10.1 Word Processing Documents (Microsoft Word)

This directive applies to all documents created by CMHR employees and volunteers in word processing programs. The Museum uses Microsoft Word to create documents in both Windows and Mac based systems. We use the checklist below as a guideline to ensure Word documents are as accessible as possible for all viewers, including people with different abilities.

Accessible Word Document Checklist


  • Use a regular sans serif font (Arial, Calibri or Verdana).
  • Use a readable font size (12 to 18 point Arial/14 to 20 point Calibri/11 to 17 point Verdana).
  • For non-essential information/content, such as footnotes, headers, footers, may use a minimum font size of 10 point.
  • Avoid the use of italics.
  • Only use underlining for links to emails, websites, etc.
  • Use bold for emphasis.
  • Limit the use of ALL CAPITALS.


  • Avoid using colour to convey meaning, an action or a response; instead, use an alternative method, such as a symbol or list.
  • Use high contrast colours for the text and background; black text on a white background is recommended.
  • Avoid the use of red/green and blue/yellow combinations.
  • May use colours for titles, headlines or highlighted areas, but contrast must comply with Level AA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).


  • Use default margins for all documents (2.74 cm or 1 inch), to ensure white space.
  • Ensure the content itself is not cluttered.
  • Use bullet or numbered lists whenever there is a list of more than two items.
  • Use short sentences and paragraphs whenever possible.
  • Left align text and/or images to the left margin.
  • Avoid the use of excessive blank lines in a document, whenever possible.
  • Insert a table of contents into a 2+ page document.


  • When an acronym is used in a document for the first time, spell it out.
  • Try not to abbreviate words in a document.
  • Use links with default underlining and link colours for email addresses, websites, etc.
  • If a link can’t be made descriptive, provide context for it in the text surrounding it.
  • Use short heading titles less than 20 words long.
  • Use heading styles for all headings/ titles.
  • Use heading styles in order, for example: Heading Style 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.
  • Insert a table of contents to ensure the proper order of headings.


  • Use only the rows and columns needed for the content; avoid blank or extra cells, rows or columns.
  • Avoid merging cells or adding rows and columns after creation.
  • Check the reading order of the table to ensure all content is in a logical order.
  • Add alternative text (“Alt text”) to each table.
  • Create a title or header row at the top column and/or row of each table.
  • Signify that the top title or header row repeats as a header.


  • Provide an alternative text (“Alt text) description and title for each image.
  • Use the same information in both the description and title (“Alt text”).
  • Describe the image in the “Alt text” in a brief, yet complete manner.
  • For non-important images, use a generic phrase such as “Decorative image of X.”
  • For an important image, provide “Alt text” that is concise yet descriptive.
  • If an image contains important content, ensure that the text duplicates this important content.

Complex Images (Charts, Graphs, etc.)

  • Provide a short alternative text (“Alt text”) description and title.
  • Provide a detailed textual alternative below or beside each complex image.
  • Don’t use colour alone to convey information; add textures when necessary.
  • Provide a title to provide context for each complex image.


  • Avoid creating forms in a Word document; create an HTML web based one instead.

Audio and Video

  • For audio clips, provide a text transcript of the content.
  • For video clips, provide a text transcript of the content and captioning.

Automated Accessibility Checker

  • Save as a .docx Word file.
  • Use the built in “Check Accessibility” feature.


  • Alternative formats may be requested by viewers.
  • For large print documents, use a minimum font size of Arial 18, Calibri 20 or Verdana 17 point.
  • Create Braille and/or audio versions when required; see the local document accessibility coordinator for more information.
  • Print a document on matte paper, not glossy paper.
  • Properly save a Word document as a PDF, using the “Save As PDF” feature.