Skip to main content

Creating Accessible Documents and Slide Decks


Are you new to accessibility? This page is meant to be your entry point into the creation of  accessible content with familiar tools such as Microsoft Office and Google Docs. You will learn about five practices that can have a significant impact on the learner experience for all students, especially those who rely on assistive technology for their access to the curriculum. To help you remember these practices, we have created the mnemonic SLIDE, which stands for:

  • Styles are used for section headings
  • Links are descriptive and meaningful
  • Images have text descriptions
  • Design is perceivable, with high contrast
  • Evaluation is holistic and authentic


Access for all people, including people with disabilities, to web environments.

View in glossary


Equipment or system where principal function is creation, conversion, duplication, control, display, interchange, transmission, reception, or broadcast of data.

View in glossary

Each of the practices is described in more detail in a series of closed-captioned video, with step-by-step directions you can follow at your own pace.. You can pause the video, try things out, and reach out to us if you have any questions. While the practices are explained in the context of creating an accessible document, with one exception (Styles) the techniques apply to slide decks as well. 

Print-friendly handouts for SLIDE are also available: 

Once you have watched the videos, you will have an opportunity to put your new skills into practice with a document you will revise based on the best practices you’ve learned about in the videos. 

Are you up to the challenge? Let’s get started with the first practice, Styles.


See It In Action: Styles

You are likely already familiar with section headings and how they can be used to break up long walls of text on the page and make the content easier to process through “chunking.” However, not all section headings are created equal in the digital world. It is not enough to just select the text and choose formatting options to make the text stand out (by making it bold and increasing the text size). Each section heading also needs to have a style assigned to it. This will allow the text to not only look like a heading, but function like one. This is especially important for users of assistive technology, who can use the styled headings to navigate the document by skipping through the section headings until they find the content that is most relevant to them.

Slide titles perform a similar function in a slide deck: orienting the reader and improving navigation. Each slide title should be unique and descriptive. You can use the Outline view (View, Outline) to review your slide titles.


See it In Action: Links

Screen readers are an advanced type of text-to-speech technology learners can use to listen to the content, and most screen readers support a keyboard shortcut or gesture that brings up a list of all the links to assist with navigation. If a link reads as “click here” or “learn more” when presented on a list, it will be difficult to determine what will happen when the link is selected. For this reason, links need to be meaningful on their own, without relying on the surrounding content to provide context. 



Text-to-Speech (TTS)

Artificial production of human speech, using special software and/or hardware.

View in glossary

See It In Action: Images

Screen readers can use alternative text to describe the image to the reader. Text alternatives can also be helpful if learners only have access to the internet through a smartphone with wireless connection. The text descriptions can take the place of the images to ensure important information is not lost when images are turned off to save bandwidth.



Alt Tag (alternative text)

Brief description of a single image designed to be read by a screenreader as an alternative to the image.

View in glossary

See It In Action: Design (Color Contrast)

The effective use of color can add visual appeal and make content more inviting to learners. However, text with low contrast may be difficult to see and require more effort for some learners, including those with low vision or those viewing the content in less than ideal lighting conditions. With good color contrast, learners can focus more of their energies on gaining a better understanding of the information, rather than on overcoming barriers caused by poor design choices.



See It In Action: Evaluation

Some authoring tools now include a built-in accessibility checker. Even the best of these automated accessibility checking tools have their limitations due to the subjective nature of many accessibility techniques. For example, an automated checker can determine if an image has alternative text, but it will not indicate whether the alternative text accurately describes the content of the image. As long as you keep the limitations of these checkers in mind and don’t see them as a replacement for learning accessibility best practices, they can make a valuable contribution to your accessibility work.  The best automated checkers will include extensive guidance on how to fix identified errors, and thus can also be a valuable tool for building your knowledge of accessibility. 

The ultimate measure of whether content is accessible or not, however, is how well iit supports learners in reaching their goals. Thus feedback from actual users of assistive technology should be sought along with the results of accessibility checkers to ensure content is usable for all. 

Your Turn

Are you ready to put what you learned from the videos into practice? This activity will allow you to check your understanding of the new practices you have learned, and you can contact us at any time if questions arise as you explore your new accessibility skills. 

Download the provided Microsoft Word or Google Docs document and apply the techniques discussed in the videos  to improve the heading structure, include descriptive hyperlinks that make sense out of context, and add alternative text to the images. 

When you are done, use the built-in Office accessibility checker (or the Grackle add-on for Google Suite) to check your work. There are also “after” versions of each document you can use as exemplars. 

AEM Center Webinar: Creating Accessible Documents and Slidedecks