Accessible Word Documents
There are a variety of adaptive technology software options that rely on optical character recognition (OCR) techniques in order to convert text to audio. Basic OCR programs are limited in their ability to “read” text so the structure of your document can make all the difference in making your content accessible.
Several guidelines to follow:
Structure – Simple screen readers scan text left to right and top to bottom; making your document hierarchical and linear can ensure the text you include makes sense to someone using a screen reader.
Typeface – The typeface you use in your document can aid readers with visual impairments. Use standard fonts, particularly fonts without serifs (sans serif) to help designate the form a letter.
Conveying emphasis – Proper punctuation can help you convey emphasis in the text if you know how it is interpreted. Screen readers provide a brief pause at commas and a longer pause at periods. You may want to include periods at the end of section headers to convey the start of a new section. Screen readers generally don’t read hyphens and parentheses so you may want to use commas in lieu of other punctuation marks.
Templates and Formatting – Some screen readers are quite advanced and make use of Word templates. Using a template and the formatting options already built into Word can make your work easier and more accessible for your audience.