Accessibility Tip of the Week: Microsoft Office Accessibility Checker

Person appears to be ready to mark a checklist of items. Next to person doing this is a laptop computer.

This week Robert Hardy, our district website accessibility specialist, shares about the Accessibility Checker in Microsoft Office.

The Accessibility Checker within Microsoft Office is a powerful tool that can be used as a final step in document creation. The steps involved in running the Accessibility Checker differ depending on your operating system, but are quite straightforward. Please note these steps are the same for both Word & PowerPoint.

  • Mac – Go to the Review ribbon and select “Check Accessibility.
  • Windows – Go to the File menu and under Info, select “Check for Issues” and then
    “Check Accessibility.”

The Accessibility Checker will open on the right side of the screen and will contain a list of issues located within the document. The quick-start guides located on the district’s Website Accessibility Resources page cover each of these errors and how to resolve them.

When working with older Word documents, users may receive the error “Cannot check the current file type for accessibility issues.” To resolve this error, go to File & Save As. In the Save As window, select the File Type option and select “Word Document (.docx).” The Accessibility Checker should now be able to run without errors.

Accessibility Tip of the Week: Accessibility as Universal Design

Model of building under construction to correlate with article about universal design and how it applies to accessibility

This week Robert Hardy, our district website accessibility specialist, shares about accessibility as universal design.

Accessible design has the potential to positively impact everyone, regardless of whether or not we perceive ourselves as having a disability that directly impacts computer use. This is because accessible design doesn’t exist within a vacuum, but rather, is an implementation of universal design principals. By making our content more accessible for some, we inherently make it more accessible for all.

In the physical world, this is perhaps best demonstrated in the application of curb cuts. In the 60s and 70s students at Berkley with mobility issues strove for greater independence and advocated to get curb cuts installed across the city. As their adoption became more widespread, however, others began to reap the benefits of a more accessible environment. Bike riders, and people pushing a stroller or shopping cart, appreciated the more universal design. Now it would be almost inconceivable to build a sidewalk devoid of ramps. By improving conditions for one segment of the population, the students at Berkley improved them for everyone.

While the physical world may be predefined, we have a unique opportunity in the digital realm. The virtual world is one we are actively building, and by taking universal design principals into account, we not only enhance the independence of those with disabilities, but we also improve the experience for everyone else. Closed captions can be quite handy when viewing a video in a noisy, or quiet, environment. Similarly, alt tags can fill in the gaps left by images that fail to load on a slow internet connection.

In this, more accurate framework, the population that benefits from accessible design expands drastically. It expands universally. This can be helpful to keep in mind as we progress along the continuum of accessibility. Be selfish in your design decisions. In doing so, you’ll help everyone else.

The Website Accessibility Resources page has guides covering the steps involved in incorporating universal design into your digital presence. If you would like to learn more, please also consider attending a hands-on training at Knox.


Accessibility Tip of the Week: Posting documents online

Laptop computer, paper with various pie charts and metrix charts, notepad, and hand with pen as if taking notes

This week Robert Hardy, our district website accessibility specialist, shares tips and resources for posting documents online.

When preparing to post content to SchoolMessenger or Schoology, it is important to consider the document format. From a broad perspective, a document may be posted as on-page content (HTML), or as an attachment.

On-Page Content (HTML)

Posting directly on the page is the simplest and most accessible way to publish content, and thus, is the preferred method. This is because HTML provides a programmatic accompaniment to the text, allowing all users to easily perceive and interact with the content. More complex elements, such as tables or images, require some minor additional markup, but text alone can simply be pasted onto the page. The district’s Website Accessibility Resources page offers quick-start guides on how to post accessible on-page content to both Schoology or SchoolMessenger.


Beyond posting on-page content, a document may also be posted as an external attachment. PDFs are the preferred format for attachments, as a PDF contains a similar programmatic accompaniment as HTML, and is therefore highly accessible.

While other document types, such as Word or PowerPoint files may contain accessibility features, they should be exported to PDF to ensure they can be perceived by the largest possible audience. The district Website Accessibility Resources page offers guides on creating accessible documents in these software suites, as well as a guide on how to correctly export to PDF.

By posting documents as on-page content or accessible PDFs, we can ensure the largest possible segment of our community is able to fully enjoy our services. If working with unique file types not covered on the Website Accessibility Resources page, please reach out to Robert Hardy at Ext. 6105 in the Communications Department with questions.

Website Accessibility Tip of the Week: The increased efficiency of true headings

This week Robert Hardy, our district website accessibility specialist, shares about the increased efficiency of true headings in documents.

Outside of enhancing access to content, one of the benefits of creating accessible documents is the greater control it gives to the document author.

Many Word and Docs users are self-taught, and as such, learned to create titles and headings by enlarging the font, changing the alignment, bolding the text, and occasionally underlining it. This process is cumbersome at best, requiring each heading to be styled individually. It also doesn’t provide an accompanying programmatic markup for the software. Is the content bolded for emphasis, or is it bolded as a title? Curious readers want to know.

By creating true headings in the accessible way, using the heading styles in Word or Google Docs, the efficiency of the workflow is greatly improved. Rather than the process described above, the author can simply highlight the text and pick a heading style. This provides both a visual and programmatically defined heading.


If the author decides to change the visual layout of their headings down the line, changes can be made en masse, rather than to each heading individually. By changing the styling of just one heading, going to the Headings Styles Pane, right clicking and selecting “Update Heading X to Match Selection”, each instance of that heading type will be updated. This is not only much more efficient, but also ensures consistency throughout a document.


In Microsoft Word, true headings can also be used to create a table of contents. This is particularly helpful for longer documents. Simply go to the References ribbon and select the Table of Contents button. A fully functional table of contents based on the heading structure will be inserted.


These types of efficiency gains are common across different software suites, and are a pleasant example of the benefits of designing our content for the broadest audience possible.

Sign up for hands-on accessibility trainings

Computers in a classroom setting with students typingStarting in December, OSD staff will have the opportunity to attend additional trainings focused on creating accessible content.

Each training will be led by Robert Hardy, the district’s Website Accessibility Specialist, and will be held from 4 to 5 p.m. in the Knox Administrative Center, Room 308.

Accessibility – MS Word and Google Docs

December 5, 2018 and February 27, 2019
Class Size: 20

Accessibility – MS PowerPoint and Google Slides

December 11, 2018 and February 20, 2019
Class Size: 20

Accessibility – SchoolMessenger Teacher Pages

December 13, 2018
Class Size: 20

Accessibility – Alt Text

January 8, 2019
Class Size: 20

Accessibility – Headings

January 9, 2019
Class Size: 20

Accessibility – Acrobat Pro

January 23, 2019
Class Size: 10

Accessibility – Advanced Acrobat Pro – Tables and Forms

February 5, 2019
Class Size: 5

Accessibility – Multimedia Accessibility

February 12, 2019
Class Size: 20

Attendees are encouraged to bring their own laptops, as well as any documents they have questions about.  More details can be found in the Professional Development Catalog Winter 2018  located on the staff intranet.