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Microsoft Word Accessibility Series: Page Structure Q&A

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Written by: Kristin Heineman

Yesterday we presented the second webinar in the Microsoft Word Accessibility Basics series on best practices for Page Structure. As promised, we captured the many questions posed during the webinar and have answered them in this post.

Webinar Q&A

Q: Shouldn’t assigning page structures in Word tag these in the document?

A: Yes, which is why we create the structured Word document. When you structure the document properly (using the built-in features), your tagged PDF will be as accessible as possible.

Q: How did you ensure list items get label tags on the bullets?

A: When you use the built-in bullets and numbering features of Word, the list (L) and list items (LI) are tagged automatically when you convert the document to PDF.

Q: For the compliant lists, is “vegetables” automatically tagged as a list when items get bulleted underneath it?

A: No, in this case, we would typically want to create a heading for that text – this would not be included in the list itself and if it is text; it would be tagged as a paragraph. Ideally, this should be tagged as a heading.

Q: The bullet library will automatically update to include symbols, images, and other non-compliant characters if they’re selected for other non-508 documents. How can you ensure that the bullets you select remain 508 compliant when you’re producing a mixture of compliant and non-compliant documents?

A: When using symbols for bullets, you want to make sure that those symbols have Unicode names. If you look back at the Non-Text Elements Webinar, I discussed using symbols within a document. You can certainly use custom bullets, but you want to make sure that you are still using the built-in bullet list feature in addition to using standard symbols with Unicode values. If you test with a screen reader in the document, ensure that the screen reader renders the symbols correctly when navigating through the list with the arrow keys or the L key to move to a list and the I key to move to list items.

Q: I’m curious what the functional purpose of multiple heading level 1’s would be, if a single heading 1 seems to be what’s most commonly expected on the page.

A: While the web suggests only one heading level 1, document accessibility does not define this. The reasoning is that your title for the document should include the main concept of the full document. Each heading level 1 would define a section within the document. If you have a 100-page document and each section describes a new topic, that new topic should be identified as a heading level 1. It is not a requirement to have multiple heading level 1s though; you could potentially just have one heading level 1. It fully depends on the document and the content.

Q: Tables vs columns – which is better for accessibility?

A: This completely depends on the content you are providing. Tables should only be used when you are presenting data, and you should avoid using layout tables. Note that when reading through tables with a screen reader, they will read across each row by default (using the arrow keys). When using columns, the content will be read down each column, not across each row.

Q: Will the Heading Style produce an accessible document if it is a protected word template?

A: When you convert the document properly by enabling tags, you will have tagged headings in the PDF.

Q: Are there any online “workshops” where I can practice these skills under the guidance of an expert?

A: I am not aware of anything specific, but you could try Lynda.com or do a search for accessibility training workshops.

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