Accessibility Guide: Documents

Making effective design choices will maximize the reach and impact of messages communicated in print. Formatting is important when designing documents for maximum readability, not only for persons with disabilities but for many as they age. Reading small print and distinguishing colors becomes more difficult with age, and difficult or impossible with severe vision loss.

Note: When we use the term "Document" we are referring to Word or other word processing format rather than to web pages or sites as there are separate established standards for theses, though some standards are the same or similar.


  • Use crisp fonts such as Verdana or Arial
  • Avoid scripts, decorative fonts, and shadows
  • Minimum of 12 point font is recommended
  • Use italics to highlight individual words not blocks of text
  • Avoid all capital letters. They can be difficult to read in continuous text, but are okay for labels or headings
  • Use “Style and Formatting ”. Certain screen readers use style and heading formatting to navigate or scan a document. (See Accessibility Guide Word Documents for more information)

Color & Contrast:

  • The greater the contrast between the words and the background the better
  • Black and white is most effective
  • Background images should be avoided
  • Colored paper should be avoided. If necessary use yellow or other light color
  • Do not use only color to provide emphasis, use bold or italics or both instead or as well as color

Images, Tables or Charts:

  • Charts and graphs should supplement and support written content. Explain fully, in text, all information that is contained in a graphic.
  • Images and animations must have alternative text. See Accessibility Guide Images and Graphs page for more information on Alt Text

Links and Hypertext:

  • Links and hypertext should be concise, clear and descriptive
  • Do not use “Click Here.” Instead describe the location of the link, e.g “Accessibility Guide Documents page


  1. Are all documents written in the recommended font and size?
  2. Are your documents high contrast or black on white?
  3. Do all images and graphs have alternative text?
  4. Have you eliminated italics except for short phrases or to provide emphasis?
  5. Have you eliminated using all CAPITAL letters with the exception of titles and / or labels?
  6. If your document is in Word, does it use "Styles and Formatting"?

Related Accessibility Guide pages

Further information / References


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