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Microsoft Word Accessibility Series: Non-Text Elements Q&A

Written by: Kristin Heineman

Webinar #1 in the Microsoft Word Accessibility Basics series covered non-text elements. There were so many questions during the webinar that we unfortunately did not have time to address them all live.  We’ve answered the questions from the presentation in this post which we hope you’ll find useful.

Webinar Q&A

Q: So we shouldn’t bother with the title field when creating alt text?

A: The title field can be used when you are converting a document to HTML (it acts as a tooltip – i.e. when you hover your mouse over the image, the title will appear), but the description field is what is read when converting to PDF.

Q: Should alt text be provided for decorative images as well as images relevant to the content?

A: For decorative images, leave the description field blank. You will need to mark the image as decorative in the PDF document. For meaningful images, provide alternative text in the description field.

Q: Regarding the image of text, how did you convert to text exactly? Created the boxes then added a text box on top?

A: When you have an image of text, use standard text rather than an image of text and style the text using the font features in word (i.e. font style, color, etc.) instead of an image of text. Some users with low vision may need to change the presentation of the text and will not be able to do so for an image of text. Avoid using textboxes. These are not always discoverable by screen readers and can make navigation difficult.

Q: Are watermarks images or text?

A: Watermarks can be images, but ensure that the appropriate description is included if it is meaningful. Ideally, you would want to include the text of the watermark somewhere else in the document and make the watermark part of the background. For example, if you have a watermark “Sample”, include that in the header, footer, or document title, and add the watermark as part of the background in the document.

Q: Would you have to alt tag the boxes of color?

A: These should be tagged as artifacts in a PDF. Since the color is for decorative purposes only, they should not be given a description in the Word document.

Q: Are symbols also considered as images by screen reader?

A: Symbols are considered text. You want to use symbols with verified Unicode names to ensure proper conversion to PDF. If you use symbols that do not have Unicode names, you will need to use actual text in your PDF document to create a name.

Q: How do you get the Accessibility Checker to give you a green check mark in Microsoft Word?

A: If you fix issues in the document and then recheck the document, the Accessibility Check will verify those changes by disappearing from your list of violations. A check mark will appear indicating “no accessibility issues found.”

Q: For websites, there are scanning sites that verify a page for accessibility. Is there such a service/website that will scan .doc files and/or .pdf files?

A: Level Access’s AMP (Accessibility Management Platform) will scan for documents within a site.

Q: What rules do logos need to comply with – other than alt text?

A: Logos must provide alternative text. If they are clickable, they must also be able to be activated from the keyboard.

Q: What do you do if you need to use SmartArt?

A: You can use SmartArt by grouping items together if possible. If it does not make sense to group items, ensure that when you convert to PDF, the reading order makes sense and that the objects being used are tagged as artifacts when they are decorative. Any meaningful objects must provide a textual alternative.

Q: If a graph is described within the text, should alt text also be included or can it be a decorative image only?

A: If you are providing the information in another manner, the graph can be decorative, but ensure that the alternative is displayed on screen.

Q: How can 150 characters cover something such as information provided in a screenshot? For example, if a screenshot shows a critical error message on a page that a user needs to know, I typically include the error message as part of the alt text, so all user get the benefit of “knowing it exists.” What are your thoughts for long text in a screenshot that visual users get to read but screen reader users would miss?

A: In this situation, I would include alternative text “error message” and then add a longer description in text. If that is not possible, you can add the alternative text to the image itself.

Q: If we are linking to a gif/jpg/png of a larger version of an image, do we provide alt text describing the image rather than identifying the purpose of the link, since a gif/jpg/png won’t be capable of carrying alt text on its own. or do we need to put the gif/jpg/png on a web page so we can add alt text?

A: Typically, you do not want to link directly to an image. If you want to provide a larger version of the image, the alternative text should identify this – let the user know that when they select the image link that a larger image or magnified version of the image will be available. You also want to ensure that the larger image has alternative text as well.

Q: Say I’ve got an icon that has relevance (needs a description) and it’ll be used repeatedly throughout a document. It would be a real time saver if the description could be part of the image rather than having to repeatedly add the description. Is this possible?

A: If you copy and paste the image, the description field remains.

Q: When you make a Word document accessible, and when you convert Word to PDF, will the PDF version be fully PDF/UA compliant automatically (assuming your Word version is created with accessibility in mind)?

A: While many of the tags will be correct, manual and automated testing are still required. In most cases, there will be some remediation that needs to be done in the PDF.

Q: When creating an accessible document from scratch, do you recommend using Word and saving as a PDF or creating it in Adobe Acrobat?

A: I would recommend using Word to create the document and then convert to PDF and fix accessibility issues. It will be easier to make updates to the document if needed.

Q: Could you address alignment of images? Should they be in line with text? In a few examples, the text wrapped around the image. I thought that created an issue in terms of reading order for screen readers.

A: To align images and ensure the reading order is correct, anchor the image. When you add an image, you can click the anchor attached to the image and drag where you want it to be tagged and read by a screen reader.