Creating documents with accessibility in mind helps a variety of learners. Students with visual disabilities may need to use a screen reading device, which needs to have ADA friendly documents to ensure the device can read the content to the student. Other elements, such as tables and links, can help everyone by having greater descriptiveness.
Many tools, like Microsoft Word and Google Docs, have built-in features that help with creating accessible and well composed documents.
Heading styles are built-in to any word processing program. These styles allow for a breakdown of sections of a document, similarly creating an internal table-of-contents.
Images in any document must be in-line with the text rather than floating around it. Additionally, any image needs a descriptive alternative tag (alt tag) to describe the image to an individual who may be using a screen reader or narration. The tag should not be the name of the image file itself as it is not sufficiently descriptive.
Lists in any document should be ordered (ex: 1, 2, 3, or A, B, C) or unordered (bullet points). This allows for easy formatting, while similarly aiding an individual using a screen reader or narration.
Links to any external web site should be descriptive for a document read on a computer of mobile device. This allows an individual to know the purpose of the link before actually accessing it. A fully visible link is needed for a printed document, preferably with context of its purpose.
Tables are best used for data purposes rather than document layout. Tables need to have definitions of heading cells, as well as a reading order – particularly down a column, or across a row. Data tables typically will include headings and reading order, while layout tables need definition. Additionally, tables also need descriptive alt tags. All of these elements allow an individual to have knowledge of the table’s purpose, while also aiding an individual who may use a screen reader or narration.
Color selection should be considered when creating a document. A high level of contrast between text color and background color is helpful for everyone. The general rule of thumb: If it’s hard to read for the person writing it, then it’s hard to read for the person reading it.
Forms are best created through form templates, as they can pre-define needed elements for moving through a document. Any form field or buttons within a form should be defined with an appropriate text label and descriptive alt tag. Additionally, forms may need adjustment in their reading order to ensure a screen reader or narration tool can move through properly – this can be tested by using the Tab key to move through form elements.