is the information in this image that the reader needs to know?"
    • Any text that appears within that image MUST be included in the alt-text.
  • Dealing with logos. If the graphic is a logo, the first time it appears in the webpage or document use a complete alt-text description of what is shown, such as "LACC logo: Los Angeles City College, The City's College."  Subsequently, a simple "LACC logo" will suffice.
  • If the image depicts something the reader must do or perform, like a mathematics exercise, the alt-text should adequately describe what the reader is expected to do.
    • For example, the alt text to a math problem could be the spoken english version of that equation, such as "Three multiplied by five equals what?"
Structure and Styles
  • Always structure your documents using the Heading Styles found in the toolbar.  Begin with Heading 1, then work down the style list without skipping any header styles.
  • Use bulleted or numbered lists to organize complicated information.
  • Avoid text boxes. Design elements such as text boxes often appear out of order when read by a screen reader, and can confuse the user.

Benefit: Allows for improved document and page navigation. Screen readers can use the headers to create an outline of the page for easier navigation, or an outline view in MSWord.


Tables can be hard to understand for non-sighted users, and should only be used when necessary.

Ask yourself: "Does this need to be a table? Could this information be presented as a list and still be understood?"

If you must create a table:

  • Add alt-text to tables, using the summary box in the table propeties menu. This is helpful, though not always necessary if the table is simple and easy enough to understand.
  • Always mark the header rows in tables, and repeat the header row if the table is broken up between pages in the document. 
  • DO NOT use tables for page layout purposes - use the Styles menu instead.
Other Considerations:
Online Documents
  • Documents must be typed text. Scans or photographs of a text document are never acceptable.
  • Documents should have a clear and understandable structure. Use heading and subheadings to organize your information, and avoid using text boxes.
  • Documents should follow the L.I.S.T. formula for accessibility.
Online Graphics
  • All graphics must have 'alt-text' providing a brief description of the image.
  • Graphics may be decorative or informational (as photographs), but should not consist of images of text (except within logos).
Use Color Carefully

Examples of high and low contrast in text.Low vision and colorblind individuals can have a hard time accessing documents based on the colors used.

  • Do not present information only with colors (as in a pie chart or graph). Use a combination of color and text or symbols.
  • Color contrast must be clear, with foreground and background clearly differentiated.
    • Black on white -- good.
    • Yellow on white -- not good.

Check your color contrast online using the WebAIM Color Contrast Checker.

Accessibility for Audio and Video:
Video and Multimedia

All video and multimedia presentations and online files must be captioned, or have a written transcript available.


All audio presentations and online files must have a written transcript available.

Learn more about Audio & Video Accessibility