Accessible Word

Accessibility Checker – A Smart tool to review Word Documents for Accessibility!

Are you responsible to ensure that all documents your organization publishes are accessible?

Today all organizations publish documents through different channels, such as website, email, intranets and even on the cloud. Organizations publish their documents in different file formats including Microsoft Word, Google docs, Adobe PDF, Open Office etc. Ensuring accessibility of the documents is a vital requirement for any organization in order to comply with different accessibility standards.

Amongst different document formats, Microsoft Word is one of the largely used file format by many organizations for publishing their documents.

Does your organization use Microsoft Word for publishing documents?

If Yes, Microsoft Word’s Accessibility Checker is something you would want to be familiar with!

In this blog, we’ll be working with Accessibility Checker tool of Microsoft Word that helps to check the document for accessibility and thereby help organizations comply with different accessibility standards.

Just like any other digital solution, an accessible Microsoft Word document must be tested for accessibility using a combination of automated checks and a manual review. Once the identified errors are fixed, the document should be reviewed by users with disabilities with different assistive technologies to ensure that the information is usable as well as accessible to the widest range of users.

Now let’s have a look on how to test a Word document using Accessibility Checker!

How to use Accessibility Checker?

It can be done in two simple ways:

  1. Open the document that needs to be checked for accessibility.
  2. Click on the “Review” tab.
  3. Click the “Check Accessibility” icon

Screenshot displaying list of accessibility errors in Microsoft Word accessibility checker.


    1. Open the document that needs to be checked for accessibility.
    2. Click on File
    3. Click on Info and navigate to Check for Issues
    4. Select Check Accessibility option from the dropdown.

Screenshot displaying "Check for Issues" dropdown which consist one of the options as "Check Accessibility".Well that’s it!

Once the checker finishes the inspection, results are displayed in the task pane on the right side of the document.

The Checker’s Inspection Results contains accessibility issues which can be classified into three categories:

  • Errors: These need to be fixed for sure to make sure that the document is accessible for users with disabilities.
  • Warnings: These needs manual verification in order to understand if they constitute as a potential error or is something that can be left in the document based on the manual verification results.
  • Tips: These are included to provide pointers for authors and thereby help them in creating accessible Word documents as well as enhance the user experience for people with disabilities.

Along with the Inspection Results, Additional Information is also displayed if we click on any of the errors or warnings.

So what information is provided in the Additional information section?

It includes information about:

  • Why Fix: It explains why it is an accessibility issue.
  • How to Fix: It includes information on how to fix the identified issue.

In the following scenario, heading level is skipped. Heading level 3 is used directly after Heading level 1 thereby skipping heading level 2. When we click on the result additional information is displayed related to the issue; Why Fix and How to Fix!

Screenshot displaying the information about "Why Fix" and "How To Fix" related to "Skipped Heading Level" tip.

Tip: Place all headings in the correct order for better experience. Avoid skipped Heading level.

Accessibility Checker Errors and Warnings

Here is the list of errors and warnings one may come across while testing a word document using accessibility checker.

Elements Rule What does the Checker verifies? Error/Warning
Image, Shape, Picture, Chart, Smart Art Graphic All non-text content has alternative text (alt text). Alternate text is specified for all objects used in the document. It also looks if the alternate text includes file extensions or word image. Error
Tables Tables specify column header information. Headers are defined for tables. Basically it looks for if header row is defined. Error
Headings Documents use heading styles Headings and sub-headings are used to organize the content of a document. Error
Links Hyperlink text is meaningful. Descriptive text is used for displaying hyperlinks. It also verifies if the link text accurately describes the destination it points to. Warning
Tables Table has a simple structure. Tables do not include split cells, merge cells or nested tables. Basically it verifies that the table structure is simple. Warning
Tables Tables don’t use blank cells for formatting. Tables do not include a blank cell that is used solely for formatting purpose. It verifies if any table comprises of blank rows or columns. Warning
Characters Avoid the use of repeated blank characters. Document does not include blank spaces, tabs, or carriage returns used for formatting purpose. Warning
Color Avoid the use of text color that doesn’t stand out from the background color. Sufficient contrast exists between foreground text and its background. Warning

In short one can say that, Microsoft Accessibility Checker is a great tool for evaluating any word document for accessibility. Fix the errors and make your document accessible for users with disabilities!

By Rutuja Loke

Associate Accessibility Analyst