November 15, 2021

Common Accessibility Mistakes, Part Two

Written by Bonnie Kenney, MEd

Creating course materials that are accessible for all students is important.  This article will attempt to address a few of the most common mistakes made when creating materials that will be disseminated electronically. 


  • When using PDFs, follow these suggestions:
    • Make sure the document has a title. You can check this property in Adobe Acrobat Pro by going to File > Properties > and click the Description tab. Look at the field labeled “Title” and add one if it is missing. Then click OK.
    • Tables should include “header” rows. Proper headers help readers understand how tables are organized into columns and rows.
    • Untagged PDFs do not contain any of the hidden labels that clarify the structure of a document (e.g., table, heading, paragraph, lists, etc.) and this can cause the content to be misinterpreted. To remedy the situation, open the document in Acrobat Pro > click the “Accessibility” icon > and select “Autotag Document.”
    • You can also run a complete accessibility check on an entire PDF by clicking “Accessibility Check” under the Accessibility icon.

Microsoft Office

Microsoft Word and PowerPoint provide built-in accessibility checkers. To access these open either program > select the Review tab > and select the Check Accessibility icon.

  • Suggestions for Word include:
    • Use heading styles
    • Use built-in formats for bulleted lists, columns, and tables
    • Avoid floating text boxes
    • Include alternative text (alt tags) for images
  • Suggestions for PowerPoint include:
    • Use built-in slide layouts
    • Compose in Outline view (or check Outline view to make sure all slide text is in Outline view)
    • Add alternative text (alt tags) for images