Many government departments request that a word document be supplied for accessibility in addition to an interactive pdf.
I always query the need for this because an Adobe pdf can comply with more online accessibility standards than a Microsoft Word document can. This Aged Care booklet for the Department of Health and Ageing required both pdf and Rich Text File (rtf) formats for accessibility.
Questions to ask when a Word doc is required for accessibility standards
- What are your accessibility standards?
- Can you provide me with a document?
- If you are trying to provide for users with vision impairment and blind users who use screen readers then why not create ….
– a straight text file, or
– an epub file and tackle screen readers too (an epub file can be read on screen and reflows depending on screen size and text size)
It would also convert to braille.
– a Screen magnifiers
- If you are trying to provide for accessibility issues relating to Motor skill or Age, why not make the text bigger?
– If it is senior citizens why replicate the text exactly at a small point size which is not readable by seniors?
- Why is Word considered to be necessary for accessibility?
Microsoft Word documents don’t embed fonts so there is a good chance the document viewed on another computer will be using a default font of that computer. This means text and graphics will reflow causing page numbers and table of contents to be incorrect.
- How is it represented on the web? Where is it on your website? Does it open in a new browser window? Is it easy to navigate to?
- Why would an online document specifically designed for accessibility need to be graphically exactly the same as the print version?
As a designer with a depth of experience and knowledge on best practice I am inclined to think that current government policies that requires Word Documents for accessibility are either ‘out of date’ or ‘bad advice’ but I would love to hear from you and your thoughts on this matter.
Accessibility Guidelines for Print Materials
Making the Web Easy to Use for Users with Disabilities
Jakob Neilson, the world’s leading expert in accessibility on the internet has published this free report.