Accessibility Checklist for MS Word

Use this checklist to guide you toward creating accessible MS Word documents. Start with practices that you find quick and easy, then build from there. The Check Accessibility tool in Word may help you detect and correct common accessibility issues.

Small changes can have a big impact!


  • Describe the contents of the document clearly in the file name
  • Accept or decline all tracked changes in the document, then turn off Track Changes before sharing the document


  • Use text that is at least 12-points
  • Use a plain font, preferably sans serif font (e.g, Arial, Calibri, Verdana)
  • Number pages using the built-in page numbering function
  • Create lists using the built-in bullets or numbering function, not typed characters or hyphens
  • Use Word’s Styles elements to organize and structure the document (Heading 1, Heading 2)
  • Use Word’s Paragraph formatting function to add space between paragraphs or sections; do not use hard returns to add space
  • Hyperlink text should indicate the target of the link; hyperlink text should not say "click here"
  • Only show the full URL if you are sharing the file in a format that does not support hyperlinks (e.g., a printed copy of the file). If the document is shared as a printed copy, include the URL along with the hyperlink text.

Images and other visual elements (figures, graphs, graphics, etc.)

  • Remove background images and watermarks
  • For each image, include meaningful alternative text (a short description of the nature and content of the image) using the built-in function in Word
  • Label decorative images as "decorative" in the alternative text interface
  • To draw attention to a section of text, use the border tool, instead of line shapes or textboxes
  • Ensure sufficient colour contrast between the background and text and images using the Colour Contrast Analyser
  • Describe complex images (e.g.., graphs) in a caption near the image


  • Use tables for information that is suitable to display in rows and columns
  • Do not use tables to format content; instead, use a more accessible method such as columns
  • Create tables using Insert Table, as opposed to using tabs and spaces to create the look of a table
  • Create tables that have a logical reading order: left to right, top to bottom
  • Avoid blank (empty) cells, rows or columns in the table
  • Do not nest tables or split/merge table cells
  • Indicate whether the table has a header row and/or a first column (i.e., a header column)
  • Indicate whether the table has a header row and/or a first column (i.e., a header column)
  • For tables that span more than one page, turn on Repeat Header Rows
  • Include a Table Caption that describes the content/purpose of the table


If you would like support applying these tips to your own teaching, CTE staff members are here to help.  View the CTE Support page to find the most relevant staff member to contact.


teaching tips

This Creative Commons license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon our work non-commercially, as long as they credit us and indicate if changes were made. Use this citation format: Accessibility Checklist for MS Word. Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo.