Creating Accessible Digital Documents (Microsoft 365)

Document Accessibility Guidelines (Microsoft 365)


  • Use a short, unique filename that describes the content or purpose of the document.
  • Do not use special characters (underscores and hyphens are acceptable).
  • Avoid unfamiliar abbreviations.

File Properties

  • Designate a title, contact information, and language.
    • Within file properties, enter a title that describes the document. The title should be concise but more descriptive than the filename.
    • If additional support is available, include contact information in the document or file properties.
    • Set the document’s primary language.



  • Choose a font that is easy to read.
    • Avoid overly decorative, condensed, or handwritten fonts. Upper and lowercase letters should be available, and the default style should not be in italics.
    • A size of 12-point or larger is recommended. Avoid using any font sizes under 10 points.
      Note: You may also change the default font in Microsoft Word if the default font or font size does not seem easy to read.
    • For presentation/display such as PowerPoint, 18-point or larger is recommended.

Line Spacing

  • Ensure adequate line and paragraph spacing.
    • Use a minimum of 1.0 line spacing. It is also recommended to add paragraph spacing before and after document sections.

Whitespace, Text Alignment, and Non-Printing Characters

  • Use Paragraph Spacing, Line Spacing, Indent tools, Columns, and Page Breaks to create the desired visual layout. Avoid carriage returns, tabs, or the spacebar to create a text layout.
  • If justified text is desired, use a program with better justification settings such as Adobe InDesign.
  • Show Paragraph ¶ markup to view any inaccessible spacing and unwanted non-printing characters. Arrow keys can also be used to detect unnecessary spacing.

Text Boxes

  • Do not use the text box feature unless the meaningful order of content is carefully retained.


  • Use a font color that has a minimum color contrast ratio of 4.5:1 between text and background. Large fonts over 18-point and 14-point bold should meet or exceed a 3:1 contrast ratio.
  • Test the contrast ratio of text to the background using a manual testing tool.
  • Do not use color alone to convey information.
    • When color is used to convey meaning or distinguish text elements, (e.g., highlighted text or colored text), a secondary characteristic must also be used such as an underline or bold style.
    • Asterisks or other symbols may be used to connect related information where color is used. For example “dates with an asterisk in red have been cancelled.”
  • Use unique, concise, and descriptive link text.
    • When adding a hyperlink, add the URL (web page address) to the Address field, and add descriptive link text to the ‘Text to Display’ field.
    • Link text should concisely describe the purpose and/or destination of the link.
    • Multiple links should not use the same link text unless the URL/address for each link is the same.
    • Do not use ambiguous link text such as ‘Read More’ or ‘Click Here.’
    • Avoid using a full URL or web address as link text. Visit the Microsoft 365 Hyperlink Guide for step-by-instructions for working with links.
  • If the document is likely to be printed, use descriptive text followed by the full URL, for example, Microsoft Support (
  • Do not remove underlining from the hyperlink style.
  • Do not use images as hyperlinks.
  • Ensure hyperlinked footnotes and references are easy to understand and maintain a logical reading order.


  • Use the built-in formatting tools to create bulleted lists and ordered lists.
  • Do not use formatting or symbols alone to create the visual appearance of a list. This includes nested lists and hierarchical list presentations.


Alternative Text (Alt Text)

  • Ensure the Alt Text is concise and conveys the purpose of the image.
  • If the image contains meaningful text, it should be included within the Alt Text.
  • Position images in line with text to ensure the Alt Text is read at the appropriate time.
  • If the image is purely decorative, select the ‘mark as decorative’ checkbox instead of including Alt Text. If that option is not available, include ‘decorative image’ in the Alt Text description field.
    Note: Step-by-step instructions are available in the Microsoft 365 Alt Text Guide.

Complex Images

  • For complex images, there should be a text alternative in the body of the document, often referred to as ‘long description’. Alternatively, a link or reference to the text alternative may be provided.
  • Be sure to convey the same information presented by the image or informational graphic. The language in the long description should also match any graphic-based text whenever possible.

Reading Order of Images

  • In Microsoft Word, position images in line with text to ensure the Alt Text is read at the appropriate time within the document. Otherwise, proper anchor positioning must be used to maintain a logical sequence.

Data Tables

Tables should only be used for data presentation, and not as a page layout tool.

  • Word: Visit the What are the accessibility guidelines for Microsoft Word? for more information on creating accessible tables.
  • Excel: Tables in Excel are used to manage and analyze groups of related data, not for page layout. Tables must be manually created in a spreadsheet for table features to be available. Visit Microsoft 365’s Overview of Excel tables for more information on how tables are managed in Excel.
  • PowerPoint: Only include simple tables in PowerPoint presentations and include a table header row in tables. Large or complex tables should be shared using a different format.
  • Outlook: Though some email marketing platforms use email templates with tables for page layout, tables in Outlook should be avoided whenever possible. If tabular data is needed, consider adding a hyperlink in your email that points to a webpage with the data table, or attach a Word document with an accessible data table.

Charts and Graphs

Data Categories

  • Color alone should not be the only means of conveying information such as a category or source of data. Include labels or additional visual characteristics such as a ‘Pattern fill’ or ‘Border’ to differentiate data.
  • When using labels for data, place labels inside or adjacent to pie slices.
  • Ensure that the labels include value, category name, and leader lines. Refer to Microsoft’s Change the format of data labels in a chart.

Increase Font Size for Readability

  • Text in charts and graphs such as labels and legends often have default font sizes that are difficult to read. Increase the font sizes for better readability.

Chart Names and Captions

  • Because the chart title may not be read aloud by a screen reader, you should include a caption for each chart as a description. 
  • The caption should include a brief and unique name for the chart or graph. The caption may be used for reference throughout the document and can be utilized within a table of contents.

Provide Alternative Text in Charts

  • Describe the chart structure and or data presented in the Alt Text. For simple charts, also include the chart data and labels separated by commas. 
  • For charts and graphs with complex data, include a text description within the document.
    • If the text description is not directly adjacent to the item, reference the location of the information in the Alt Text.
    • Alternatively, provide an adjacent data table containing all the same information as a chart or graph.
    • If the accessible complex data alternative is provided in a separate location, provide a hyperlink directly adjacent to the chart.
  • Position your chart in line with the text to maintain a logical reading order.

Check Accessibility

  • Use the built-in Accessibility Checker.
    • Review the results.
    • Correct all issues found under Errors.
    • Inspect all Warnings.
    • Resolve any additional concerns.

Note: Additional preferences allow users to check accessibility while working.

Additional Resources

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