Accessibility Checklists for Microsoft Word Documents, PowerPoint files, and Adobe PDF documents

The desire to improve the accessibility of documents and files increases as we become more aware of designing for universal learning. Common ways of presenting course content to students include Microsoft Word documents, PowerPoint files, Adobe PDF documents and web-based content, such as in a learning management system (LMS); for example, Brightspace.

This resource outlines design considerations for increasing a file or document’s accessibility. A checklist of items to consider in increasing the accessibility of content is presented for Word, PowerPoint and PDF types. Information on making web-based content accessible may be found at Web Content Accessibility Guidelines’ (WCAG) website.

The Canadian Government will publish its own web standard CAN-ASC-6.1 in 2024, in alignment with the “European harmonized standard”.

Applying Accessible Design Features in Applications

To learn more about how to apply accessible design features in these applications, please consult applications’ Help resources or the relative resources listed in the References section.

Definition of Terms

First of all, let’s look at a few definitions of terms related to accessibility.

  • Alternative Text: Text associated with non-textual content (e.g., an image) that conveys the same essential information. Also known as “Alt text”.
  • Bookmark: A type of link with representative text that makes it easier to navigate through documents.
  • Descriptive Text: The text that describes a form field’s contents to a screen reader user. Also known as a “label”. It should be vivid, colourful, and detailed.
  • Screen Reader: A software program used to allow reading of content and navigation of a screen using synthesized speech or Braille output. Used primarily by persons who are blind or have low vision.
  • Tags: The structured, textual representation of the PDF content that is accessed by screen readers, to read the document out-loud.

Please select the checklist, in MS Word or Adobe PDF format, for the following applications:

MS PowerPoint   


Created 20 October 2023
By Technology Coaches, Darlene F, Jason G, and Jane C